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 (40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, $99 annual fee) 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 witha 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. That’s one of the things I find really attractive about the biggest ever 60,000 point initial bonus offer for the Citi Premier℠ Card which earns triple points on travel and double points on restaurant and entertainment spend.

I always used to think that Ameican 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 American Express charge cards like the American Express® Gold Card (4x on restaurants and the first $25,000 spend each year at US supermarkets, 3x on airfare) and the The Platinum Card® from American Express 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.

Chase of course has their challenge with 5/24 (not generally approving customers for new cards that have gotten 5 or more new cards in the last 24 months), but aside from that I’ve always gotten the best reader feedback about getting approved for the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card. It’s the only Mastercard I’m aware of Chase offering, and the demographics around the chain may necessitate it.

On the other end of the spectrum 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 any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. what are your thoughts on Americans most recent mileage sale? I calculate it at .0172 a mile

  2. A couple of months ago I applied for the Amex Platinum. I was approved for the card—but NOT for the 60,000 bonus points (or whatever it was at the time). Needless to say, I took a pass on the card for now.

    My uneducated guess is that I’d received the Amex Gold (and also the Chase Sapphire Preferred) several months earlier.

    Any ideas on how long I ought to wait before giving the Platinum card another shot?

  3. What’s the rule about if you’ve already received a bonus on a Chase card you cannot get another one for a certain period of time? Does that apply to personal and biz cards? Thanks!

  4. Chase’s 5/24 rule counts to opening and/or closing accounts. Even if it is not a Chase credit card. That is what Chase reconsideration line told my wife yesterday. She applied, first time, for Chase Sapphire Preferred and was turned down. She has excellent credit score, no late payments, under 5/24 for openings, and zero balances. She was told by Chase reconsideration that closing an account is counted against the 5/24 tally. I did not know that closing a credit card is the same as opening one.
    In theory, this means that closing 5 credit cards means one could not apply for any card for 2 years.
    Were we handed bad info or is this as Chase said yesterday i.e. closing counts the same as opening?

  5. @Theodore – you were given the correct info. If you opened 5 cc’s 5 yrs. ago then you opened 5. It makes no difference even if you closed it in the past 2 years.

  6. My wife and I have both been rejected for Capital One Venture cards recently. They say too many new accounts on our credit reports. I think for anyone that is in this hobby that routinely gets new credit cards for the bonuses, then Capital One will be a tough get. Plus they do hard pulls on all three credit bureaus.

  7. Chase told my wife that closing a credit card account counts against 5/24 the same as opening an account. Does this sound right? thank you.

  8. Gary, I have been declined twice now for the Air France/KLM card by Bank of America despite having a credit score well over 800, no debt and a comfortable income. Their reasons were too many recent card openings (well I may be over the 5/24 rule) and no accounts with their bank. I don’t have any accounts with Chase either but that has never been a factor in being approved that I am aware of since I have 5 of their cards. I even asked to appeal the first denial, which resulted in a hard pull on my credit report but was still not approved. I do not make a habit of opening credit cards, getting the bonus points/miles and then canceling the card. I usually keep and use the cards I get. What does a person have to do to get approved by Bank of America short of opening an account with them??

  9. You only cite cards which give bonus miles and points. How about cards with big cash bonuses?

  10. Biggest surprise was getting the Reserve…though that was back when they still had the 100,000 point bonus. Chase did wait a while to approve me and they rejiggered the purchase limits on all my Chase cards to accommodate it. I suspect that if I tried to get it now I’d be rejected.

    I may eventually downshift to the Preferred, which I acquired less than a year before I got the Reserve (before they eliminated the ability to get the bonus on both cards). But I’m still getting a lot out of the Reserve that the $450 annual fee is worth it. If, God forbid, Chase ever wakes up and devalues the card’s perks, that would probably be enough to push me out of it.

  11. I am posting to echo Sheryl’s comment — Bank of America will auto-deny you for too many credit inquiries on Experian even if you are under 5/24 for personal cards, have an 800+ credit score, credit card utilization below two percent, and an income within the top one percent. Equally as frustrating, those who answer the phones at BOA’s “reconsideration” line lack any authority to override the denial.I flirted with the idea of emailing high-ranking BOA executives to ask what kind of customers is BOA approving if this is the sort of customer they are denying, but then I realized that I really don’t need the Alaska Airlines credit card of any other card that BOA offers. Unfortunately, it cost me one more Experian hard pull to learn that lesson. Hopefully those who read this comment and are in a similar situation will simply heed my warning and steer clear of applying for a BOA card.

  12. Thanks HB, you made me feel better. That is the only time i have ever been denied credit. Glad to know they have done the same to others. I will not ever be spplying again for any BOS catds.

  13. Thanks HB, you made me feel better. That is the only time i have ever been denied credit. Glad to know they have done the same to others. I will not ever be applying again for any BOA cards.

  14. With Citibank, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for their credit decisions. Was approved for a Citi Aadvantage card ut with a measly $1500 credit limit despite an 800 plus FICO score and a good income. The low credit limit made it a bit challenging to spend the $3,000 needed to get the 60,000 mile bonus within 90 days of approval. So I would spend about $500, pay it off immediately before the bill even closed, and thus replenish the credit line but Citibank didn’t like that either. (I assume they thought something fraudulent was going on). In the end, I got the miles, but I have not spent another dime on this card and certainly won’t renew.

  15. I have gotten approvals from Chase, Capital One, Citi and Amex this year. Even got an approval from Chase after being over 5/24 as I was targeted (I have been a customer for a while). Only rejection has been from Bank of America (I also tried to apply for the Air France card). From what I understand they prefer existing bank account customers and those that haven’t opened a lot of cards. Their cards seem to work best if you have a brokerage account with them (that is when you get the 2.5%+ cashback cards), otherwise not much to get excited about with their cards.

  16. Are the bonus points on IHG Rewards Club Premier Card transferable to Chase Reserve points?

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