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What Credit Score do you Need to get Approved for a Credit Card?

Being declined for a new credit card is frustrating. You can improve your chances of getting approved for a credit card by applying to cards that are suited for your credit score. Here we explain what kinds of credit scores are needed to get popular credit cards today.

What credit score do you need to get approved for a credit card?If you’re looking to be approved for a credit card, you’ll need to have a credit score that meets the bank’s minimum criteria.

This is why we hammer home this advice here on Money Under 30: Know your credit score.

Keeping track of your credit score can alert you to problems in your credit report and show you how timely payments is paying off as your score goes up. You can also compare your score to national averages so you know how good a job you’re doing managing credit.

Fine.

But other than understanding your credit score, what good is it?

After all, 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 credit card ad with Alec Baldwin or Samuel L. Jackson (who pitch for the Capital One Venture and Quicksilver cards, respectively) and apply because of the ad.

I sit around running spreadsheets comparing rewards redemption rates or how much a 0% 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).

The same is true for credit scores required for credit card approval. All you care about is getting a good card. I care about who the bank will give that card to and who it won’t.

To be approved for a credit card, you'll need a good enough credit score.

Most Cards Require Pretty 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. 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 and see the average and lowest approved credit score for 100s of popular cards, giving you a good idea of your chance of approval.

If you’re applying for a new credit card, you can lump yourself into one of four groups:

  • Superstar credit (780+)
  • Good credit (700+)
  • Average credit ( 600+)
  • Poor credit (Under 600)

Superstar Credit: 780+

Reaching this credit level is hard to do at a young age because it requires between five and ten years of on-time payments and usually takes a mix of credit accounts such as credit cards, student loans, and a mortgage. Obviously, if you’re in this range, you have your pick of any of the best credit cards, but some really cool cards like the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express are only available to people in this group.

Good Credit: 700+

To have very good credit, your credit scores are at least 700. You’ve been using credit for a least a couple of years. In most cases, you’ll get approved for most credit cards provided you aren’t overextended with too much debt or too many credit card accounts.

You can take advantage of a great cards like:

You can also qualify for cards offering sign-up bonuses of up to $500.

Average Credit: 600-700

If you’ve just started to use credit or are recovering from a missed payment or two, you’ll probably have a lesser credit score in the 600s. This means you’ll have trouble getting approved for many credit cards. Not knowing this, you may try to apply for several cards and get declined which, in turn, will hurt your credit score further. If you’re in this group, you want to know which credit cards will offer you the best chance of approval and apply for those cards first. You may be able to get approved for some of the leading cards, but it’s iffy.

On another site I run I keep updated pages on the best credit cards for people with a 650-699 credit score and the best cards for people with a 600-649 credit score. Check them out for recommendations.

Bad Credit: Under 600

If you’re in the last group and have bad credit because you’ve missed payments, had collection accounts or a foreclosure, you need to take special steps to get approved for a credit card. If you’re in this situation, you should only apply for a credit card in an effort to begin rebuilding credit (NOT to spend money you don’t have!)

Usually, this means applying for a secured credit card.

A secured credit card requires a security deposit before you can begin making charges. That security deposit acts as your credit limit. Although that may sound like a debit card or prepaid card, the secured credit card will report your payment history to the credit bureaus, which debit and prepaid cards do not do. After a year or so of using a secured card, you may be able to upgrade to an unsecured account and get your deposit back.

When a Good Credit Score Is Not Enough

Often times you can check your credit score, find out it’s not bad, and still be denied for a credit card. This is especially true if your credit score isn’t in the mid 700s or better.

What gives?

Banks’ approval criteria for each card changes all the time. But common reasons you may be denied a credit card even if you have a good credit score include:

  • Too much debt (or high credit balances even if you pay them off)
  • Too much available credit
  • Too short of a credit history
  • Recent late payments, charge-offs, or other negative items

If your credit score is in the high 600s, you may still get approved for some of the leading card offers, but this is where you have to be careful. You’re more likely to be approved if you have a year or two of on-time payments and very little credit card debt. If your score is lower than 700 because you’ve missed payments or have a lot of revolving debt, your approval chances are lower.

