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If you have a good credit score, you’re in solid shape when it comes to getting a credit card. That’s because, by and large, credit card issuers extend the best offers to consumers with “good” credit or better. While other factors are taken into consideration — including your employment situation and ability to repay — good credit gives you an enormous leg up if you’re hoping to get approved for one of the best rewards or travel credit cards.
But exactly what kind of credit card should you expect or be looking for if you have good credit? While the exact cards change regularly, there are several rules of thumb you can use to make sure you’re getting the best credit card when you have a good credit score.
What’s a good credit score?
How do you know if you have “good” credit? There are plenty of ways to check your credit score for free, so that’s a good place to start. For example, many credit cards offer a free credit score, but you can also sign up for credit monitoring services that keep track of your credit score on your behalf.
While there are several common types of credit scores, you may want to pay the most attention to your FICO score, since it’s the one most commonly used by lenders. FICO scores range from 300 to 850 and break down into the following categories:
- Excellent: 800 and higher
- Very good: 740 to 799
- Good: 670 to 739
- Fair: 580 to 669
- Poor: 579 and lower
According to the Fair Isaac Corporation, which created the FICO score formula, most lenders consider a FICO score between 670 and 739 to be “good” or “acceptable,” so this is a good range to shoot for if you’re not there already, though it’ll be easier to get the best offers if you’re in the “very good” range or excellent ranget.
What kind of credit cards can I qualify for with good credit?
Most people with good credit can qualify for many of the top credit card offers available, such as cards that let you earn exceptional rewards or ones that come with top-notch benefits, and even cards with low interest offers on purchases and balance transfers. However, you may not get instant approval when you apply.
CNN Underscored’s favorite credit cards in each of these categories can be found in our guides below. If you have good credit, you have a decent chance of being approved for any of the cards on these lists:
Having good credit can also help you qualify for premium credit cards that come with unique perks, including VIP travel benefits. However, you’re more likely to be eligible for one of these premium cards if your credit score is on the high end of the good range, or at least 720.
With a good credit score of 720 or more, you may be able to qualify for a credit card that comes with an airport lounge membership, automatic elite status with hotel brands or rental car companies, or annual travel credits worth hundreds of dollars. While these benefits typically come with credit cards that carry high annual fees, the perks can help you get more than enough value in return.
However, if your credit score is on the low end of the “good” range, you may only be eligible for credit cards that are somewhat below the premium level. Start your search by looking for credit cards for fair credit, then look for options that feature the best rewards or perks. In the meantime, it definitely makes sense to find ways to increase your credit score. Doing so can help you become eligible for a broader range of credit cards with better terms overall.
Questions to ask before you apply
Before you apply for a credit card you believe you’ll be eligible for based on your credit score, you should ask yourself what you hope to get in return. The following questions can help you decide which credit card offer is the best for your needs and goals.
- Do I plan to carry a balance? Many credit cards for people with good credit charge high APRs that make carrying debt an expensive proposition. If you need to carry a balance from time to time, you may want to consider a credit card that offers 0% APR on purchases for a limited time — usually between 12 and 20 months — when you first get the card.
- Do I have high-interest debts to consolidate? If you already have a lot of credit card debt, then a new credit card may be the last thing you need. But on the other hand, a new balance transfer credit card can be used to consolidate and pay down debt at 0% APR for a limited time.
- Am I interested in rewards? If you don’t need an introductory offer on balance transfers or purchases, then you should certainly get a credit card that earns rewards on everything you buy. In addition to earning either cash back or travel rewards on each dollar you spend, you may even be able to earn a generous sign-up bonus.
- What type of rewards would benefit me the most? With so many options, it’s important to take the time to decide on the type of rewards you want to earn. If you travel often, then a travel card that earns points or miles might be best for you, while other people may prefer to earn cash back on a credit card, which they can then use to buy anything they want.
- Am I willing to pay an annual fee? Credit cards with the best perks tend to charge annual fees, although there are plenty of great card options without one. If you are comfortable paying an annual fee for a credit card, make sure the benefits or rewards you get in return are worth it.
Also, as you prepare to fill out a credit card application, keep in mind that Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulations allow you to list your entire household income and not just your own when applying for a card. This can make qualifying for a card exceptionally easier if you’re a stay-at-home parent with a working spouse or if you only work part-time but your partner earns a generous amount.
Pitfalls to watch out for
The best credit cards for good credit can be useful, lucrative and worth pursuing. But there are still some pitfalls to watch out for. Make sure you’re aware of the potential downsides of credit cards, including the following:
- Fees: Credit card annual fees can range from $95 to $695, so you should compare and choose wisely based on your needs and your budget. But if you’re not looking for a premium credit card with lots of perks, keep in mind that there are also many credit cards with no annual fee available to people with good credit, so you don’t have to pay an annual fee if you don’t want to.
- Too many applications: The reality is, having “good” but not exceptional credit puts you in a slightly precarious position when you apply for credit cards. You may or may not get approved, but you’ll have better luck if you can find a way to boost your score to 720 or above. Either way, beware of the potential negative effects on your credit when you apply for a lot of new credit cards, since this factor makes up 10 percent of your FICO credit score.
- Rewards program rules: The redemption options for any rewards you earn with a credit card can be complex, and some programs have more rules than others. For example, redeeming airline miles often means understanding loyalty program rules and restrictions, whereas redeeming cash back earned with a credit card is usually much easier.
- High-interest debt: Credit cards for people with good credit often charge high APRs when you carry a balance, so make sure you keep interest rates in mind as you consider different cards. If you need to carry debt in the short-term, look at cards that offer 0% APR on your purchases instead of a fancy travel card.
Make sure you use your credit card to maintain your good credit
While a credit card can be a valuable tool when it comes to building credit or maintaining good credit, the opposite is also true. If you use your credit card irresponsibly, you can cause damage to your credit and see your score drop in a hurry.
To make the most of your credit card, you should keep in mind the factors used to determine your credit score. For example, your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score and is the biggest determinant as to whether you have a good or bad score. That’s why it’s so important to pay your credit card bill and all your other bills on time each month.
Another factor that affects your credit score is the amount you owe in relation to your credit limits, which is known as your credit utilization ratio. Experts suggest keeping the amount you owe on your credit cards at 30% or lower for the best results. This would mean owing $3,000 or less on total credit limits of $10,000.
Finally, you should also check your credit reports for errors that could be harming your credit, such as accounts that aren’t yours or incorrectly noted late payments. If you find any problems, you should take steps to dispute the errors with the credit bureaus so they can be fixed right away. Fortunately, you can check your credit reports for free using the website AnnualCreditReport.com.
Is your credit score excellent? Or maybe you don’t have any credit at all? CNN Underscored has you covered with our other stories in this series:
Check out CNN Underscored’s list of the best credit cards of 2021.