What Kind of Credit Do You Need to Get a Credit Card Today?

I often talk about how credit card companies are approving fewer and fewer credit card applications. It is still possible, however, for consumers with decent credit to get new credit cards with good terms—you just need to know which cards offer your best chance of approval.

In today’s market, it’s safe to say that if your credit score is less than 600, you probably shouldn’t apply for new credit until your score improves (and you probably won’t be approved). Applying for a credit card you won’t get will only hurt your credit score sooner. If you don’t know your credit score, get a copy of your score and credit report before applying.

Credit Cards for Super Prime Credit

Super prime credit customers generally have:

  • A FICO score of 720 or higher
  • No charge offs, collections, or public records
  • No late payments within at least two years
  • A credit history going back at least seven years
  • At least two open credit cards and one open installment loan
  • No more than a 30% debt utilization ratio
  • No more than two credit inquiries within one year

You’ll have your pick of the best credit card offers available today.

Credit Cards for Prime Credit

Prime credit once included customers with FICO scores of 660 and above, but today “prime” is apt to be defined a lot more rigidly. You’ll likely need a FICO score of 680, or even 700, to get the best deals. Today, you can consider yourself a prime borrower if you have:

  • A FICO score of 680 or higher
  • No charge offs, collections, or public records
  • No late payments within at least one year
  • A credit history going back at least five years
  • At least one open credit card and one open installment loan
  • No more than a 50% debt utilization ratio
  • No more than two credit inquiries within six months

It’s no coincidence these requirements are similar to the ones for super prime cards. When credit is tight, “good credit” just isn’t enough anymore, you need great credit. If you meet these requirements—or at least come close—you may still be able to get a 0% APR on balance transfers and cash rewards with the Discover it® — Double Cash Back your first year.

Credit Cards for Average Credit

If You Have Below Average Credit

If you have less-than-average credit, as defined by the above criteria, it’s probably not the best time to apply for a credit card. If you feel a new credit card is absolutely necessary to build your credit faster or for other reasons, try the American DreamCard.

Avoid other so called “bad credit credit cards” at all costs. Many charge up to $300 worth of fees and give you a $300 credit line, so you’ll have to fork over the fees before you can even use the card. Worse, if you try to cancel those cards without paying, they will try to ding your credit anyway.

Want to compare cards? See all of my recommended credit cards.

Have you applied for a credit card recently? Which card? Were you approved or denied, and what’s your credit like?

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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.


  1. Thanks for an informative post. Are the FICO score requirements still the same?

  2. The date is clearly on the top of the article “by David WeliverOct 29th, 200″

  3. When writing an article like this… dating the article might help.

  4. why is it that you get sent preapproved applications if you cant get approved for a credit card? I get these applications several times a week but I have never had a credit card and can not get approved for one. It’s like they are sending false hope.

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