What credit score do I need to get a credit card?

John Ganotis

John Ganotis | Blog

Dec 21, 2016 | Updated Jan 30, 2017

There is no exact credit score you need to get approved for a credit card. If I had to pick a number, I’d say you may run into trouble getting a credit card if you have a FICO score or VantageScore below about 600, but it’s more complicated than that.

If you’re asking this question, there are some important things to understand first:

  • you don’t just have one credit score
  • credit approvals or denials are not based solely on a single credit score
  • different credit cards have different requirements for approval

Keep reading to learn more about each of these.

You don’t have just one credit score

You may have heard people talk about how important “your credit score” is. But really, they’re talking about “your credit scores.”

There are many different credit scoring models out there, with several (FICO and VantageScore) that are the most popular and most commonly used.

When you see “your credit score” somewhere, like on your credit card statement, it’s really “one of your credit scores.”

Watch this video to learn more about the variety of credit scores you have based on different credit scoring models:

Q&A Video: What’s the most important lesson to learn about credit scores?

Credit approvals are not just based on a credit score

When a lender pulls your credit to make a credit decision, they may get a credit score, and they’ll also get a copy of your credit report from one or more of the three credit bureaus. You can learn more about the difference between credit scores and credit reports in the video below.

Q&A Video: What’s the difference between credit reports and credit scores?

A lender might make a decision based on just a credit score. Beyond that, they may look also at specific information on your credit report to make their decision.

Here’s one example where that is important: Most credit scoring models only consider hard inquiries in the past year. However, credit inquiries from the past two years are included on your credit reports. Some lenders have rules for denial based on the number of credit inquiries you’ve had in the past two years. So, even if you have credit inquiries that are over a year old and not being counted in your credit scores, a lender might still deny you based on inquiries.

Whether you get approved or denied is not based solely on credit history. Your income, which isn’t on your credit reports, is another piece of information that is considered. It’s up to you to report your income accurately on a credit card application. In some cases the credit card issuer may ask for documents to verify your income.

Credit requirements vary

Different credit cards have different credit requirements. You may be approved for one card, but denied for another.

Retail store credit cards can be relatively easy to get, even with bad credit, but have their downsides. Higher end credit cards, like the best travel credit cards, can provide the most benefits and rewards, but require excellent credit history.

The only way to really know if you will get approved for a credit card is to apply. If you are denied, you will get a letter within 7-10 days that tells you why. Many issuers also provide a way to check whether you’re pre-qualified for any of their cards.

As long as you build credit responsibly, you will maximize your chances of getting approved for a wider variety of cards. For help with that, including finding the right credit card for you, check out our guide to building credit.

If you have any questions, please hit the Ask button to ask your question and someone will get right back to you.

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