Credit cards are great for building credit, earning rewards, and financing everyday purchases. However, with hundreds of different credit cards available, it’s hard to determine which credit card is right for you or even which ones you can qualify for.
Learn more about what credit score you need to qualify for different cards and how you can improve your credit score to access the best offers.
Table of Contents
- What’s the minimum credit score you need to get a credit card?
- Credit cards for good credit scores (670–850)
- Credit cards for fair credit scores (580-669)
- Credit cards for bad credit scores (300–579)
- Can you get a credit card with limited or no credit history?
- How to improve your credit score to get better credit cards
What’s the minimum credit score you need to get a credit card?
There’s no minimum credit score needed to get a credit card. Anyone, even someone without any credit history whatsoever, can get a credit card.
However, credit card types and terms vary widely based on credit score. If you have a bad credit score or no score at all, the card you qualify for might not be your top choice.
Why do credit card issuers look at your credit score?
Credit card issuers use credit scores to assess the risk of lending to a given borrower. In other words, your credit score is a stand-in for how likely you are to pay your credit card bill on time each month.
While credit scores are the most common measure that card issuers use to determine potential borrowers’ creditworthiness, they also sometimes assess the following factors:
- Public records (e.g., bankruptcies)
- Credit history / borrowing history
- Debt-to-income ratio
As a rule of thumb, those with higher credit scores are more likely to be approved for credit cards, and those with lower credit scores are more likely to be denied.
As mentioned, there are credit cards out there for everyone, regardless of their credit history, credit score, or financial situation. It’s just a matter of finding the right card for your qualifications.
Credit cards for good credit scores (670–850)
If you have a good or excellent credit score (one between 670 and the maximum credit score of 850), you can qualify for the widest variety of credit cards and are less likely to have your credit card application denied.
Good or excellent credit score holders can qualify for credit cards that offer:
- High rewards rates
- Specialized perks (like airport lounge access)
- High credit limits
- Low APR
- Generous welcome bonuses (like extra rewards points or miles)
- 0% APR introductory offers
- No fees*
*Because good credit scores qualify for a wide range of credit cards, there are more card options without annual, monthly, or foreign transaction fees available to creditworthy borrowers. However, top-shelf credit cards can also come with very high annual fees, especially if the card offers high rewards rates.
Credit cards for fair credit scores (580-669)
Fair-credit holders can qualify for:
- Unsecured credit cards
- No-fee cards
- Credit cards for rebuilding credit
- Store cards
- Rewards cards
As a borrower’s risk is determined by their credit score, credit card issuers often attach fees and deposits to cards available to lower-credit applicants as a way of mitigating the cost of those borrowers failing to pay their bills.
This means that the worse your credit score is, the more likely your cards are to have added expenses, like security deposits and annual fees. If you have fair credit, not all of the cards available to you will have these added fees, but some will.
As for rewards, there are standard cashback rewards cards out there for fair credit borrowers. However, the majority of rewards cards available at this credit level are store cards. Store cards often offer rewards for shopping at a certain franchise, or even for everyday shopping if the card is co-branded with Visa or Mastercard.
The catch is that many store cards only allow rewards to be redeemed for store credit or certificates through credit card points rather than true cash back. So unlike standard rewards credit cards, rewards store cards have limited value.
However, store cards like the Amazon credit cards have a wide enough range of products that earning rewards toward Amazon purchases can still subsidize everyday costs for fair-credit borrowers.
Credit cards for bad credit scores (300–579)
Borrowers with bad credit may be the most skeptical about their credit card prospects. But don’t worry, even the worst credit score can get you a credit card.
The downside is that credit cards for people with bad credit scores tend to come at a steep cost and have less favorable terms, such as high APRs and annual fees. Borrowers with bad credit are also most likely to qualify for secured credit cards, which are credit cards that require a security deposit and often offer a matching credit limit. 1
Along with security deposits and annual fees, these credit cards tend to have lower credit limits and no rewards. However, this isn’t always the case. For example, the Discover it® Secured credit card offers 1–2% cash back and is available to applicants with poor credit.
Can you get a credit card with limited or no credit history?
Yes, you can get a credit card even if you don’t have a credit history. In fact, there are multiple credit cards specifically designed for borrowers without credit.
No-credit borrowers can also look into the following types of cards:
Similar to borrowers with bad credit, no-credit applicants are most likely to qualify for secured cards.
One thing to keep in mind when searching for a card if you don’t have credit is to find a credit card issuer that reports to the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Credit reporting helps you establish a positive credit history, so look for a card that reports to all three. Additionally, consider finding a credit-building card that offers credit monitoring tools like free credit score updates to help you establish a history more easily.
How to improve your credit score to get better credit cards
If you want to qualify for better credit cards, you’ll need a high credit score. Whether you’re starting to establish your credit history for the first time or you’re repairing a previously damaged credit score, follow these credit hacks to improve your score quickly:
- Dispute credit reporting errors: Your credit score may be unfairly low because of errors on your report. Get your free credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com and review the information. If you see anything amiss, dispute the credit report mistakes immediately and watch your score rise.
- Pay off debt: Your payment history is the single most important factor used to calculate your credit score, so if you’re struggling with debt, your score is probably struggling as well. To make paying debt easier, consider debt consolidation or using a budgeting app.
- Set up auto-pay: Strategically timing when you pay your credit card bill is one hack that can get you a higher credit score. To make sure you pay on time each month, set up automatic payments through your credit card online management platform, your credit card app, or through your bank.
- Ask for more credit: The second most important credit scoring factor after payment history is credit utilization rate. Your credit utilization is the amount of credit you’re currently using. You can find your rate by dividing your total balance across your credit cards by your total available credit. To lower your utilization rate (which can boost your credit score), either use less credit or request credit limit increases to give yourself more available credit.
- Become an authorized user: A great way to build credit and raise your score is by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card. Make sure this person has good credit so you can piggyback off their borrowing history and improve your own score.