What is the Credit Score Needed to Apply for Travel Rewards Credit Cards?

06/07/2017 10:24 am ET Updated Jun 09, 2017

Want to apply for a new travel rewards credit card but not sure if your credit score is high enough? As long as you have good or excellent credit, you will most likely qualify for standard travel credit cards. Even if you have a fair credit score in the 600s, you can still qualify for many cards. Let's find out the credit score needed to apply for travel rewards credit cards.

Before we take a look at the various travel rewards credit cards, let's first clarify the difference between fair, good, and excellent credit below.

  • Fair Credit: 600-699
  • Good Credit: 700-799
  • Excellent Credit: 800+

As you will find out, many travel rewards cards require good or excellent credit. Although you can still qualify for many cards if your score is at least 650 and have a sound credit history. Even if you have a score in the 600s, you can still qualify for several rewards card, especially airline rewards credit cards.

Here are the factors that make up your credit score.
Dreamstime.com
Here are the factors that make up your credit score.

Flexible Travel Rewards

If you want to earn rewards points that can be redeemed for any travel purchase, you will want a flexible travel rewards card. These cards tend to require good or excellent credit scores of at least 700 (good credit).

All available credit score information has been provided by Credit Karma.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Required Credit Score: Good or Excellent (700+) Average Credit Score: 736 Typical Low Score: 646

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best flexible travel rewards credit cards, and it will require a good to excellent score. You can earn two points for every dollar spent on travel and dining. The real value of the Sapphire Preferred is the redemption options. Points are worth 1.25 cents each (10,000 points=$125) when you book your next trip with Chase or you can transfer them on a 1:1 basis to many of the best airline and hotel loyalty programs like United, Southwest, IHG, Marriott, and Hyatt.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

Required Credit Score: Good or Excellent (700+) Average Credit Score: 736 Typical Low Score: 684

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard has a little more rigid acceptance policy. This card earns two miles per dollar on every purchase. You redeem the miles for travel statement credits with a 1% redemption ratio (10,000 miles=$100). But, you also get a 5% redemption bonus ($5 for every $100 statement credit) for miles that can be redeemed next time.

Reward miles do not expire as long as your account remains in good standing.

Premier Rewards Gold from American Express

AmericanExpress.com

American Express' Premier Rewards Gold Card (Photo: American Express)

Required Credit Score: Good or Excellent (700+) Average Credit Score: 729 Typical Low Score: 658

The Premier Rewards Gold from American Express earns 3x points on flights booked directly with the airlines, 2x points at U.S. restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores, and 1 point for all other purchases.

It also comes with a $100 airline fee credit and with an annual fee of $195 (waived the first year) it is an affordable alternative to the Platinum Card from American Express, which basically has the same credit score standard.

Airline Reward Credit Cards

If you have a credit score in the 600s, airlines reward credit cards are your best bet. Some of the elite cards still require good or excellent credit, but, others have an average credit score in the 600 range.

Airline credit cards often require a lower credit score.
JohnnyJet.com
Airline credit cards often require a lower credit score.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Required Credit Score: Fair to Excellent (600+) Average Credit Score: 670 Typical Low Score: 607

Either of the Southwest credit cards is a great option if you have a credit score in the 600s. For a limited tim you can earn a sign-up bonus of up to 60,000 Rapid Rewards points and earn 2 miles per $1 on Southwest and travel partner purchases. Each year, you can also earn a 6,000 point anniversary bonus with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier and a 3,000 point bonus with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card. And, all the purchase rewards points earned count for the annual Southwest Companion Pass as well!

United MileagePlus Explorer

Required Credit Score: Good or Excellent (700+) Average Credit Score: 714 Typical Low Score: 633

The United Mileage Plus Explorer Card from Chase is another good option. With domestic reward fares starting at 10,000 miles, United has respectable award ticket prices and many destination options. Plus they are a 1:1 travel partner with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Several of the card benefits include 2 miles per $1 on United purchases, first bag is checked free, priority boarding, and two one-time passes to the United Explorer lounge every year.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

Required Credit Score: Fair to Excellent (600+) Average Credit Score: 675 Typical Low Score: 624

There are several varieties of the Delta SkyMiles credit card. The Gold Delta is a good option if your credit score is in the 600s. Card benefits include two miles for every dollar in Delta purchases, one free checked bag for up to nine people, priority boarding, and the $95 annual fee is waived the first.

You might also be able to get a limited time offer of 60,000 bonus SkyMiles when you apply before 7/5/17.

Hotel Rewards Credit Cards

The last section is for hotel travel rewards credit cards. These offerings often have an average credit score in the 700s, but, it is still possible to get approved with a score in the 600s.

Marriott Rewards Premier

Required Credit Score: Good or Excellent (700+) Average Credit Score: 721 Typical Low Score: 638

The Marriott Rewards Premier from Chase is an awesome card as points can be redeemed at any Marriott, Starwood, or Ritz-Carlton property. And, you also earn 5 points per $1 for your Marriott, Starwood, or Ritz-Carlton stays. As an added bonus, you can also earn 2 points per $1 on direct airline purchases, rental car agencies, and restaurants. And, every year you get a free anniversary night stay at any Marriott category 1-5 hotel.

You can use your Marriott points for hotel stays in Hawaii.
JohnnyJet.com
You can use your Marriott points for hotel stays in Hawaii.

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Required Credit Score: Good or Excellent (700+) Average Credit Score: 743 Typical Low Score: 657

Often considered one of the best hotel rewards cards, the Amex SPG is a definite fan favorite. If you stay at Starwood properties often, you need this card to quickly rack up the reward nights that start at only 4,000 points. You will earn 2 Starpoints per $1 at Starwood and Marriott properties. And, as a sign-up bonus, you can earn 25,000 bonus points that can get you five rewards nights or be redeemed for airline flights from 150 airline partners.

Summary

Many travelers look for the bonus offers and additional card benefits when considering a new travel rewards credit card. But, if you doubt your credit score is high enough to get approved, you might choose not apply until you have the credit score needed to apply for travel rewards credit cards without getting denied. If you’re still trying to build your credit score, you might have the best chances with airline rewards cards.

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