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Free travel from credit cards and the best offers aren’t just for people with perfect credit.
In fact, fresh numbers from July 2016 and October 2015 from CreditKarma.com show that many lucrative rewards cards don’t require a perfect credit score.
The data is below and shows how the most popular mile and travel credit cards compare on credit scores of actual cardholders who are registered with CreditKarma. It contains these pieces of information for each card:
- ‘Average’ – This is the average score among those approved for the card via CreditKarma.com
- ‘Typical Low’ – This is the 5th percentile (lowest 5%) of VantageScore 3.0 scores provided by TransUnion of CreditKarma members approved for the product
THIS INFORMATION IS NOT A GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL BE APPROVED FOR A PARTICULAR CARD, AND HAS NOT BEEN REVIEWED BY ANY ISSUER. IT IS FOR REFERENCE ONLY.
|Amex EveryDay Credit Card||676||630|
|Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card||709||674|
|American Express¨ Premier Rewards Gold Card||729||658|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles¨ Credit Card from American Express||675||624|
|Starwood Preferred Guest¨ Credit Card from American Express||743||657|
|The Platinum Card¨ from American Express||716||643|
|Bank of America|
|BankAmericard Travel Rewards||750||687|
|British Airways Visa Signature¨ Card||747||727|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred¨ Card||736||646|
|Marriott Rewards Premier||721||638|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier||670||607|
|United MileagePlus Explorer Card||714||633|
|Capital One / Citi|
|Capital One¨ VentureSM Rewards Credit Card||738||664|
|Citi Double Cash Card||729||653|
|Citi ThankYou¨ Preferred Rewards Card||740||673|
|Citi ThankYou Premier||796||745|
|Citi¨ Platinum Select¨ / AAdvantage¨ Visa Signature Card||716||633|
What’s surprising about this data isn’t the average score. It’s high, just above 700, which represents Good to Excellent credit. We expected that since these cards are targeted to the banks’ best customers, and people who travel a lot tend to be a bit more well off than average. Just note that this data is *only* for the population of people who use CreditKarma.com and may be different than your result with a similar credit score. Many factors go into a credit card decision beyond your credit score from one source.
But what stands out is at the lower end of things.
You may not need a 700+ credit score to qualify for the best mile credit cards, with some like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offering wider acceptance than just perfect scores as issuers try to make rewards more accessible. In fact, scores well below 700 have been approved for many cards. There are lots constantly changing factors that go into qualification beyond your score, like your income and relationship with a bank, so don’t use the numbers above as a sure signal you’ll get approved. But it’s clear not everyone approved for a mile credit card has a perfect credit history.
So what if you’re just getting started?
If your credit score is below 700 and you’re looking to get into the miles and points game with credit cards, keep a few things in mind.
Make sure you can pay off your mile credit card in full each month – the miles aren’t worth the interest charges that will hit you if you don’t.
Consider checking pre-screened offers. These will present offers based on a review of your credit profile, with a soft pull of your credit, which can help you narrow down your choices to cards that are actively trying to target you. Seeing a card there is no guarantee of approval, but it can help you narrow down your choices.
Consider an airline-branded credit card. It’s not clear why, but the cards of the major airlines, including American, Delta, Southwest, and United tend to have some of the lowest typical scores approved, including typical low scores around 600. That means if you have just Good or Fair credit you may have a better shot at getting approved for one of those instead of a card that isn’t affiliated with an airline.
Watch your credit report. Credit card issuers can pull any of the 3 major credit bureaus, and often switch things up regularly, though reports on CreditBoards.com show the most reports from these bureaus for each issuer:
- Amex: Experian
- Bank of America: Experian
- Barclays: TransUnion
- Capital One: Tends to pull all 3 at once
- Chase: Experian
- Citi: Experian
Other than that, you shouldn’t be afraid of rejection. If you have the income to pay your credit card bill off each month, and a solid recent credit history, you could be eligible to start racking up bigger rewards.
Disclaimer: This article may contain links to MagnifyMoney, which is a subsidiary of LendingTree, the parent company of CompareCards.