Data Shows What Credit Score You Need to Be Approved for the Best Rewards Card

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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.

Many factors go into whether or not you’re approved for a card. Credit score is only one of them, although your credit score can be worth millions of miles. Although this game is not for you if you don’t pay off your cards in full each month, or if having more cards mean you spend more.

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.

    chase freedom credit cardEditorial 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.
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About Gary Leff

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 »

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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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).

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. Hi
    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

  14. 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.

  15. if only you can reach out to freedom_hacking at hot mail dot com.i just got out of bankruptcy and a need to purchase a house is my utmost priority.During the seasoning period i came in contact with freedom ,was told by few Lenders, that i will be waiting for 1 year plus for FHA loan.i have a saving and a very poor credit score of 511 and two credit card debts from 3 years. The only option i had was to repair my score because ,i cant afford to pay higher interest rate and wait that long.Hiring freedom to fix my credit score rocketed my FICO score to 790 and cleared all credit card debts in a stipulated time as promised.I just got approved for a loan of $190,000 with less interest rate compared to when i was in financial situation.

  16. Everyone should first understand where you stand in the realm of credit scores and the fact that there are way more scoring models used by companies these days. You have a couple of Advantage scores and around 10 or so FICO scores. Among the FICO scores there are auto FICO scores, Bankcard FICO scores etc. you should first know all of your scores then do your research for the card you are applying for and try to find out what scoring model(s) they will likely use. A lot of them will tell you upfront with the card details. You can save yourself a hard inquiry on your report which will decrease your scores even more, and the disappointment of being declined. I use both Credit Karma and Experian credit monitoring so that I know where I stand on all of my scores depending on what I am applying for.

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