First rewards card for a 720 credit score?

Members share tips and tricks for getting the most miles, & points.

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First rewards card for a 720 credit score?

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Utilities, groceries, travel works well with the airline tickets, hotel and whatever you do on that trip.

Think of it as a debit card and pay early and often. The rewards add up pretty quick if you work it.

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What is the Credit Score Needed to Apply for Travel Rewards Credit Cards?

Want to apply for a new travel rewards credit card but not sure if your credit score is high enough? As long as you have good or excellent credit, you will most likely qualify for standard travel credit cards. Even if you have a fair credit score in the 600s, you can still qualify for many cards. Let's find out the credit score needed to apply for travel rewards credit cards.

Before we take a look at the various travel rewards credit cards, let's first clarify the difference between fair, good, and excellent credit below.

  • Fair Credit: 600-699
  • Good Credit: 700-799
  • Excellent Credit: 800+

As you will find out, many travel rewards cards require good or excellent credit. Although you can still qualify for many cards if your score is at least 650 and have a sound credit history. Even if you have a score in the 600s, you can still qualify for several rewards card, especially airline rewards credit cards.

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If you want to earn rewards points that can be redeemed for any travel purchase, you will want a flexible travel rewards card. These cards tend to require good or excellent credit scores of at least 700 (good credit).

All available credit score information has been provided by Credit Karma.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Required Credit Score: Good or Excellent (700+) Average Credit Score: 736 Typical Low Score: 646

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best flexible travel rewards credit cards, and it will require a good to excellent score. You can earn two points for every dollar spent on travel and dining. The real value of the Sapphire Preferred is the redemption options. Points are worth 1.25 cents each (10,000 points=$125) when you book your next trip with Chase or you can transfer them on a 1:1 basis to many of the best airline and hotel loyalty programs like United, Southwest, IHG, Marriott, and Hyatt.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

Required Credit Score: Good or Excellent (700+) Average Credit Score: 736 Typical Low Score: 684

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard has a little more rigid acceptance policy. This card earns two miles per dollar on every purchase. You redeem the miles for travel statement credits with a 1% redemption ratio (10,000 miles=$100). But, you also get a 5% redemption bonus ($5 for every $100 statement credit) for miles that can be redeemed next time.

Reward miles do not expire as long as your account remains in good standing.

Premier Rewards Gold from American Express

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American Express' Premier Rewards Gold Card (Photo: American Express)

Required Credit Score: Good or Excellent (700+) Average Credit Score: 729 Typical Low Score: 658

The Premier Rewards Gold from American Express earns 3x points on flights booked directly with the airlines, 2x points at U.S. restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores, and 1 point for all other purchases.

It also comes with a $100 airline fee credit and with an annual fee of $195 (waived the first year) it is an affordable alternative to the Platinum Card from American Express, which basically has the same credit score standard.

If you have a credit score in the 600s, airlines reward credit cards are your best bet. Some of the elite cards still require good or excellent credit, but, others have an average credit score in the 600 range.

Score reward cards

Required Credit Score: Fair to Excellent (600+) Average Credit Score: 670 Typical Low Score: 607

Either of the Southwest credit cards is a great option if you have a credit score in the 600s. For a limited tim you can earn a sign-up bonus of up to 60,000 Rapid Rewards points and earn 2 miles per $1 on Southwest and travel partner purchases. Each year, you can also earn a 6,000 point anniversary bonus with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier and a 3,000 point bonus with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card. And, all the purchase rewards points earned count for the annual Southwest Companion Pass as well!

United MileagePlus Explorer

Required Credit Score: Good or Excellent (700+) Average Credit Score: 714 Typical Low Score: 633

The United Mileage Plus Explorer Card from Chase is another good option. With domestic reward fares starting at 10,000 miles, United has respectable award ticket prices and many destination options. Plus they are a 1:1 travel partner with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Several of the card benefits include 2 miles per $1 on United purchases, first bag is checked free, priority boarding, and two one-time passes to the United Explorer lounge every year.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

Required Credit Score: Fair to Excellent (600+) Average Credit Score: 675 Typical Low Score: 624

There are several varieties of the Delta SkyMiles credit card. The Gold Delta is a good option if your credit score is in the 600s. Card benefits include two miles for every dollar in Delta purchases, one free checked bag for up to nine people, priority boarding, and the $95 annual fee is waived the first.

You might also be able to get a limited time offer of 60,000 bonus SkyMiles when you apply before 7/5/17.

The last section is for hotel travel rewards credit cards. These offerings often have an average credit score in the 700s, but, it is still possible to get approved with a score in the 600s.