Before your apply for a credit card, check both your credit score and credit report. Don’t apply for new credit if you have recent late payments or big balances on your existing credit cards. Even if you pay your cards in full each month, that big balance from the month you went on vacation could look like debt to a bank’s computers.

Browse 100s of top credit cards and see the average and lowest credit scores approved for each card here.

Have you recently applied for a credit card? Let us know which one and what your score is. Got questions about getting approved for a credit card? Fire your question at me in the comments.

Disclaimer: One way I’m able to support my blogging while helping you is to link to products I like and earn a referral commission if you sign up. I only link to products I trust. That said, you should know that if you click the links to these cards and ultimately apply for and are approved for that card, I may be paid for that. If you choose to support Money Under 30 in that way, thanks!

About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Comments

  1. Carl Lassegue says:

    Great article! It makes sense to monitor your credit score for errors but knowing what you can qualify for is a lot more practical and gives it a little more everyday meaning. How much of a hit does your credit score take when you miss a credit card payment?

  2. I use Credit Sesame (thanks to Money Under 30) to monitor my credit score at least once a month. I recently, after extended deliberation, decided to close several store/major credit cards I had opened in my early 20s. The cards did not have a balance, many were one-time, % off deals that I no longer carried or used. I was worried about how it might effect my score, but was happily surprised to see my score go up about 20 points. Apparently closing some open lines of credit brought my open credit to debt ratio closer to what creditors consider an ideal range (still not quite sure what that range is). I currently use a Navy Federal cash back card and one store credit card for free shipping and free alterations.

    • I also use Credit Sesame to monitor my credit score, but I use Credit Karma as well. I prefer Credit Karma (except for the fact that they don’t have an iPhone app). I applied for the Discover More Card a month or two ago and was approved with a credit score in the 715-730 range. I use my Discover Card for nearly everything (paying off the full balance every month) and have already earned the $200 cash back bonus. No annual fee and great cash back program. I would highly recommend.

  3. Thanks for all of the great articles! About nine months ago, I applied for an American Express Blue Cash card (at your recommendation). My credit score at the time was between 730 and 745, and I was approved.

  4. Kathryn says:

    In the last year, I ended up closing my United Mileage Plus credit card (mostly due to the terrible service I received and dissatisfaction with United). I then opened the Southwest credit card, which flies to the destinations I frequently travel to, and I’m much happier with both the flying and banking aspect of the card. I don’t know my exact credit score but was told it was “good” and I was approved.

  5. Spanish SCUBA Steve says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your emails and invitations for feedback. To answer your questions, I applied for a Chase Freedom card last August because I needed to cover some work-related travel expenses. Chase approved me with a credit score of 690, according to the paperwork which came with the card. I’ve had lots of questions for Chase since August and have been very happy with the customer service.

    This past February I applied for a loan after catching a serious case of good-old-sailboat-itis and was informed that my credit score was 780. I don’t recall which of the credit reporting bureaus were used for the various credit checks, but the difference in scores from August to February was surprising. (It turns out that most loans for old boats involve double-digit interest rates; the dream lives on…)

  6. My credit score is in the low 700′s, and I recently applied for a credit card with my bank (Citibank) and was turned down. I assumed it was due to my debt/income ratio, as I have a high student loan balance that I am paying down? I currently use my Amex for most purchases, I find their services are very useful.

  7. Samantha says:

    If I’ve got a $2,500 balance, on a credit card with 14% interest, is it work it to apply and open a credit card with a 0% introductory balance? I only have one other credit card in my name that has $300 and will be paid off by the end of the month. I figured we could save a decent amount of money on opening up another card. The most we’d be able to pay is $300 a month on the credit card. Would it be better just to eat the interest and open up a rewards credit card after we’ve paid this off? I haven’t been able to find good rewards card that offers 0% on balance transfers?

    • David Weliver says:

      If you pay $300 a month on that card you’ll pay it off in 11 months and pay about $145 in interest. Because most 0% cards have balance transfer fees (except, right now, for Chase Slate) the savings would be fairly small (example, a 5% fee would cost $125, so you’d save $20). If you don’t think you can swing $300 a month every month until it’s paid off, however, do the transfer. Lastly, don’t use a balance transfer card for new purchases…only to pay off the balance.

