What Credit Score Is Needed To Be Eligible for a Credit Card?
Credit scores play a significant role in personal finance, and having an excellent credit score opens up many opportunities. However, having a bad credit score isn't the end of the world. Your credit score isn't included in your credit report; it’s merely information used to calculate the odds of you defaulting on your loan.
So, is there a minimum credit score for a credit card requirement? Read on to answer this question and learn more about your options if you have a low credit score.
Credit Score Ranges
Before we dive into the specifics, let's get a quick overview of the credit score range according to FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation):
- Poor: 300 to 579
- Fair: 580 to 669
- Good: 670 to 739
- Very good: 740 to 799
- Exceptional: 800 to 850
So, we can see that FICO scores range from 300 to 850. At this stage, it’s important to note that the higher your credit score is, the more favorable options you'll have at your disposal.
The Lowest Credit Score for a Credit Card
So, what credit score do you need for a credit card? The answer is simple – whatever your credit history, you can qualify for some sort of credit card. Of course, the credit card company may be wary due to you making late payments in the past. Still, options exist, even if they’re not exactly what you’re after.
A good credit score typically comes with various perks, depending on the card. If your score is excellent, you can choose from multiple credit cards with outstanding offers.
Now, let's see what impacts your credit score and how much of an effect each factor has.
Factors That Impact Credit Scores
Here are some of the most critical factors affecting credit card approval according to FICO’s methodology:
One of the essential factors in determining your credit score is your payment history. It counts for 35% of your total score, showing credit card issuers whether or not you have a history of timely payments according to the agreed-upon conditions.
Moreover, it includes information about untimely past payments, which were 30, 60, or 90 days late, the amount owed on those accounts, and whether you have since repaid the debt.
Therefore, timely payments are crucial to maintaining a good credit score. But to get a credit card, you must also consider some other factors.
Credit Utilization Ratio
This is a term that refers to the amount of credit you’re using in relation to the total amount of credit available to you. In other words, it measures to what extent you currently use your credit limit and counts for 30% of your overall credit score. Refer to the following table for a straightforward explanation:
Many experts recommend maintaining a credit utilization rate below 30%, which is generally considered a neutral point. Still, the lower the rate of use within your credit limit, the better your credit score will be.
Credit History Length
Credit history length is the next essential factor to consider when figuring out credit scores needed for credit cards. Accounting for 15% of your FICO score, your credit history refers to how long you’ve been using credit.
Although this is something beyond your control, accounts that have been open for at least two years usually help improve users’ credit score. That said, having a limited credit history does not necessarily mean you’ll have bad credit.
Credit mix counts for 10% of your credit card score and refers to the various types of credit you’re using. The two principal types of credit in this regard are revolving and installment. Revolving accounts typically refer to credit cards and lines of credit, while some of the most common installment accounts are personal loans and mortgages.
So, how does this particular factor influence the minimum credit score for a credit card?
Usually, lenders give greater weight to your past performance when it comes to repaying loans. On the other hand, credit card issuers look more closely at your experience with other cards. The best way to earn points in this category is to have a healthy mix of both types of accounts.
The final 10% of your FICO score relates to new credit. You might think you need to add to your credit mix to improve your score. However, be cautious when applying for new credit or increasing your credit limit, since it can negatively impact the favorable credit score required for the credit card you want.
Inquiries will stay on your credit report for two years; too many of them in a short period can hurt your score. Apply for new credit only when you need to, not to improve your credit mix.
Credit Score Estimation
If you aren't sure how to calculate your FICO score, you can use the FICO calculator for a free estimate. Some questions you'll have to answer include:
- How many credit cards do you possess?
- When did you get your first credit card?
- How long ago did you take out your first loan?
Getting a Credit Card With Limited or No Credit History
Before asking yourself what credit score is needed for a credit card, remember that it’s common for applicants with limited or no credit history to get credit cards. This approach might require collateral, though. There are two common ways of establishing a credit history for people without credit scores.
