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

by on Tue October 20, 2015 • 39 Comments

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 October 2015 from show that many lucrative rewards cards don’t require a perfect 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
  • ‘Typical Low’ = This is the typical lowest credit score among those approved for the card via
AverageTypical Low
American Express
Amex EveryDay Credit Card679631
Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card711661
American Express¨ Premier Rewards Gold Card733682
Gold Delta SkyMiles¨ Credit Card from American Express680623
Starwood Preferred Guest¨ Credit Card from American Express743657
The Platinum Card¨ from American Express716643
Bank of America
BankAmericard Travel Rewards744681
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World MasterCard736690
Barclaycard Arrival706671
British Airways Visa Signature¨ Card747727
Chase Freedom¨ Visa686638
Chase Sapphire Preferred¨ Card735673
Marriott Rewards Premier721638
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier692616
United MileagePlus Explorer Card731645
Capital One / Citi
Capital One¨ VentureSM Rewards Credit Card717666
Citi Double Cash Card743677
Citi ThankYou¨ Preferred Rewards Card748656
Citi ThankYou Premier796745
Citi¨ Platinum Select¨ / AAdvantage¨ Visa Signature Card716633
Discover Miles733601

What’s surprising about this data isn’t the average score. It’s high, just above 700, 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 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.

The following two tabs change content below.
Follow @MileCards on Twitter for the latest updates and new offers

Still confused? Have a question?

Leave a comment below -- we'll reply shortly -- no need to use your real name. Or, use the email form at the top of the page for private advice.

"These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered."

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

  1. Bill Chastain

    A little off topic for miles cards, but a heads up on how credit scores can be intentionally skewed. My CreitKarma Numbers – TU = 702 EF = 736 as shown on Credit Karma (which is correct based on credit load, payment history, income, and credit profile.

    Recently approved for a zero down car loan. Oddly enough my credit score from Equifax shown on the car credit ap was 648, not 736. My wife, who has no individual credit was shown as 704. I can understand a 10 – 15 point credit score drop based on car loan practices , but a 98 point drop seems almost punitive. Any ideas?


      @Bill – That is a big difference, and enough to perhaps check your underlying report at (the gov’t uses this site to get a free, full report from each bureau once a year). Other factors….the CK scores are not real FICO scores, just estimates. What you got from the lender is a real FICO score. There are also different scores for auto lending than general credit, which factor more auto specific inputs. Though a 100 point difference sounds odd.

    2. Bill Chastain

      Pulled Equifax – Nothing unusual on my credit report – no late payments, write-offs, bankruptcies, etc. – except they seem to have dinged me for not having a “mortgage” loan or “revolving” dept store account. My Credit Karma scores are now 732 and 737. I want to get a “miles” card (Alaska/Bank of America?), but I am concerned about Equifax reporting and getting a rejection without getting the card. Your thoughts?

  2. Nicole

    I made a wreck of my credit while I was young. Currently my credit cards are around 50% of maximum I’m working on bringing this down as quickly as I can.

    It feels like it’s been years since I’ve seriously defaulted on a card. Where do I go to see what is still showing up and how do I get something removed if it’s old? I have an old court judgement from 2009 still showing up. I want to bring my score up and clean up my history if I can!

    Thanks for any advice


      @Nicole – You can go to to get the free, official report from each of the 3 credit bureaus. That’s the only site authorized by Federal law to provide your free, complete report.

    2. Annabelle

      Follow’s suggestion of the free credit report. I space mine out (get 1 from 1 reporting agency every 4 months) to monitor it so I never pay for a credit report.

      The credit reporting agencies report your history for the past 10 years, whether the account is open or closed. Once the last activity on any account is past 10 years, it should fall off your credit report. If you find any INACCURATE information on your credit report, contact the 3 agencies to make sure it gets corrected.

      Best way to rebuild your credit is to pay off the balances (see below for tips) and pay consistently – Every. Single. Month. On every single account. You will find yourself in good credit graces again within 2 years tops, with good credit scores. That’s for the credit report part. Disregard the following if you already know it.

      Tips for paying off balances:
      If you’re juggling multiple card balances, some recommend paying off the smaller balances first, others recommend highest interest rate. It really depends on your situation. But after paying off 1 balance, take that monthly payment and add it to your monthly payment for the next balance. This will cut down the stress and time required to pay off all the balances. If you have $200 to split among 4 cards, don’t split it evenly – pay the most that you can towards the 1st balance to get rid of first but pay more than the min. required for each balance.