Marriott Rewards Premier

Required Credit Score: Good or Excellent (700+) Average Credit Score: 721 Typical Low Score: 638

The Marriott Rewards Premier from Chase is an awesome card as points can be redeemed at any Marriott, Starwood, or Ritz-Carlton property. And, you also earn 5 points per $1 for your Marriott, Starwood, or Ritz-Carlton stays. As an added bonus, you can also earn 2 points per $1 on direct airline purchases, rental car agencies, and restaurants. And, every year you get a free anniversary night stay at any Marriott category 1-5 hotel.

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Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Required Credit Score: Good or Excellent (700+) Average Credit Score: 743 Typical Low Score: 657

Often considered one of the best hotel rewards cards, the Amex SPG is a definite fan favorite. If you stay at Starwood properties often, you need this card to quickly rack up the reward nights that start at only 4,000 points. You will earn 2 Starpoints per $1 at Starwood and Marriott properties. And, as a sign-up bonus, you can earn 25,000 bonus points that can get you five rewards nights or be redeemed for airline flights from 150 airline partners.

Many travelers look for the bonus offers and additional card benefits when considering a new travel rewards credit card. But, if you doubt your credit score is high enough to get approved, you might choose not apply until you have the credit score needed to apply for travel rewards credit cards without getting denied. If you’re still trying to build your credit score, you might have the best chances with airline rewards cards.

score reward cards

Score reward cards

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by Gary Leff on February 6, 2015

I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, and other banks are advertising partners of this site. I do not write about all credit cards that are available — instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).

Reader Joey M. pointed out to me that Credit Karma has a lot of data that it makes available about its member base. They know what cards members have, and what their credit scores are, and that allows us to get a window into what sorts of credit profiles are necessary to be approved for various credit cards.

What surprised me though is that many cards were being approved for consumers with much lower credit scores than I would have expected.

Credit Karma carries information on the average (mean) credit score for those approved for the card through their site, and the ‘typical’ typical lowest credit score (the bottom 5th percentile) among those approved through Credit Karma. I found the data fascinating.

The data here is what was shown on that site on February 6, 2015.

  • I was surprised that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which I think of as a pretty premium card, was so accessible (although good credit certainly required, it didn’t seem to require the very top credit): 728 average score and 641 typical low approval.. This is the card I believe to be the single best personal rewards card on the market — with a great signup bonus, fast earning, valuable points, and strong benefits.

  • The Platinum Card from American Express shows only 715 average credit score for folks approved for the card. 643 credit scores are approved (their ‘typical low’). I would have seen this card as requiring higher credit, but wonder if the fact that there’s no formal credit line being approved (it’s a charge card not a credit card) that actually makes it easier to get than I would have expected.

  • The Delta Skymiles Credit Card from American Express has an average credit score under 700: 699 – for approvals among Credit Karma users, and 613 as the typical low credit approval score.

  • The Amex Everyday card has an average credit score of just 669 for approvals, with 606 scores the low typical. This is the strongest no fee miles and points rewards card in my view (the only no fee card with 1:1 transfers from points to your choice of participating mileage programs) and from the Credit Karma data also a great card for getting started.

      You can join the 40,000+ people who see these deals and analysis every day — sign up to receive posts by email (just one e-mail per day) or subscribe to the RSS feed. It’s free. You can also follow me on Twitter for the latest deals. Don’t miss out!

    Score reward cardsEditorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

    Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

    From what I understand from some credit people, the charge cards and cards with high annual fees actually require a lower credit score than most people think. Even though the high fee cards are legally not secured cards, they are even better for the banks because they get the money instead of prepaying the card like a secured card.

    Same with the charge cards – not being able to carry over a balance helps to lower the required credit threshold for approval.

    Interesting numbers on the others!

    Several things come to mind when reading this:

    First of all, I wonder if these are averages of scores taken at time of approval, or the present average scores of holders of each card.

    Secondly, it’s important to keep in mind that this is the data of Credit Karma users. I’d argue that this is likely biased. Yes, you have the mileage junkies in one camp, who use the service to monitor apps/accounts/scores and likely have a higher than average credit score, but I’d postulate that, on average, Credit Karma is used more by consumers trying to repair or in general raise their credit scores. These individuals would have scores that are, on average, lower than the fiscally responsible consumer who has a CSP card, has never heard of Credit Karma, and redeems their Ultimate Rewards points for cash back.

    I wonder if these numbers are the FAKO/Vantagescore and not the FICO score that is considered the “standard” score. I have seen the FAKO scores run 50 points below the actual FICO score in some cases.

