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You Don’t Need a Perfect Credit Score to Get an Airline Credit Card

You Don’t Need a Perfect Credit Score to Get an Airline Credit Card

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Dec 03, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

If you’re looking for a miles or travel credit card, you may be under the impression that those cards are reserved for people with the highest credit scores.

However, many lucrative mile and travel credit cards don’t require anywhere near a “perfect” credit score to qualify. However, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact credit score requirements of a new card since issuers use different credit bureaus and criteria to determine eligibility.

The data listed below shows the credit scores of actual cardholders of popular mile and travel credit cards, who registered with CreditKarma, a credit score and monitoring website, from October 2015 to July 2016. 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 for CreditKarma members approved for the card

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.

 

Average Typical low
American Express
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express* 676 630
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express* 709 674
American Express® Gold Card 729 658
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card 675 624
Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card (formerly, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express)* 743 657
The Platinum Card® from American Express 716 643
Bank of America
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card 750 687
Chase
British Airways Visa Signature® Card* 747 727
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 736 646
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card 721 638
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card 670 607
United℠ Explorer Card 714 633
Capital One
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card 738 664
Citi
Citi Premier℠ Card 796 745
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® 716 633

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

Highlights
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions.
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events, and more.

See additional details for Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

More Info

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases & 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases

  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

See additional details for Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

More Info

As expected, the combined average credit score for the cards mentioned above falls in the good-to-excellent range. This isn’t a surprise since these cards are often 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.

What stands out is the “typical low” credit scores for many cards. These credit scores found above show that you may not need a 700+ credit score to qualify for the best mile and travel credit cards. Some cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offer wider acceptance beyond just “perfect” credit scores as issuers try to make rewards more accessible.

In fact, scores well below 700 have been approved for many of the miles and travel cards listed above. Credit card approval can also depend on your income or relationship with a bank, or even how many other rewards cards you’ve recently applied for.

  • 60,000 bonus points

  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide

  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel

Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

See additional details for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

More Info

What to know before applying

If your credit score is below 700 and you’re looking to open a miles or travel credit card, keep a few things in mind:

Consider an airline-branded credit card. It’s not clear why, but co-branded airline cards from the major airlines, including American, Delta, Southwest and United, tend to have some of the lowest typical credit scores approved. That means if you have just good or fair credit, you may have a better shot at getting approved for an airline card.

Check out our list of the best airline credit cards.

Consider checking prequalified offers. See if you’re prequalified for a card before you apply. Many major travel rewards card issuers, including Capital One, Discover, Citi and American Express, have pre-qualification tools that allow you to see if you have a good chance of being approved before you fill out an application. Pre-qualification helps you shop around for the best card offers without hurting your credit score. While pre-qualification isn’t a guarantee of approval, it can help you narrow down your choices. 

Review your credit report. Before you apply for a credit card, review your credit report from all three bureaus so you can make sure everything that’s on there is correct. Credit card issuers can pull one or all three reports from the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). Applicant comments on CreditBoards.com show which credit bureaus the most reports were pulled from for each issuer:

Once approved for a card, make sure you pay off your balance on time and in full each month. Any earned miles aren’t worth the interest charges and late fees that you’ll incur if you carry a balance month to month or pay late.

Other than that, you shouldn’t be too afraid of rejection. If you have a steady income, aren’t carrying a lot of other debt and a solid credit history, you could be eligible for that coveted miles or travel card.

*The information related to this offer has been independently collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.


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