Using a credit card responsibly can be a great way to build credit and take advantage of cash back and travel rewards. But you may be wondering if your credit score is good enough to get a credit card.
There's no general minimum credit score to get a credit card. Some credit cards, particularly those with excellent rewards, do have a very high minimum credit score requirement. Others will give you access to credit even if your credit score is very low.
As with other types of credit, when it comes to getting a credit card, a higher credit score means that you'll have more options. With a higher score, say around 720 or better, you can apply for premium credit cards, get a higher credit limit, and get better benefits.
But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if your score is lower. Many lenders offer credit cards specifically for those with bad credit. The rewards may not be as great, and you may have a lower credit limit, but this type of credit card can be a great way to build or rebuild your credit score.
Apply for a Card that Fits Your Credit
If you don’t know your credit score, you may want to check it before you apply for a credit card. This will give you some idea of the types of cards that you can apply for.
Check out myFICO.com for ways to get your credit score, including a free trial of its credit monitoring service. This service is particularly great if you have low credit because it gives you access to a forecaster to help you find the quickest way to bring up your credit score.
Another way to raise your credit score is with Experian Boost™. It’s free to use and can track your monthly payments including your utility bill and mobile phone bill. When you make these payments on time, Experian Boost can use this information to increase your FICO Score.
Experian Boost Disclaimer - Results may vary. Some may not see improved scores or approval odds. Not all lenders use Experian credit files, and not all lenders use scores impacted by Experian Boost.
Learn More: Read our Experian Boost Review
Once you know your credit score, start looking for credit cards within your credit score range. Credit Karma, which offers consumers free access to their credit scores, has data on the scores needed to qualify for specific card offers. Based on this data, below we list some credit card offers based on credit scores.
Important: It’s important to keep in mind that credit scores are just one fact banks use to assess an application. An individual’s income and debt levels are also very important factors. As a result, just because you may not fit within one of these ranges does not mean you won’t qualify for the card. As you review the cards below, you’ll see that the credit scores for approved applicants range significantly.
Cards for Excellent Credit (720 - 850)
If your credit score is above 720, the sky's the limit when it comes to credit cards. Though your credit limits will still be based somewhat on your annual income, your high credit score makes you look very credit-worthy to creditors. This means that you have access to lower APR, better balance transfer offers, excellent rewards programs, and more.
If you have excellent credit, you don’t need to shop for a card based solely on your credit score. Instead, you can shop around for the card with the best rewards for your particular spending habits and needs. Here are two options:
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
The Citi Diamond Preferred Card comes with a zero percent introductory APR for 21 months*and has no annual fee. It offers access to concierge services, making it a decent option for frequent travelers, and it also offers access to special deals and VIP packages through Citi Private Pass.
Unlike some of the other cards for excellent credit, this one doesn't come with a fancy rewards system. You can use it to earn Citi Easy Cash, which gives you a discount on items you purchase through Citi's online store.
Credit Karma lists the average approved credit score for this card as 730, with the lowest approved score being 674. If you're working on paying down high-APR balances to boost your credit score, this is an ideal card to check out for balance transfers. The very long zero percent APR period is practically unheard of these days and could save you some serious cash as you pay down balances and boost your score.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express features a very straightforward cash rewards program. Unlike more complex programs, you don’t have to keep track of rotating rewards. You get 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets, on U.S. online retail purchases and at U.S. gas stations (up to $6,000 per year per category, then earn 1% after). You earn 1% cash back on other purchases.
Credit Karma notes very high score requirements for this card: 734 is the average approved score, and 686 is the lowest approved score. MyFICO forum users note that this card looks particularly closely at your credit utilization, even if you have a high credit score. So if you are carrying high balances, pay them down before you apply for this card. Terms Apply.
Cards for Good Credit (640-719)
If your credit score is in the high 600s to low 700s, you're doing better than a large portion of Americans. (You still have room to improve.) And you can qualify for cards with lower fees, higher credit limits and more benefits.
One strong option if you fit into this category is the Jasper Cash Back Mastercard. This card is especially helpful for professionals who don’t have a long credit history (which means they probably don’t have an Excellent credit score) but aren’t trying to rebuild damaged credit either (as is common with those who have Fair or Poor credit scores).
For consumers in this middle group, the Jasper Cash Back Mastercard has a lot to offer. A credit history isn’t required to get approved for this card. And if you’ve just taken a job in the United States, you can apply without a Social Security number as long as you’re able to provide it within 60 days of card approval.
This card charges no annual fee and offers a credit limit of up to $5,000. You’ll receive 1% cash back on almost every purchase and the rewards are automatically applied each month as a credit to your account. See Jasper’s rewards program terms here. Finally, this card offers customizable autopay options that are designed to help you meet your credit-building goals.
If you have just arrived in the U.S. on a work visa, Jasper will not run a hard inquiry with the credit bureaus to process your application. If you are a U.S. citizen, a U.S. permanent resident, or if you have been living in the U.S. for more than one year at the time of application, Jasper will indeed run an inquiry with the credit bureaus. However, application review is always based on multiple criteria, not just your credit score.
Cards for Fair Credit (550-639)
If your credit score is between 550 and 639, you’ve got a few more credit card options, particularly with unsecured credit cards. You’re still not going to get premium rewards, but you may qualify for a higher credit limit.
Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa®
This card is designed specifically for those with bad credit. Credit Karma shows that this card’s average approved score is 606, and its lowest approved score is 555. You can apply for the card without harming your credit and there is no deposit requirement. It lets you pick a flexible payment due date, and sends you text and email alerts when your payment is due. Cardholders get automatic reviews for credit line increase opportunities, too.
Although this card has a fairly high annual fee of $39 – it doesn’t have an added monthly fee like similar credit-building cards.
Card users in the MyFICO forums note that this card is easy to get, even if you’ve been through bankruptcy, and that Credit One often gives credit increases every few months, as long as you use the card responsibly.
Related: Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit – Credit Scores 580-669
Cards for Poor Credit (549 or lower)
If your credit score is below 550, you’ve got some serious work to do. Your very low credit will restrict your options when it comes to credit cards. The good news is that you still have options and exercising a credit card option can give you a leg up in boosting your credit score.
USAA Secured Card® Platinum MasterCard®
This secured credit card has an interesting twist. As part of getting the card, you’ll also be opening a 2-year CD that holds your security deposit of at least $250 (but can go as high as $5,000 if you want more credit). You’ll earn interest on the money in the CD, which is a bonus. It also comes with a low interest rate of 9.90%. You can get more details at the USAA website.
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card starts with a credit limit of $200-$3,000, depending on the amount of the security deposit. No credit check is required to obtain this card, and it offers automatic reporting to the credit bureaus to help build your credit. you can get more details at the OpenSky website.
Read Doughroller’s OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card full review