Free travel from credit cards and the best offers aren’t just for people with perfect credit.
In fact, fresh numbers for January 2015 from CreditKarma.com show that almost half of people with lucrative rewards cards don’t have an ‘Excellent’ credit score.
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||Typical Low||% with score below 700|
|Amex EveryDay Credit Card||670||605||76%|
|Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card||697||626||N/A|
|American Express¨ Premier Rewards Gold Card||713||617||44%|
|Blue Cash Preferred¨ Card from American Express||729||654||47%|
|Blue Sky from American Express||711||640||N/A|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles¨ Credit Card from American Express||699||613||51%|
|Starwood Preferred Guest¨ Credit Card from American Express||735||662||14%|
|The Platinum Card¨ from American Express||716||643||26%|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus World MasterCard||743||683||NA|
|Priceline Rewardsª Visa¨ Credit Card||702||620||28%|
|The Premier Miles & More World MasterCard¨||730||684||NA|
|The US Airways Premier World MasterCard¨||724||617||26%|
|British Airways Visa Signature¨ Card||724||643||39%|
|Chase Freedom¨ Visa||668||611||N/A|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred¨ Card||726||637||31%|
|Marriott Rewards Premier||704||626||55%|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier||683||603||44%|
|United MileagePlus Explorer Card||706||617||51%|
|Capital One / Citi|
|Capital One¨ VentureSM Rewards Credit Card||731||660||N/A|
|Citi Double Cash Card||714||637||52%|
|Citi ThankYou¨ Preferred Rewards Card||748||656||N/A|
|Citi¨ Platinum Select¨ / AAdvantage¨ Visa Signature Card||723||623||39%|
|Average - all cards listed||713||635||42%|
What’s surprising about this data isn’t the average score. It’s high, about 715, which represents Good to 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 many 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 airline branded credit card. It’s not clear why, but the cards of the major airlines, including American, Delta, Southwest, and United tend to have some of the lowest typical scores approved, most with typical low scores around 600. That means if you have just Good or Fair credit you might have a better shot at getting approved for one of those instead of a card that isn’t affiliated with an airline.
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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