    As someone who has used credit karma to rebuild my credit after my younger self decided to be irresponsible, I have to say that the approval numbers they provide are insanely misleading. Many times during my recovery process they would let me know that my chances of getting approved were fair, or good and in two instances that I tried to apply for those cards I was declined because of insufficient credit history and past delinquencies.

    On the flip side of the coin I have a friend with fantastic credit that often sees that his approval odds for a card are only fair, yet he has never had an issue getting approved for any card he’s gone after.

    This stuff is also highly unusual and questionable. I am referring to the data credit karma claims about the cards. They want to get approved apps for those cards. For many years Fair Issac claims that 50% of the US has a credit score of above 700. I just don’t believe it. Especially after the real estate crash of a few years ago. Lets face facts the boarding area, flyer talk type readers are definitely at the highest end of these scores overall. Even if some of that data is true, those cards might have pretty puny credit lines. I would not be surprised to see 1000-1500 lines on the cards. So while they are approved, they keep the customer on a short leash. Also due to the changes in bankruptcy laws, that benefits the card companies overall. Its all based on risk and total exposure. Gary’s friend reading those approval odds-that stuff is all nonsense.

    These are very low scores. I thought you are required to have a FICO score of at least 700 to get any those cards.

    Thank you very much for this post. I have a TransUnion score of 616, and was just approved for the Southwest RR Card, a card I most certainly did not think I could get. On the other hand, I was just denied for the Amex Everyday Card, so the score obviously isn’t everything.

    The problem of you posting average approval scores based off of credit Karma is bogus at its best. Seeing how chase uses fico scores and credit karma uses the vantage score. So your first assumption was correction. No 613 fico would ever be approved. However when my vantage was 650. My actual fico was 700. So thAt could be compared. I’m just pointed out if we are using facts. Then let’s do it correctly for all those out there that are taking your word. Why hVe people people apply say for chase sapphire thinking they have a chance with a 643. When that data is like comparing apples to watermelons. They both have seeds sure. But one in in a tree the other on the ground. Good luck.

    i have seen the type of score models can vary from card companies ie my mortgage fico are in high 600’s but karma, sesame, capital one, wal mart are low 600’s . American express uses what is called a credit card fico score which is geared to predictive defaults of credit cards. Amex and loan companies are also using data mining companies during approval p).

    Credit Karma is misleading on Credit Scores for those who have bad credit and revealing credit scores getting you hard inquiries for no reason. Think im lying, write down your credit karma credit score, then check it on creditchecktotal which gives you your + FICO 3 bureau reporting powered by Experian. And u will see credit karma say 650 cs then FICO say 540..Thats why u getting denied. Leave free credit scores and pay for FICO.

    Chase high end card you need a 730 or higher score.if you have appied for five or more cards in two years you will be denied on the prime and sub prime cards which are high end cards.that is something new with chase.

    What many of you don’t realize is that there are dozens of scoring models out there. Depending on what you are applying for, the requirements are different. It’s not just your credit score that is considered, but it definitely does give a quick snapshot of your creditworthiness. Factors that can work against you despite have a good score is having too many hard inquiries in a short time frame. Sure you’ve been a great borrower but maybe you lost your job or you are having a mid-life crisis and you’re spending your money on lavish items so suddenly you are applying for loans and credit cards which is a red flag notifying the lender that you are a potential risk.

    While it’s an interesting article, it really doesn’t help. I didn’t realize at first that creditkarma used the fako/vantage score. I didn’t there’s all these models for virtually every scenario.

    I have made positive progress to improve my credit. Opened a secured credit card. A few months later, saw a soft hit by of all things Fingerhut and received an offer of preapproved for $1,000 dollars. That I decided to go for and it was approved and reports. Thus, I raised my total credit limit by 1k.

    I read not to use more than 30% of credit and then I read it’s better to use less than 10%. I run around 8%, have not missed one payment or been late.

    Opened the Discover card in a secured account which gives you a real FICO score. FAKO said 700, FICO 567. In one month it went up to 596 but FAKO went down. Next month 616 FICO and FAKO went down. One more time, 614 FICO for unknown reasons and FAKO went down.

    The FAKO score went down one month stating opened too many accounts in one month. Well, I opened just the one account. I guess one account opened is too many. That tells me the system is wacky is designed to keep that score as low as possible for as long as possible.

    On the creditkarma, a college professor once wrote on the blackboard, TANFL=There Ain’t No Free Lunch. How can this site provide this information for free? Maybe they get a commission when someone applies for one of these credit cards?

