Ads for rewards credit cards like to wow you with numbers — say, 2% back on every purchase, or a 60,000-point sign-up bonus, or a $0 annual fee. One number you don’t see much in credit card promotions is the credit score you’ll need in order to get approved for a particular card. It’s a big omission, since most of the best rewards credit cards are available only to those with good or excellent credit scores.
A FICO score of 690 or higher is usually required
Every issuer defines “good credit” differently, but it’s usually safe to assume that if your score is between 690 and 719, it’s in the “good” range.
Once you’ve made it into this credit score tier, you should feel more comfortable going after credit cards that will earn you points, miles or cash back on your purchases, and often a sign-up bonus, too.
However, the top credit card offers — those with the biggest sign-up bonuses, highest rewards rates and most extensive travel perks — are often reserved for people with excellent credit. This is usually defined as a score of 720 or above. So even if you’ve hit the good credit threshold, it’s wise to keep striving to push your score over the 720 mark.
Keep in mind that your credit score is an important factor when credit card issuers consider your application, but it’s not the only factor. Even if your credit is good or excellent, you could still be rejected for a credit card if, for instance, you don’t meet the issuer’s income requirements, or if the issuer believes you have applied for too much credit recently.
You’re likely to have good credit if …
If you don’t know your credit score, you can get it for free on NerdWallet. (Doing so takes only a minute and doesn’t affect your score.) Many credit card issuers, banks and other lenders also give their customers free access to credit scores.
You probably have good credit if you meet the following criteria:
- You always pay your bills on time. You might have been late on a bill once or twice in the past, but you don’t have any recent defaults, delinquencies or collections accounts on your credit reports.
- You have little or no credit card debt.
- You apply for credit sparingly. People with good credit usually have few recent credit inquiries.
- You’ve been using credit for several years.
- You have both installment accounts (such as mortgages or auto loans) and revolving accounts (credit cards or lines of credit) on your credit reports.
Start improving your credit today
If your credit is less than good, get started on improving it. It might take time, but it’s worth the effort. Here are three things you can begin working on today:
- Pay your bills on time every month — no exceptions. Sign up for email or text alerts with your creditors if you have trouble remembering when your bills are due, or consider signing up for autopay with your bank or credit union
- Pay down credit card debt. This will bring down your credit utilization ratio, which may have a positive effect on your score relatively quickly.
- Limit new credit applications, especially for credit cards. Only get new plastic if you really need it, and wait at least six months between applications.
Updated June 19, 2017