Credit scores needed for the best mile credit cards (fresh data)

by on Thu January 16, 2014 • 4 Comments
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  • Credit Scores - Credit Karma1/15/13 – Updated score data
  • 9/19/13 – Updated score data
  • 6/13/13 – Updated score data
  • 5/13/13 – Updated score data

Free travel from credit cards is not just for people who live an affluent lifestyle.

In fact, new numbers from CreditKarma.com shows that getting the best mile credit cards doesn’t require a perfect credit score.

CreditKarma is a free site that lets you check your current credit score (try it here - they don’t take your credit card number as there is never any charge). It has millions of users and one of the benefits is that CreditKarma posts great data about the credit scores associated with the most popular credit cards on its site.

The data is below, and shows how the most popular mile and travel credit cards compare on credit scores of actual card holders who are registered with CreditKarma. It contains three pieces of information for each card:

  • ‘Average’ – This is the average score among those approved for the card via CreditKarma.com
  • ‘Minimum’ = This is the lowest credit score among those approved for the card via CreditKarma.com
  • ‘% below 700′ = This is % of CreditKarma users who carry the card that have a current credit score below 700
AverageLowest% with score below 700
American Express
American Express¨ Gold Card70155343%
American Express¨ Premier Rewards Gold Card73768132%
Blue Cash Preferred¨ Card from American Express73468516%
Blue Sky from American Express71065718%
Gold Delta SkyMiles¨ Credit Card from American Express71765622%
Starwood Preferred Guest¨ Credit Card from American Express72466714%
The Platinum Card¨ from American Express70964326%
Average71865124%
Barclays
Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard737691NA
Priceline Rewardsª Visa¨ Credit Card73265528%
The Premier Miles & More World MasterCard¨726670NA
The US Airways Premier World MasterCard¨75368026%
Virgin America Visa¨ Signature CardNANANA
Average73767427%
Chase
British Airways Visa Signature¨ Card73366713%
Chase Freedom¨ Visa69664349%
Chase Sapphire Preferred¨ Card74568914%
United MileagePlus Explorer Card72366317%
Average72466523%
Other
Capital One¨ VentureSM Rewards Credit Card731660NA
Citi ThankYou¨ Preferred Rewards Card743697NA
Citi¨ Platinum Select¨ / AAdvantage¨ Visa Signature Card72364225%
U.S. Bank FlexPerks¨ Travel Rewards Visa Signature¨ Card72365019%
Average - all cards listed72666022%

What’s surprising about this data isn’t the average score. It’s high, about 720, which represents 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 don’t need a 700+ credit score to qualify for the best mile credit cards. In fact, scores well below 700 have been approved for some 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 an American Express ‘charge’ card. Notice that the % of users with below 700 credit scores is relatively high for these cards. These cards, which include the American Express Gold Card, and American Express Premier Rewards® Gold Card, aren’t regular credit cards.

Instead, they require that you pay the balance in full each month. So, they are not expecting that you will need to handle a growing balance that carries over month to month. That might be why these cards appear to have a bigger group of card holders with lower credit scores.

They are very flexible cards – you can transfer the points you earn to many programs, including Delta, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, JetBlue, and Air France.

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.

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4 thoughts on Credit scores needed for the best mile credit cards (fresh data)

  1. CC

    3 questions if I might:
    1-Why does balance on cards that are in my husbands name also show up as balances on my account?
    his number is 734 and mine 716 – but I have one derogatory remark leading to next question
    2- how do I find out what the derogatory is and how to clear it?
    3- also we have no carryover credit card debit…pay all cards in full each month. However we do charge a lot on our cards so are often very high in the debt to credit ratio…and was even declined on a card a couple of years ago for that reason.
    oh shoot this brings one more question- sorry!
    4- we also have many business credit card in each of our names which don’t appear to be reflected here. Is there such a thing as a business credit score. Wondering how one would check on that as well.

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @CC-

      Your husband’s cards probably show up on your report because you are an authorized user on those accounts. Whenever someone is added as an authorized user the info for that account will show up on both reports.

      To see what the derogatory issue on your file is, get a free credit report from the bureau itself. You can get one free full report a year under law. It will list whatever the derogatory item is and you can see how to obtain that report at http://annualcreditreport.com.

      For your high utilization, try pay your cards in full before the statement is produced and not wait for the due date. So if your statement is usually produced around the 24th of the month, try paying off the week prior. That should set your balances lower and make your utilization look better.

      As for your business credit cards. Some will not show on your personal report unless you default on them. Chase and American Express business cards are an example of this. So as long as you’re on time and don’t make any mistakes they will not appear there. Read this article for more detail:

      http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/keep-business_card-off-personal-credit_record-1585.php

      You can run a credit report for your small business here

      https://www.experian.com/small-business/business-credit-reports.jsp

      Reply
  2. Annie S

    Hi

    I am thinking of applying for a United Explorer card but my credit score is only 700. Do you think I will get approved? It seems like the average is higher than my credit score.

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Annie – It’s hard for us to say – there are so many factors that go into it, but people with lower Credit Karma scores than yours have been approved according to that data.

      Reply

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