  8. Samantha says:

    Just as an aside, my credit score is 768… so I am pretty certain I am doing something right. This is the only thing I haven’t quite figured out yet. I wasn’t taught about paying off credit cards or how I wanted to use them. I know now though!

  9. I recently applied and was approved for the AmEx Starwood Preferred Guest card with a score of 736. I use Credit Karma to regularly check my credit score (on the advice of Money under 30) and my credit has risen dramatically after setting up my automated finance system. This stuff really works! Thank You!

  10. Hey,

    Love your blog! I came to this country about two years ago and my actual credit history started seven months ago because I blindly believed Chase bankers who kept promising me that I’d my card six months later, and I kept getting denied. So I started out with Capital One Secured Credit Card. Six months later, I got my first score from CreditKarma, Credit Sesame as well as MyCreditInform from CapitalOne. It was pretty decent at 720. I was considering an auto loan and so I applied at my local credit union but was denied coz my history was too short. So to help my history, I started applying at Citibank Student Card (denied) and at Discover Credit Card (they gave me a $500 CL). So now I’m being patient and waiting till my credit history builds some more before I try for an auto loan again. Any advice about how I could speed the process would be really appreciated. Thanks!

    • David Weliver says:

      That’s tough, Annie. Proof that you can have a good credit score but not enough credit history to be approved for things. How long have you had the secured card? I would think a year of history should be enough to get an auto loan. You might try to apply for a loan directly at a dealer…the interest rate may be higher, but then after a year you can go back to your credit union and try to refinance at a lower rate.

  11. The methodical breakdown was helpful in this article and the links to the pages for the best cards for people in each scoring range. In the mind of a saver or very careful and financially responsible person, they are ready for the top tier card right away. Like you said though, it may be too soon if the credit history isn’t there to show your financial stability.

    I had careful talks with my dad about credit card options and the privilege of having him cosign on my first credit card. Though this isn’t exactly the topic, this is why it is helpful to have an emergency fund or use debit along with with credit cards (though you want to get as many rewards as possible on the card). You want to analyze each big purchase like that big vacation and see how it could affect your credit score while you’re in the crucial first few years of building credit.

  12. ThaI love your blogs and have told all my co-workers about your articles. Keep up the good works!

    My question is a little off the subject. I am signed up w/ a credit score monitoring service and get all 3 scores monthly. Currently my highest score is 742. But my question is this: what is the “Experian Score Tracker”? I’ve googled it and cannot find any info re: it. I thought maybe it was a tracker that averaged all your scores, but if that’s the case, it’s averaging is way off. I read others are using Credit Sesame, which I will also check out. Thanks in advance for your response.

    • David Weliver says:

      My understanding is it’s just one of many services that monitors your credit scores month to month.

      An important reminder is that there are many different credit scoring models and ranges. So it depends on where you get your score. The best thing to do is to pick one source (Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, myFICO, etc.) and stick with that so you can see how your score changes over time.

  13. I got turned down for a basic Amex ‘Blue Cash Everyday’ card last month. The rejection letter said my FICO score is too low at 651. I am currently working on improving my score with the help of Lexington Law. I have an unsecured Capital One card, and also a Macys Card. Both of these are reporting positively to the bureaus. I searched and researched long and hard before deciding to get these cards. I got a Victorias secret card and then after reading Consumer Reports on that card I decided not to use it (tons of hidden fees and incompetent customer service reps who ended up reporting negatively to the bureaus for many users.) I cant afford to risk it so I cut it up. I was hoping to get an Amex this time around but I will have to continue climbing up the steeeeep slope of Credit!

  14. Nicole C. says:

    I had few delinquent record on my credit history back in 2007 (when I just graduated from college). I slowly built up my credit again, which now I believe I score above 720+. I don’t quite pay attention to my score since I pay the credit balance in full every month, and I have no intention to apply for new credit. I have Discover More card and American Express Blue (reward points version) in my wallet, and last year I added BP gas reward card to my collection when it gave me 10% cash back (5% after 3 months promotion) for filling up my car.