    What is a fair approval? Fair to them? Trying to build your credit and receiving a ding on your credit because you applied for something Creditkarma recommended only pushes you back.

    The actual credit reporting agencies are just as bad. I had telephone numbers listed under my name that was the neighbor’s even though I never ever, ever used that as a contact number. I also noticed one had me down for a bad car loan when in fact I paid it off in good standing. Tried to get it removed and BOA wanted a letter from the agency. The agency wanted a letter from BOA. Cap it off with the service rep for the reporting agency could hardly speak English and I have no idea whether he removed it, even though he said he saw it had been paid off and would remove it.

    Credit has improved since the early 1960s when I hear a report may include such things as personal hygiene to possibly sexuality. But, we have a long, long way to go before we have equality.

    Banks should be in the business of loaning money, not insurance and all other products that they now offer. Credit cards shouldn’t be setting you up to fail. It’s a lot harder to keep track of a 25 day billing cycle than a 30 day one. Plus, you have basically 5 extra days out of 12 months, giving you what, 14 billing cycles a year?

    I travel extensively/fly for businss and want to get the Citibank AA Executive Card or any other such card. I also would like to get the basic Amex Green card as well

    I have a Capital One card that had the limit raised from $3500 to $5000 several months ago.

    My scores as of today Experian 682, Equifax 687 and Transunion 676

    Thoughts and recommendations please

    CreditKarma: the information is free but with a catch. Read their advertiser disclosure which states that they get paid to strategically place adds for offers to you from third parties.

    Also, the credit score they provide is not accurate. I have noticed the score they tell me is on average 60 – 70 points lower than what I get directly from credit agency since I have monitoring through other credit cards. If CK says your at 708 you are probably at 787 etc. The scores are not correct.

    How you can score free trips with credit card rewards

    Score reward cards

    Traveling can be expensive, especially if you have a family of five as I do. American Express found that the average amount Americans spent on a week-long summer vacation in 2015 was about $1,000 per person. For a family of five, that's $5,000 -- a big chunk of change for a week of sightseeing.

    One of the ways my family keeps costs under control is by taking advantage of the best travel rewards credit cards and hotel and airline loyalty programs to score free flights and accommodations. I've already saved more than $500 on hotel stays for a couple of weekend trips my family has taken this year by cashing in points I earned using a Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card.

    I'm a travel rewards amateur, though. My goal is to eventually get most -- if not all -- of my travel is free, which is the case for Holly Johnson. Johnson blogs about travel and saving money at and takes seven to eight trips a year with her husband or entire family of four and pays next to nothing.

    She does it by maximizing credit card rewards and racking up points through loyalty programs. Although anyone can use her tips to maximize their credit card rewards, her strategy -- which is used by many so-called travel hackers -- works best if you meet these criteria:

    • You have a credit score of at least 700, ideally 720, to qualify for the best rewards cards.
    • You don't carry a balance on the cards.

    If you're charging cards to rack up points and aren't paying off what you owe each month, you're also racking up interest, which can wipe out any savings you're getting with free accommodations or flights. "It's not very rewarding to end up in debt," Johnson said.

    If you want to start traveling for free, here's what you'll need to do.

    Score reward cards

    The major hotel chains -- such as Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott -- and airlines -- such as American Airlines, Delta and United -- have loyalty programs that let members earn points for booking hotel rooms and flights. Once you have enough points, you can redeem them for free stays or flights.

    I'm a member of Southwest Airlines' Rapid Rewards loyalty program. I fly about three times a year and typically earn enough points to score at least one free flight. Rapid Rewards and other airline loyalty programs also allow members to earn points when booking rental cars and hotel rooms with their partners and by making purchases from retail partners on their online shopping malls.

    Johnson said that she belongs to almost all of the hotel and loyalty programs available because they are free and offer perks beyond points, such as free WiFi and room upgrades. You won't earn points as quickly through loyalty programs as you can through rewards credit cards, but if you're worried about racking up debt with credit cards, the loyalty programs might be better for you. By joining loyalty programs and using rewards cards simultaneously, you can accumulate points much faster.

    ​Get rewards cards that offer flexibility

    With so many airline-branded cards, hotel-branded cards and general travel rewards credit cards out there to choose from, which one should you get? Johnson recommended getting a rewards card that isn't tied to a particular airline or hotel because you'll have more flexibility with how you use your points. For example, if you don't end up traveling much, you can redeem your points for gift cards or cash.

