You Don’t Need a Perfect Credit Score to Get an Airline Card
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If you’re looking for a miles or travel credit card, you may be under the impression that those cards are reserved for people with the highest credit scores.
But many lucrative mile and travel credit cards don’t require anywhere near a “perfect” credit score to qualify. However, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact credit score requirements of a new card since issuers use different credit bureaus and criteria to determine eligibility.
The data listed below shows the credit scores of actual cardholders of popular mile and travel credit cards, who registered with CreditKarma, a credit score and monitoring website, from October 2015 to July 2016. It contains these pieces of information for each card:
- Average: This is the average score among those approved for the card via CreditKarma.com
- Typical low: This is the 5th percentile (lowest 5%) of VantageScore 3.0 scores provided by TransUnion for CreditKarma members approved for the card
THIS INFORMATION IS NOT A GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL BE APPROVED FOR A PARTICULAR CARD, AND HAS NOT BEEN REVIEWED BY ANY ISSUER. IT IS FOR REFERENCE ONLY.
|Credit scores of actual cardholders of popular mile and travel credit cards|
|Average score||Low score|
|The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express*||676||630|
|The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express*||709||674|
|American Express® Business Gold Card||729||658|
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card||675||624|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card||743||657|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||716||643|
|Bank of America|
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card||750||687|
|British Airways Visa Signature® Card||747||727|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||736||646|
|Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card||721||638|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card||670||607|
|United℠ Explorer Card||714||633|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||738||664|
|Citi Premier® Card||796||745|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®||716||633|
As expected, the combined average credit score for the cards mentioned above falls in the good-to-excellent range. This isn’t a surprise since these cards are often 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 CreditKarma.com and may be different than your result with a similar credit score.
What stands out is the “typical low” credit scores for many cards. These credit scores found above show that you may not need a 700+ credit score to qualify for the best mile and travel credit cards. Some cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offer wider acceptance beyond just “perfect” credit scores as issuers try to make rewards more accessible.
In fact, scores well below 700 have been approved for many of the miles and travel cards listed above. Credit card approval can also depend on your income or relationship with a bank, or even how many other rewards cards you’ve recently applied for.
What to know before applying
If your credit score is below 700 and you’re looking to open a miles or travel credit card, keep a few things in mind:
Consider an airline-branded credit card. It’s not clear why, but co-branded airline cards from the major airlines, including American, Delta, Southwest and United, tend to have some of the lowest typical credit scores approved. That means if you have just good or fair credit, you may have a better shot at getting approved for an airline card.
Consider checking prequalified offers. See if you’re prequalified for a card before you apply. Many major travel rewards card issuers, including Capital One, Discover, Citi and American Express, have pre-qualification tools that allow you to see if you have a good chance of being approved before you fill out an application. Pre-qualification helps you shop around for the best card offers without hurting your credit score. While pre-qualification isn’t a guarantee of approval, it can help you narrow down your choices.
Review your credit report. Before you apply for a credit card, review your credit report from all three bureaus so you can make sure everything that’s on there is correct. Credit card issuers can pull one or all three reports from the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). Applicant comments on CreditBoards.com show which credit bureaus the most reports were pulled from for each issuer:
- Amex: Experian
- Bank of America: Experian
- Barclays: TransUnion
- Capital One: Tends to pull all three
- Chase: Experian
- Citi: Experian
- Discover: Mix of the three
Once approved for a card, make sure you pay off your balance on time and in full each month. Any earned miles aren’t worth the interest charges and late fees that you’ll incur if you carry a balance month to month or pay late.
Other than that, you shouldn’t be too afraid of rejection. If you have a steady income, aren’t carrying a lot of other debt and a solid credit history, you could be eligible for that coveted miles or travel card.
*The information related to this offer has been independently collected by LendingTree and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.