    • You should pay your balance off in two installments. Crazy as this may sound with the exception of American Express and Gas credit cards, creditors don’t favor those who pay their balances off each month. Remember that is how they make their money.

  15. I just wanted to say that my credit score is only a few points above 700 and I have the Amex Blue Cash Everyday card. I love the card, but it isn’t true that you need 750+ for it.

  16. I have the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card, the Discover More Card, and the Citibank Mastercard Dividend Card. My experience is the same as Laura’s, I had a credit score of around 680 when I first obtained my Amex Blue Cash Everyday Card. However, I previously had a corporate card with them that may have contributed to my approval.

    I use Credit Karma for monitoring my credit and found that was approximately 25 pts lower than my actual credit scores from the big 3 when I refinanced my home this winter (lowest score was 744, Credit Karma consistently says 725) . Two comments on my credit score in the past few years: 1) It really helped to make at least one charge on my open lines each month. I prefer the Discover More card and its cash back but I now charge at least one bill to my mastercard and Amex and pay them each month. 2) Don’t close your oldest card. I have always paid on time but saw a significant drop in my credit after I got sick of my old Capital One card (oldest credit history) and closed the card. This is why I keep the Citibank card open now even though I don’t like the company’s customer service or rewards as much and they don’t take Amex or Discover everywhere.

  17. What advice do you have about cards that are co-signed that are no longer needed? I currently have a mastercard with USAA, I’m Authorized User of my partner’s American Express Clear, and a co-signed nRewards with Navy Federal. The Navy Federal Mastercard dates back to 2006 and is still co-signed with my parents, back from when I was still in school and needed to establish credit. I’d like to open a Navy Federal Visa in just my name and have the co-signed account closed, however I’m afraid to do so at this point because it is the card with the longest history. I’d had my card with USAA for almost 4 years (2008), so it may be enough not to damage my score. I’m hoping to continue to same credit limit with the Navy Federal Visa as what is currently on the Navy Fed. Mastercard. My reasoning is that I no longer need my parents to be co-signed and I would like to diversity the credit cards I have so I would have one Visa, one MC, and one AA. Would now be a good time to make the switch? ..And should I open the new account before closing the old one (the current balance is $0)? Thanks for your help!

    • David Weliver says:

      I would apply for any new cards before closing out the old ones because as you note, it’s the oldest record on your credit and probably helping your score. If you want to keep the card, try calling them and asking if your parents can be removed as cosigners. They should do that for you. If not, nothing wrong with cancelling it but do realize your credit score may dip temporarily when you do so.

  18. Keith Watkins says:

    I recently just purchased my first home. I tried applying for a credit card with Lowes and Wells Fargo both denied me credit. What will happen next to my credit from the inquiries and how do I get my score back up when I got denied and nothing to build on. How long should I wait until getting approve for those major consumer credit cards?

  19. Luis Delgado says:

    I worked from having a low credit score to receiving a Secured Credit Card to now having a Un-Secured card. I have my credit monitored on a monthly basis and I am in the 700 average range when comparing all 3. I was denied a Discover card and was just wondering what you would recommend for someone who has a high credit score with little history. What can I most likely get approved for without having to go back to an Un-secured card. I have no late payments and nothing negative on my report at all.

    • David Weliver says:

      Sorry, this comment was meant for you, Luis: It’s a bit surprising that Discover turned you down with that range, but every issuer has weird requirements — you never know. I would try a Captial One card, in particular they have an application that will present the best (unsecured probably) card for your credit. You can learn more about it on another Website I run here: http://www.arrivefinancial.com/capital-one-mastercard

  20. Bettina Wilcox says:

    I payed all my debts off and can’t get a bank credit card

  21. Hi, I found ur site to be very informative. I do have a question.. I’ve been working on getting negative things on my report taken care of and when I checked today one score was 752 up from 622. Unfortunately another burea has my score at 620 or 622 I’m not sure at this moment… If I apply for a credit card that requires a score of 700 or 750 , will I be denied because of my lower score .. I would really appreciate ur help in knowing for which card I should apply Thsnk u Eileen

    • Eileen,

      You should get a copy of all three credit reports to see what is causing the problem. There may be an error in your report. Once, there was negative information on my report for a person with the same last name. Our first names were different and I am 8 years older but we lived in the same neighborhood.

