Once you know or estimate your credit score, avoid being declined when you shop for a new credit card by choosing a card for which you have an above-average chance of approval.
If you walk into a bank for a loan or apply for a credit card online, you have no idea what credit score is required to get approved. So if you know your score is 665 (and that’s about average), that doesn’t help you if the credit card you’re applying for requires a 670 credit score.
One of the things I try to do as a financial blogger is shed light on areas of finance that you wouldn’t know about if this stuff isn’t your job. Most people go about life, see a celebrity pitching a credit card and apply.
I sit around running spreadsheets looking at how much a 0 percent balance transfer with a 4 percent fee will save you over a card with a 10.99 percent regular APR over 18 months. (Answer: $110.27 per $1,000 transferred. You can use our balance transfer calculator to try other scenarios.)
Most credit card offers require very good credit
Let’s be clear about that. A lot of people who apply for credit cards are denied. And if you get denied too many times in a year, that can actually hurt your credit further.
Most so-called “prime” and “superprime” credit cards are only available to applicants with credit scores of 750 or better. These include most American Express, Chase, and Bank of America credit cards.
Even with good credit, there are other reasons you might still be declined—like too much overall debt or even just one recent late payment.
To help you avoid that, let’s look at what cards you can get with various credit scores. You can also browse the credit card section of this website. Each card features a minimum required credit quality category.
Excellent credit: 750+
Reaching the excellent or superprime credit level often requires at least 10 years of on-time payments and a mix of credit accounts such as credit cards, student loans, and a mortgage.
Even if you’ve responsibly used credit for up to five years, you may still be declined for many cards simply because the banks want customers who have an even longer track record of timely payments.
Obviously, if you’re in this range, you have your pick of any of the best credit cards, and you can take advantage of promotions in which the banks will actually pay you in cash or travel rewards for opening and using a new credit card. You can see examples of this with these credit cards that offer sign-up bonuses, some worth $500 or more. See recommended credit cards if your FICO score is 750 or better.
Good credit: 700—749
To have good credit, your credit scores need to be in the 700s. Scores in the high 600s are borderline “good”.
While our scale for “good” originally went as low as 680, you’ll have a much harder time getting approved for credit card offers the further below 700 your credit score is. Based on new data, we’ve increased the minimum level for “good credit” to 700. At this level of credit score, other factors—such as your income, debt levels, and recent payment history will be big factors in the banks decision to approve you.
To get a credit score close to 700, you will need to have been using credit for at least three years without any late payments. You’ll have a good chance of credit card approval provided you aren’t overextended with too much debt or too many credit card accounts.