Secured Credit Card
A secured credit card may be a good option for someone with poor or no credit who wants to build up their credit history. With this type of card, the credit limit is usually between 50% and 100% of the money put down as a security deposit. So if you're looking to establish good financial habits, a secured credit card could be helpful, as it makes its holders rely on a cash deposit.
We’ve written an article that explains what an unsecured credit card is and its pros and cons compared to a secured card.
Student Credit Card
Credit cards are available to students with no credit history yet. They serve as a convenient way to build up a credit score for a credit card before application.
These cards can help young adults learn financial management while building up their credit scores. Although student credit cards often have significant benefits, like rewards programs and no annual fees, credit card issuers can charge pretty high regular APRs (between 14.49% and 26.49%, more or less).
Consider reading our APR guide if you want to understand credit card interest rates better.
Required Credit Scores for Some Popular Credit Cards in 2024
Recommended Credit Score
Best Buy® Credit Card
Capital One Platinum Credit Card
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Applicable Credit Scores for Credit Cards
So, what credit scores are required for credit card approval? Applicants with bad credit can get a secured card, but clients with excellent credit enjoy more significant benefits. So, let's see what credit card holders with different credit scores can expect.
Fair Credit Score Range
The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card is among the top secured credit cards for applicants who don’t meet the requirements for cards with attractive benefits. This card doesn’t come with an annual fee; the minimum refundable security deposit is $49, $99, or $200.
It’s important to note that not every credit card issuer reports your activity to credit bureaus. Before signing up for a card, confirm that the issuer will report your activity. This is important, because your payment history is one of the critical factors in determining and improving your credit score.
Good to Excellent Credit Score
If you have at least a good credit score for a credit card, you should be able to qualify for a card that offers some juicy rewards. However, different issuers have different requirements, so it's still a good idea to do your research before applying.
Credit Score Improvement Tips
If you need to improve your bad credit score to get a low-interest loan or apply for a rewards card, try the following:
Don't Breach Your Credit Limit
When you exceed your credit limit, you may lower your credit score. Therefore, even if you go over the limit on just one card, that might count as using more than 30% of your credit across all accounts. Keeping credit limits within the established range is essential, so don't let your credit card debt get out of control.
Be an Authorized User
Becoming an authorized user on someone else's credit card account is a convenient way to improve a credit score. It can be a great way to establish or rebuild your credit history by assisting someone who trusts you.
Don’t Apply for Many Cards
Are you still thinking about how to improve your credit score if the above tips don't work for you?
Don't apply for too many cards when looking for a new credit card. Do the research and only apply for those you're likely to be approved for, since applying for too many credit cards can hurt your credit score in the long run.
So, as you can see, it’s possible to get a credit card with any credit score. The only question is what conditions will apply. So, keep your credit card debt as low as possible, don't breach your credit limits, and stick to the tips we’ve identified to make sure your credit report remains favorable.
Can I get a credit card with a 600 credit score?
You can get a credit card with some benefits with a fair credit score. But applicants with good credit scores (670+) enjoy better extras and lower interest rates.
What is the minimum credit score for a credit card?
You can get a credit card even if you have a bad credit score or don't have one at all. However, cards with higher credit score requirements promise better perks and lower interest rates.
Can you get a credit card with a score of 300?
Applicants for credit cards with a score of 300 usually have to include collateral in their applications, since this score indicates that they’ve struggled to make on-time payments in the past.
Albert Einstein is said to have identified compound interest as mankind’s greatest invention. That story’s probably apocryphal, but it conveys a deep truth about the power of fiscal policy to change the world along with our daily lives. Civilization became possible only when Sumerians of the Bronze Age invented money. Today, economic issues influence every aspect of daily life. My job at Fortunly is an opportunity to analyze government policies and banking practices, sharing the results of my research in articles that can help you make better, smarter decisions for yourself and your family.