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

by on Tue January 20, 2015 • 18 Comments
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Credit Scores - Credit Karma

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’ – This is the average score among those approved for the card via CreditKarma.com
  • ‘Typical Low’ = This is the typical 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
AverageTypical Low% with score below 700
American Express
Amex EveryDay Credit Card67060576%
Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card697626N/A
American Express¨ Premier Rewards Gold Card71361744%
Blue Cash Preferred¨ Card from American Express72965447%
Blue Sky from American Express711640N/A
Gold Delta SkyMiles¨ Credit Card from American Express69961351%
Starwood Preferred Guest¨ Credit Card from American Express73566214%
The Platinum Card¨ from American Express71664326%
Average72565127%
Barclays
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World MasterCard743683NA
Priceline Rewardsª Visa¨ Credit Card70262028%
The Premier Miles & More World MasterCard¨730684NA
The US Airways Premier World MasterCard¨72461726%
Average72565127%
Chase
British Airways Visa Signature¨ Card72464339%
Chase Freedom¨ Visa668611N/A
Chase Sapphire Preferred¨ Card72663731%
Marriott Rewards Premier70462655%
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier68360344%
United MileagePlus Explorer Card70661751%
Average70262344%
Capital One / Citi
Capital One¨ VentureSM Rewards Credit Card731660N/A
Citi Double Cash Card71463752%
Citi ThankYou¨ Preferred Rewards Card748656N/A
Citi¨ Platinum Select¨ / AAdvantage¨ Visa Signature Card72362339%
Average - all cards listed71363542%

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

  1. Sean

    Hi,

    How important is the ‘recent credit’ factor when applying for these cards? I have a good credit score (728), but due to applying for 3 cards within the last year (Grade = D) I feel like I may get turned away the next time I apply for a premium rewards card. I was recently rejected when I applied for the Citi Prestige card. Any advice? I would like to try for another card (Citi AAdvantage ideally) but I don’t want to harm my score any further. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Sean – Are you sure you were rejected for the Prestige? Citi sometimes shows a ‘denied’ page when you first apply, but in reality they are just doing a manual review and will process it several days later.

      Reply
      1. Sean

        I haven’t officially received the rejection in the mail yet, but after applying it told me to call because they were reviewing my application. When I called, they said it was rejected but wouldn’t provide a reason. In the mistake cases I’ve read for this card, the applicant was given positive news when they called. In the event I was rejected (I will wait for official confirmation by mail), how long should I wait to apply for a different card? Thanks.

        Reply
      2. Sean

        I did get the official non-approval in the mail. Reason: “too few satisfactory credit references were recorded on your credit bureau report”

        Is this because I’m 25 and don’t have a long credit history (I’ve only ever had two credit cards, both which I have had for less than one year)? I am listed as a co-signer on two others (oldest credit line 8 years) but this clearly doesn’t mean much.

        Would appreciate your advice on this and if you think other premium rewards cards will react similarly (Citi AAdvantage in particular). Thanks!

        Reply
  2. David Romero

    I’ve been rebuilding my credit for the last 3 years, and went from 500 to 720 on Equifax and 640 on Transunion, and I have things in my credit report 6,7,8,9,10 and 12 year still on there. I don’t know if that effects my chance to get a Southwest Rapid Rewards card. I have one credit card that I pay off on the first of the month, I applied for a Southwest Rapid Rewards card 2 months ago and was denied, how long does it take to get to get the derogatory marks off my credit report? I’m retired and have a great income, close to $100,00 a year. I would think with my score and income I would have no problem,.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @David Romero – The 640 on Transunion is borderline for these kinds of cards.

      Generally though each bank has its own internal “automatic decline” factors for things like bankruptcy within a certain number of years or 90 days plus delinquent within a certain number of years, even if your score overall is good and your income as you noted is great.

      For example Chapter 7 bankruptcy can stay on your report for 10 years, and some banks won’t approve for some products while that’s on there.

      Reply
      1. David Romero

        I’ve never file bankruptcy or title 7, just some late payments from 6 to 12 years ago, how long do those stay on there?

        Reply
  3. G Wheeler

    I recently brought a house and then lost my job shortly after my score before buying the house was 710 now because of a few late payments I am now at 500 and all my credit cards are being closed or the limits are reduced to what I owe. My questions is what is the best way to bring things back since I am now working and not behind on any of my cards but still have a low score

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @G Wheeler – Best thing is to keep paying on time. If you still have any card accounts, try using one to make a small purchase each month and pay it back in full on time. If you don’t have any credit card accounts anymore, consider a secured card – check with your local credit union as they often offer very fair ones.

      Reply
  4. Julie

    I have 740 plus FICO score, but my five year old bankruptcy record is still showing on ‘just’ Transunion. No other derogatory remarks on any of the other two reports. Should I be able to qualify for some travel point cards?

    Reply
    1. SD

      Disclosure: I work for one of the three bureaus and previously worked for a major credit card issuer. My comments are my own, based on the industry knowledge I have.

      Having a bankruptcy may or may not cause issues because some lenders, such as the one I used to work for, may have a policy that they decline people with bankruptcies regardless or score, or if it’s younger than 3/5/7 years, etc. (and if they pull that particular report that shows it). It depends on the lender and there is no way to know for sure without applying (you can try asking a representative if you apply over the phone, but they may or may not know/be able to divulge that information.

      From my industry experience, I’d say that if you have a 740 FICO score (and not another score), you’ll usually be able to qualify for most travel/rewards credit cards, except some of the super-ritzy ones (like AMEX Platinum, Chase Palladium, etc.).

      Reply
  5. Carson park

    I’m wanting to build up non existent credit because I am almost 20 and have no credit history… I find that maybe getting a credit card is going to be the best bet for building up my credit! And I travel frequently, and I typically fly southwest. Any way I can get approved for a southwest card with no credit history?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Carson – Hard to say. It’s not impossible, but they probably want some income first.

      You may want to start with a card that’s targeted to students, use that responsibly, and then when you have income to report try for it.

      Reply
  6. 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
  7. 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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