      For the credit managing part:
      Except for a dire emergency, get into the mindset that paying with your credit card IS like paying cash. That money is already spent even if it’s still sitting in your bank account for another 25 days.

      Good luck!

      1. Donna

        All that was written is correct except the 10 yrs bit. It’s actually 7 yrs and 10 for bankruptcies…not sure about judgements. After 2-3 yrs those tend to have a lesser effect as time goes on as long as you keep paying down your debt with no late payments or added collections. Good Luck!

        1. Ron

          Donna, I agree. I have 3 public records that I got stuck with, and have paid off within the last few years. My scores were in the 550′s a few years ago, now are in the low 7′s. The public records are still on my report, but my payment history is perfect and my utilization is about 31%. It really seems if you be responsible after some bumps, there are lenders that will go with you.


      @ladyjay – If your income is good your score seems in the range of what some people have reported can get approved.

  3. anthony

    Hi I have a 750 TransUnion and 720 Equifax and 724 Experian. Do you think I will get approved for Delta airline credit card ps.i have a 7 year old bankruptcy plus a perfect payment history.


      @anthony – Always hard to say, but your scores themselves are in the hunt. If your bankruptcy didn’t include any Amex cards then you could have a shot.

  4. Michael

    Which is the best travel rewards card for me to get approved on?

    I have a credit score of 733 on equinox and transition under my credit karma account.

    Problem is I recently applied for the BofA travel rewards card since that’s who i bank with but i was denied.
    My average age of credit history is only 9 months since i’ve been rebuilding my credit with my regular non travel BofA credit but i have perfect payment history and have never been late on a payment

    Any advice on one that’s great that would work for me would be appreciated


      @Michael – Hard to say – was average age of accounts the reason they gave in the denial letter? Generally a 733 with good income should put you in the hunt for just about any of them. Maybe wait another 4 months, then try a broadly advertised card like the Sapphire Preferred.

  5. scott

    Hi, I had a relative ruin my credit 5-7 years ago, when I was out of the country and had the mail coming to his house he used my cards without permission and they all charged off.

    Fast forward approx 2 years ago I got a secured capital one card, and I have now a couple of non secure cards from capital one, my total credit limits is approx $23000, and my credit karma transunion score is 799 and eqifax 753, my transunion has only one collection account left, the other 2 bureaus have 4 and 5 items including a judgment, Chase has declined my app for a Sapphire preferred and Barclay’s has Declined my app for the Arrival Plus, Chase has declined for past chargeoff and other baddies on the report, they told me that when the baddies fall off the report they can reconsider, Barclay’s declined me when I still had 2 collections on my transunion now I only have one baddie.

    Question is what rewards card would be a good card to apply for? I burned amex and I am on their blacklist, I also burned Chase, Citi, Capital One, HSBC, Wachovia and Bank Of America, but as I said before most of them aged off the reports.


      @scott – Sorry to hear about what happened. The Capital One Venture is probably your best bet either as an upgrade of your existing card or new application. It earns 2x points on everything so is a powerful card. B of A might not be bad to consider if you have an interest in Alaska miles, since it sounds like inquiries are not an issue, though go slowly when you have anything negative still there.

  6. George

    My credit score is a 650.i have three credit cards now.caring a balance of 40 % balance ever month you think should get approved for and airlines credit card.and i file bankruptcy 4 years ago.from threr on i never need late on making a payment. On my credit car or car payment


      @George – It’s probably early – you want to get that utilization (balance % of limits) down. That could also help your score. And the interest rates on these cards aren’t always the best, so if you have a balance, better to use your credit inquiries getting a lower rate via a balance transfer or a low ongoing rate.

  7. Sam S

    I recently transferred to my firm’s US branch. As a recent transplant I don’t have a credit history. I’ll now be flying to the UK several times a year to visit family and a credit card with either United or Delta (serve my local airport) and the signup mileage bonus would be invaluable to me.
    Do you think I have any chance of approval right now or will I need to wait until I’ve built up good credit.


      @Sam S – Hard to say but with a few months of secured credit card usage you should have a decent score if there are no negative items on your report.

  8. Sean


    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.


      @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.

      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.

      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!

  9. 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,.


      @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.

      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?

        1. Royster

          Late payments loss their value over time and should fall off after 7 years. If they do not then you need to contact each of the credit reporting agencies to have it removed. there is a website online that you can go to that will tell you how long each states statue of limitation is as well.

          Good luck.


  10. 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


      @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.

  11. 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?

    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.).

  12. 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?


      @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.

  13. 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.

    1. MileCards


      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

      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:

      You can run a credit report for your small business here

  14. Annie S


    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.

    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.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *