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. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. 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).
I’ve signed up for scores of cards over many years and I still have an excellent credit score, it was nearly 800 FICO on the three major credit bureaus when I went to get my mortgage. In part because of signing up for more cards, rather than in spite of it. (Here’s how to manage your credit score when signing up for credit cards.)
It often surprises me though how many credit cards are approved for consumers with much lower credit scores than I’d 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. While not representative of all people applying for a card, I find the data fascinating.
CreditKarma refreshed their numbers with data from October 2015 through July 2016. Here’s a sampling of some of the average and typical low scores for some popular cards.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
This is the best first card for entering the hobby. It’s got a great signup bonus of 50,000 point after $4000 spend within 3 months of account opening, lets you earn 5000 more for adding a no annual fee authorized user to the account, and earns double points — that can be transferred to a variety of airlines and hotel programs — on all travel and dining spend.
Average score: 736
Typical low score: 646
Transfer Points to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
The card offers a signup bonus of 50,000 points after $2000 in spending on purchases within 3 months of account opening. It’s a great way to help earn the legendary Southwest Airlines Companion Pass.
Average score: 670
Typical low score: 607
- Amex EveryDay Credit Card
This is the only no annual fee card whose points transfer one-to-one to a variety of different frequent flyer programs.
Average score: 676
Typical low score: 630
Emirates is an American Express Transfer Partner
- American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card
The best Membership Rewards-earning card for frequent travelers. It earns triple points on airfare when booked directly with airlines and double points at US gas stations, US restaurants and at US supermarkets.
The annual fee is $0 the first year then $195 thereafter. They take the sting out of the fee by giving you a $100 airline fee credit. And since that credit applies even in the first year you can make money in year one, even apart from all of the points. (And in fact you can get the fee credit now and again at the beginning of the next calendar year!)
Average score: 729
Typical low score: 658
- Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
I’ve had this card for 15 years. The reason it’s great is because Starwood has the most number of airline points transfer partners where transfers are 1:1 into miles (or better). You’re earning Starwood Starpoints and those are the most valuable currency.
And there’s a built-in 25% transfer bonus: for every 20,000 airline miles you transfer points into Starwood gives you 5000 additional miles. So you effectively earn 1.25 miles per dollar on all of your spend (a built-in 25% bonus), and you get to pick what airline program you want your miles in later.
Average score: 743
Typical low score: 657
Starwood’s Al Maha Desert Resort
- Platinum Card from American Express
This is the card that offers the best insider benefits. You get access to American Express Centurion lounges. You get access to Delta lounges when flying that airline same day (though guests will cost $29). You get a Priority Pass Select card that includes access to Alaska Airlines lounges, and many international lounges.
You can designate one airline on which you’ll receive a $200 fee credit for the year (and in my experience, and while terms and conditions apply on all of their offers, small denomination airline gift cards have worked for reimbursement. The Platinum American Express also reimburses the $100 application fee for Global Entry or the fee for TSA PreCheck, comes with Gold status in Starwood Preferred Guest and Hilton HHonors Gold.
Average score: 716
Typical low score: 643
Bar at the American Express Centurion Lounge, Houston
- Citi Double Cash Card
Citi Double Cash is the easiest high value cash back card, with no need to open separate financial accounts and no annual fee but still providing 1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% back when you pay off your bill.
Average score: 729
Typical low score: 653
There are factors which go into credit card approval besides credit score, such as your income and the number of other cards you’ve applied or been approved for two name just a couple.
Still, it surprises me to see how low even the mean scores getting approved for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card and Amex Everyday card are. And it surprises me that while the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a pretty premium card, that it hardly seems to take perfect credit to get it.
We know quite a lot about who has the American Express Platinum card but it’s illuminating to see just who can get it.
Full disclosure I posted my credit score earlier this year.