Every credit card issuer has its own method of choosing whether to approve applicants, and there are several factors that are used in the process. Simply put, there's no way to know exactly what credit cards you qualify for until you actually apply.
That said, there are some guidelines you can use to determine which credit cards might be a good match for your credit profile. Here's how to determine where you stand and links to some of the best credit cards you might be able to qualify for.
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How's your credit?
The vast majority of lenders (including credit card issuers) use the FICO credit scoring model to evaluate applicants. This model uses a scoring range of 300-850, with higher numbers representing better credit.
While there is no specific definition of what is considered a "good" or "excellent" FICO score, the Fair Isaac Company (creator of the FICO score) offers these general guidelines.
For our practical purposes, we can consider anyone in the top two tiers in this chart as having "excellent" credit, as a FICO score of 740 or above will generally qualify you for any credit card product you want. To be clear, there can be some differences in terms of interest rates -- for example, it wouldn't be unusual for a consumer with an 820 FICO score to qualify for a better interest rate than someone with a 750 FICO score on the same credit card product. However, as far as qualification is concerned, a 740 is typically sufficient for any credit card.
It's also important to mention that credit scores are only one piece of the puzzle. Lenders also consider factors such as:
- How many other credit card accounts you have, either with that specific lender or altogether
- How many new credit accounts you've opened recently
- How many hard credit inquiries you have
- How much you owe on your existing credit cards
- Your income
Many credit card companies include a free FICO score as a cardholder perk, so if you already have a credit card that offers it, you can get a good idea of where you stand. However, be aware that you have FICO scores from the three credit bureaus, as well as many older and specialized versions lenders could potentially look at. If you want a complete picture of your FICO score, you'll probably have to pay for it. I personally use myFICO.com to monitor all of my own FICO scores, but there are several other services that will sell you a three-bureau FICO score report.
If you have excellent credit
With a FICO credit score of 740 or higher, you should be able to qualify for virtually any credit card product you want, provided there are no other red flags that could scare lenders off. For example, some creditors will reject you, regardless of your credit score if you've opened too many new accounts within a short period of time.
That said, competition has never been more intense in the credit card industry, and this has resulted in some of the most generous introductory offers, rewards programs, and cardholder perks that have ever been available.
With excellent credit, you should have your pick of the best credit card sign-up bonuses, best 0% intro APR offers, and best balance transfer offers. Additionally, with the high level of industry competition that I mentioned, the best overall credit card products for consumers with excellent credit are constantly evolving, so be sure to check out an updated list of the best current offers.
If you have good credit
With a FICO score in the 670-739 range, you should still be able to qualify for many credit card products, although you may have trouble getting approved for the top offers, especially if you fall in the lower end of the "good" range.
With that in mind, there are some credit cards that are geared toward consumers with credit scores that can be characterized as good or higher. Since consumers with good credit still represent a relatively low credit risk, there's also intense competition in this area of the market, and as a result, the offers are constantly changing. Be sure to check out our list of the best credit cards for good credit, which is updated regularly.
If you have poor/fair credit or no credit
Finally, if you fall in the lower tiers, or if you don't have much of a credit history at all, you may find it difficult to get approved for any traditional credit cards, especially those with lucrative introductory offers or attractive reward programs.
To be clear, it may be possible to get approved for certain "good credit" cards if you have a FICO score in the mid-600s. Remember, the tiers in the chart are meant as guidelines, not as specific cutoff points.
However, if you have trouble getting approved for a traditional credit card, it may be a smart idea to consider a secured credit card. These work almost the same as traditional credit cards, but since they require a security deposit, qualification tends to be easy and costs tend to be competitive.
There's no set-in-stone cutoff for many credit cards
As a final point, keep in mind that there's no way for us to tell you exactly what credit cards you qualify for. Remember that in addition to your credit score, there are several other factors that credit card issuers could use in their approval process, which could either hurt or help you.
For example, if you have little debt and no new credit accounts, you may be able to qualify for an "excellent credit" card, even if your score is below the cutoff. Conversely, you can have a FICO score in the high 700s, but if you already have several other credit cards with that particular lender and have applied for credit a handful of times in the past few months, it might be a cause for rejection.
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