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||Lowest||% with score below 700|
|American Express¨ Gold Card||701||553||43%|
|American Express¨ Premier Rewards Gold Card||737||681||32%|
|Blue Cash Preferred¨ Card from American Express||734||685||16%|
|Blue Sky from American Express||710||657||18%|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles¨ Credit Card from American Express||717||656||22%|
|Starwood Preferred Guest¨ Credit Card from American Express||724||667||14%|
|The Platinum Card¨ from American Express||709||643||26%|
|Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard||737||691||NA|
|Priceline Rewardsª Visa¨ Credit Card||732||655||28%|
|The Premier Miles & More World MasterCard¨||726||670||NA|
|The US Airways Premier World MasterCard¨||753||680||26%|
|Virgin America Visa¨ Signature Card||NA||NA||NA|
|British Airways Visa Signature¨ Card||733||667||13%|
|Chase Freedom¨ Visa||696||643||49%|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred¨ Card||745||689||14%|
|United MileagePlus Explorer Card||723||663||17%|
|Capital One¨ VentureSM Rewards Credit Card||731||660||NA|
|Citi ThankYou¨ Preferred Rewards Card||743||697||NA|
|Citi¨ Platinum Select¨ / AAdvantage¨ Visa Signature Card||723||642||25%|
|U.S. Bank FlexPerks¨ Travel Rewards Visa Signature¨ Card||723||650||19%|
|Average - all cards listed||726||660||22%|
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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