    Her favorite by far is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which lets you earn two points for travel and restaurant purchases and one point for all other purchases. Points can be transferred at full value -- 1 point for every $1 -- to participating travel loyalty programs such as British Airways Executive Club, Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Hyatt Gold Passport and Marriott Rewards.

    If you are loyal to a particular hotel chain or airline, however, you shouldn't ignore the hotel- and airline-branded rewards cards. Look up card offers or use an online tool that compares cards to help you decide which travel rewards card you'll benefit from most.

    Score reward cards

    Most rewards cards offer bonus points for signing up for a card and spending a certain amount on money within in a specified period of time, typically the first 90 days of having the card. Fulfilling this requirement is the fastest way to earn enough points for free travel -- especially if you take advantage of several offers during the year, Johnson said. She signed up for 10 travel rewards credit cards last year and has already signed up for two cards this year.

    The bonus from just one card can be enough to net her free flights for her entire family of four, she said. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card currently is offering 50,000 bonus points -- worth $625 in travel rewards -- for new cardholders who spend $4,000 in three months after opening an account.

    Johnson said she can sign up for more cards in a year than most people because she owns two businesses and can take advantage of bonus offers for both personal and business credit cards. Couples can rack up points quickly if both spouses sign up for cards with bonus-point offers, she added.

    If you plan to sign up for more than one card, Johnson said you should do so every three months rather than all at once. That way, it will be easier to meet the spending requirements to earn bonus points. This strategy is also a good idea because you might improve your chances of being approved for cards if you spread out your applications. Opening new lines of credit can affect your credit score, but Johnson said she's seen little impact on hers, which is above 800.

    ​Charge everything to your rewards cards, then pay them off

    Score reward cards

    One of the main reasons I haven't earned enough points from my hotel-branded card to get all of my hotel stays for free is because I haven't charged enough to my card. Even though I pay off my credit card balance, I've been reluctant to use my card to pay for all of my everyday purchases. I've gotten over that reluctance though because, as I said, my goal is to travel for free.

    Johnson said she uses her credit cards for gas, groceries, business expenses, and all of her regular bills, including car, health, and homeowners' insurance. "We dig really deep to find things to pay with our credit card," she said.

    When Johnson makes purchases, she uses the card that will give her the most points for that purchase because the number of points you can earn per purchase varies from card to card. The free Wallaby mobile app and browser extension can help you identify which card to use for which purchase to get the most rewards points if you have several cards.

    Johnson also pays off her cards once a week so interest doesn't accrue. "I never get a bill because I always pay it [off]," she said.

    Score reward cards

    Not only is there a strategy for earning points, but there's also a method for redeeming them. Johnson said that you need to plan trips well in advance of your travel dates to get the most out of rewards points.

    You have to plan ahead if you want to take advantage of bonus points because it can take a few months to earn them and then another month for them to be credited to your account. Additionally, some airlines and hotels have a limited number of rooms and seats on flights that can be redeemed for points, so if you don't book far enough in advance, you'll miss out and be left with points you can't use, she said.

    At times when I've waited until the last minute to book a hotel room for a weekend getaway, I haven't been able to find rewards rooms that suited my needs. My family needs a suite because we have three kids. But sometimes by the time I wanted to book the trip, the only rooms left that could be redeemed for points had just one king-size bed.

    Johnson said that she went to Cancun last December by redeeming sign-up bonus points from Marriott Rewards Premier credit cards for a package that included flights on Southwest and a seven-night stay at a JW Marriott, which typically costs $800 per night. The rewards availability in December is limited because it's a peak travel season, but she was able to redeem her points because she booked her trip nine months in advance.

    Being flexible with your travel plans also can help you get more out of your rewards points, Johnson said. For example, she recently stayed at a Westin hotel on Grand Cayman Island during the offseason because it required fewer points.

    When she flies overseas, she typically departs on a Wednesday because there are more rewards seats available on midweek flights. Just as you would compare prices for hotels and flights at various times to find the best deal, you have to compare the number of points you'll need for hotel and flight options as well as the availability of options that can be booked using points, she said.

    If you have more than one rewards card, you need a system to keep track of them. Johnson said she uses a spreadsheet to record the following details so she can stay organized:

    • Date she signed up for a card
    • Date by which she needs to spend a certain amount to earn the sign-up bonus
    • Date of the 12-month point if and when an annual fee is charged

    If she's opened a card with an annual fee that she knows she doesn't want to keep, she'll close the account before the fee is charged.

    It sounds like it could be tedious keeping track of points and earning enough to get free travel, but Johnson said it isn't. If it was, she wouldn't do it. "I like to earn stuff free," she said. "But I also don't want my life to be complicated."