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You’ll Need This FICO Score to Get a Rewards Credit Card

Credit Cards, Credit Score, Personal Finance
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You’ll Need This FICO Score to Get a Rewards Credit Cards Story

Rewards credit cards are hot right now, with issuers trying to one-up each other by offering better deals to consumers. But banks are usually looking for a specific type of customer — not just anyone can get in on the points and miles game. There are barriers to entry, and one of them might be your FICO score.

 A FICO score of 690 or higher is usually required

In most cases, you’ll need to have good credit to qualify for a rewards credit card. Every issuer defines this differently, but it’s usually safe to assume that if your FICO score is between 690 and 719, it’s in the “good” range.

Once you’ve made it into this FICO score tier, you should feel more comfortable going after credit cards that will earn you points, miles or cash back on your purchases. You may even be able to snag a card that offers a modest signup bonus.

However, the juiciest credit card offers — think whopping signup bonuses, accelerated rewards earning and travel perks — are often reserved for people with excellent credit. This is usually defined as a FICO score of 720 or above. So 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 FICO score is an important data point used in lending decisions, but it’s not the only one. Even if your credit is good or excellent, other personal financial factors could cause you to get rejected for a credit card.

See this resource for more details about how to get approved for the credit card you’re after.

You’re likely have good credit if …

One of the trickiest things about deciding which credit card to apply for is figuring out where you stand, credit-wise. You can see your FICO score for free if you are one of the millions of Americans getting a free score every month from one of your credit card issuers, your student loan provider or your auto lender.

There’s also the option to purchase a copy of your score from FICO, or one of the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax or TransUnion — for a small fee. This usually won’t cost you more than $15, but just be careful to avoid signing up for a credit monitoring subscription that will bill you every month, unless that’s something you want.

To get a general idea of what your score might be, you can compare the profile below to the information on your credit report. You can get free copies of your credit report once per year from AnnualCreditReport.com.

You likely have good credit if you meet the following criteria:

  • You consistently 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 at least several years.
  • You have both installment accounts (such as mortgages or auto loans) and revolving (credit card) accounts on your credit reports.

Steps to start improving your credit today

Trying to raise your credit score is commendable. But some credit mistakes would require a time machine to go back and fix, so you can’t necessarily expect to raise your score quickly.

Instead, take these three key steps to start improving your credit today:

  • Start paying 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 off credit card debt. This will bring down your credit utilization ratio, which may have a fast, positive effect on your FICO score.
  • Limit new credit inquiries, especially for credit cards. Only get new plastic if you really need it, and wait at least six months between each application.

The takeaway: You’ll likely need a FICO score of at least 690 to get a rewards credit card, 720 if you’re going after really primo plastic. Assess your credit situation with our profile above, and take steps to start improving yours today.

Lindsay Konsko is a staff writer covering credit cards and consumer credit for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @lkonsko and on Google+.


Image via iStock.