      Computers are only as good as the people who enter the information. Also, not all creditors report to all three credit bureaus. A creditor may only report to Equifax and another may report only to Experian while another may report to TransUnion and another may report to all three.

  22. I can tell you that to get a good deal in your car insurance you will want a credit score of at least 700. Insurance companies will significantly increase the price once you are below this point.

  23. I shouting out for help. Dont know what to do any more to build up my credit, I wont get approve for any kind of credit not even on the bank of america secured credit care or Chase secured credit. Why? then if I can get not even a secured credit card to star building up my credit then I dont see how can i fix it if I cant not even get that. pls help my socre is at 566 very low…

    • Get a copy of your three credit reports to find the source of your problem. You will probably have to work with your creditors first.

      Your score is probably so low because you have many unpaid accounts that are 90+ days overdue.

      Another problem may be that you owe money to those institutions.

  24. I own a business and a few years back we almost lost everything and our credit is shot. We are on our way back and spend a lot of money on gas, travel, Sams club and so on. I’ve got enough money to get a secured credit card to begin rebuilding are there any with rewards? Does Amex provid one? Thanks

  25. 720

    Applied for American Express® Fidelity Rewards Cards

    I hold the American Express Delta Gold Card

    The rejection noted: unsavory public record

  26. All of the credit score stuff is a crock. I have 783 credit score which is considered excellent and a low debt to income ratio. However, my application was denied for a Macy’s 0% promotional account. Several months later Wells Fargo closed my personal line of credit claiming that it was a dormant account despite the fact that I just paid the entire balance off within the last 18 months. They told me to apply for a new account for which I was denied.

    Both times I was furious so I contacted the corporate offices of Macy’s and Wells Fargo Bank to demand a reason why my applications for credit was denied. Surprise, surprise in both instances my applications were approved.

    It really upsets me that we are nothing but a number. When my applications were denied I immediately ordered my three credit reports fearful that I had become a victim of credit fraud. To my relief no negative information appeared in my credit reports.

    So what is the deal with all of this credit score crap? They say if you have a good credit score and low debt to income ratio you have nothing to worry about.

    NOT TRUE

  27. im a college student and my score i below 600.. i have debt from getting credit cards and not knowing how to use them when i was 18.. im trying to build my credit up so i will be able to finance things when i graduate college..i applied for a capital one secured master card but got denied.. i got a list of the accounts im going to pay off within the week but keep open to also help my credit score also.. what else can i do? is there any secured card i can get approved for?

  28. Hi, I really like your site.. You helped me get approved for a card by letting me know what score I needed before I applied.! Do u know what score u need for the paypal extras credit card ? Thank u again

  29. i need help says:

    I have a score of 690 with 5 inquire in one year what kind of credit card can I get

  30. I just applied for an Americna Express, it is third or fourth time that I get denied. My credit score is about under 700 but more than 650. I do have 2 other credit cards open and pay them ontime. I have pay many of my bills on time. What can I do to get an American Express card? How long should I wait for the inquiries to be removed from my credit? and how long should I wait to reapply? Thanks Eddie Corres

  31. Where does student loan debt enter into it — I applied for an American Express card I have a lot of student loan debt but no credit cards — had one many years ago — I usually pay cash for stuff. I do, however, have quite a bit of student loan debt how is that viewed when applying for a credit card. My score is 659 — not good I wonder if it is there because I have no credit. I lease my car. I rent my home. I am very interested to see what you have to say. Thanks for the time.

  32. I have a 680 fico score with And i have 3 cc with low balance and a new car installment loan with BofA with a good apr @ 4.24
    What are my chances of getting approve for the Dicover it credit card with (Discover) I wasn’t instantly approved online I’m waiting for an email response from Discover because I chose the email notification response

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  34. I am right on the edge of superstar credit, usually teetering around that range. I am a travel hacker and regularly get new cards (and close old ones) to get the big miles bonuses. I just got the Citi AAdvantage Executive card, which requires top tier credit, so I must be doing something right. And I got 100,000 bonus miles!