What are the Easiest Rewards Cards to Get Approved For, and What’s Toughest?

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Four years ago I wrote a post that became one of the most popular things I ever published, looking at data on what credit scores were being approved for various credit cards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (60,000 bonus points after $4,000 un purchases within 3 months, $95 annual fee) on average was getting approvals with a 736 credit score, although it was typical at the low end to see approvals with a 646 score.`

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card (Earn up to 60,000 points: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months your account is open. Offer expired.) on average was getting approvals with a 670 score, although it was typical at the low end to see approvals with a 607 score.

The Platinum Card® from American Express (access to the most airport lounges plus Marriott and Hilton elite status) on average was getting approvals with a 716 score, although it was typical at the low end to see approvals with a 643 score.

Citi® Double Cash Card (no annual fee, 2% back on purchases) on average was getting approvals with a 729 score, although it was typical at the low end to see approvals with a 643 score.

These scores represented a snapshot of data at the time. One of the things that I’ve found useful is anecdotal feedback from readers. You might expect that people either (1) wouldn’t share their rejections, and so feedback would be biased towards approvals, or (2) would be more likely to email and complain when they aren’t approved for a card. Nonetheless I receive a lot of reader email and discuss these issues frequently and have formed some general impressions.

On the whole Citibank approvals seem easiest among the large banks offering rewards cards. I always used to think that American Express charge cards offered comparatively easy approvals — a credit card should be paid off each month but allows you to revolve, a charge card is supposed to be paid off each month, and since charge cards weren’t lending you money that made for easier approvals.

Anecdotally though American Express has seemed super generous with approvals for their Delta cards in particular. American Express and Delta re-upped their co-brand deal through 2029 and Delta is projecting a doubling in revenue from the deal, which would appear to require aggressive cardmember growth.

It’s been striking the readers that have shared rejections for the Sapphire Reserve card despite strong income and credit scores. It’s a Visa Infinite and appears to have extremely tight approval requirements. That’s why the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card can be the path to getting a Sapphire Reserve (it has a stronger initial bonus right now than Sapphire Reserve in any case). Get Sapphire Preferred, wait a year, and then ask Chase to product change.

What cards have you been most surprised to be approved or declined for?

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Editorial 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 advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. Sounds like useful info. But if people “upgrade” to a Sapphire Reserve, don’t they forfeit the chance to get the sign-up bonus if they end up able to get that as a new card, without an upgrade?

  2. I have every reward card and the best one is the Vesa satire card. It requires a 800+ score and has a 95884 mile bonus at sign up. With an 73% interest rate and a credit limit of $87587888878 UT allows for private jet travel and Mike high club status.

  3. I never understood the issue. Just have strong credit by establishing it over time, pay all your bills on time and don’t max the cards. Approval isn’t an issue!

    I currently have no debt (wrote a 7 figure check for my house and pay cash for all cars), have 7-8 credit cards (including CSR and Amex Platinum which are all paid in full every month) and a credit rating between 780 and 840.

    I get immediately approved for anything I want. If you can’t get approved it is a a “you problem”

  4. @AC. Bragging about writing a 7 figure check and no debt. Yes, the definition of the Average Joe who’s scrabbling to get a “free” ticket to visit his aging Aunt in Peoria. Smh.

  5. The push for the CSP is really getting annoying this week. Nice bait and switch headline, though.

  6. @Steve I’m pretty sure the CSR and CSP share the same lockout on bonus, so you would have to wait four years after getting one before you could get bonus on other.

  7. I was denied for the Chase Marriott this week because, as they said when I called in, I have too many Chase cards. They grilled me on what I’d use the card for and how much I’d spend on it, but still declined me and told me to wait, spend on my cards, and apply again later. I have six Chase cards (CSR, Freedom, FU, old IHG, new Hyatt, United Explorer), 10 in total and went under 5/24 as of the first of the month.

    Have there been any other experiences with people being declined for Chase cards because they already 6 Chase cards and that’s too many?

  8. I had 5 Citi car.ds. Tried to get Chase ran into tbe 5/24. Credit above 800, no house debt, no car debt, you would think that CC companies would be sending applications all the time.
    Convinced that they would much rather send CC to people that like to carry a balance, cannot say I blame them, if I could get 15 to 25% interest return I would do the same.

    Gave up trying to get any others, Capone will work for me just fine, got all the benefits I could from Citi, so will just wait to be clear of 5/24.

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