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Author: Kendall Little
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Learn about your options with excellent credit:
An excellent credit score means you’ll have the best chance of scoring some of the best cards on the market. Use this guide to learn everything you need to know about leveraging an excellent credit score to obtain the right card for you:
How Bankrate reviews cards
Bankrate’s 5 star scoring system evaluates the features that offer maximum value and first-rate user experience, including:
- Rewards: By matching lifestyle categories with the cards most likely to maximize returns, we’ve made it easy for you to find the card that will offer the best value — points, miles or cash back.
- Sign-up bonuses: These special offers give you the opportunity to earn hundreds in rewards for using your new card. With different cards offering sign-up bonuses in the form of cash back, miles and rewards points, we take the time to crunch the numbers and assign a comparable value to each card’s welcome offer.
- Extras and discounts: On top of delivering earnings with every swipe, each credit card on this list has a laundry list of additional features that raises the overall value of the card along with our evaluation. Perks like statement credit on travel, access to travel lounges, and free credit score monitoring allow cardholders to reap the unsung benefits of achieving a strong credit score.
Your credit score shows that you have a knack for making good financial decisions. Our expertise can help you make a wise choice in credit cards as well.
Bankrate’s picks for the best credit cards for excellent credit
Deeper analysis on the best credit cards for excellent credit
Pros: This no-frills card offers a flat 3% back on all purchases (up to $20,000 total spend) for the first year and then 1.5% unlimited cash back, all with no annual fee. It’s also a great choice for balance transfers, with a 0% APR for the first 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers (then variable 17.24% – 25.99%).
Cons: There isn’t much to dislike about this card, but with a 3% foreign transaction fee, it isn’t optimal for purchases made outside the U.S. You also won’t want to get too attached to the first year 3% cash back, as it will drop down to 1.5% after the first year.
Bottom line: This is a solid no annual fee cash back option and the first year 3% cash back offer is especially compelling. If you have other Chase premium cards, the Chase Freedom Unlimited becomes even more lucrative, since you can transfer rewards and redeem them as points with added value using Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Pros: If you want a card with great travel rewards value that’s simple and easy to use, look no further. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, which you can redeem using Purchase Eraser (for a statement credit equal to 1 cent per mile) or with the issuer’s transfer partners. The card also has a generous welcome bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.
Cons: For the Venture card’s lucrative travel rewards, you will have to pay an annual $95 fee, but that fee is waived the first year. You’ll also have to be diligent about redeeming your miles after making a travel purchase, as you need to complete the redemption within 90 days.
Bottom line: This card is a great pick for frequent travelers who don’t want to think too much about their rewards redemptions. If you don’t mind the statement credit redemption process or the annual fee, the Venture card’s rewards structure, welcome bonus and added travel perks make it one of the best travel cards on the market, especially as Capital One adds more transfer partners to the program.
Pros: You’ll earn 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories with the Discover it Cash Back card, ranging from gas stations and grocery stores to restaurants and Amazon.com purchases up to the quarterly maximum of $1,500 after activation, plus 1% cash back on everything else. The best value of this card, though, is Discover’s Cashback Match™ offer, which matches all your cash back earned over the first year of ownership with no limit.
Cons: If you don’t do the majority of your spending within the card’s designated categories, there’s probably a better-targeted cash back option for you. You’ll also have to stay diligent in keeping up with the 5% categories every 3 months.
Bottom line: If you spend big within this card’s quarterly categories, its 5% cash back rate combined with the Cashback Match offer and no annual fee makes it an excellent cash back option. Pair it with another cash back card that covers further categories to earn even more strategically.
Pros: The Citi Rewards+ card’s unique rewards structure can be especially lucrative for your everyday purchases. You can earn 2X ThankYou points at supermarkets and gas stations (on combined $6,000 in purchases annually, then 1X) and 1X points on everything else. The card also rounds up every purchase to the nearest 10-point interval, making your $4 purchase worth 10 points. There’s also a 15,000 ThankYou Point bonus if you spend $1,000 within 3 months of account opening and 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (variable 15.49-25.49% after).
Cons: If you’ve earned a sign-up bonus with Citi or closed a Citi account within the past 2 years, you’ll be ineligible for this card’s 15,000 point bonus. The points you earn with Citi Rewards+ are also considered “basic” within Citi’s rewards program, so you won’t earn their maximum value unless you have another premium Citi card, like the Citi Prestige Card.
Bottom line: This card’s round-up premise and 2X points categories make it great for everyday purchases and can really add value to your wallet when used strategically, especially when you transfer your points and redeem using another Citi card. You’ll also benefit from no annual fee and access to Citi’s Private Pass and Concierge.
Pros: If going out is a big part of your week, the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card is one you need in your arsenal. You’ll earn 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on everything else. You can also earn a $300 bonus after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening. For this card’s target audience, one of the best perks may also be the issuer’s focus on exclusive access to premium dining and entertainment experiences across the country.
Cons: There is a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived for the first year. If you do a lot of spending on travel, gas and other categories, you’ll likely need to pair this card with another on the market for the best rewards.
Bottom line: This card’s unlimited dining and entertainment rewards are unbeatable for those who enjoy a night on the town, and for big spenders in those categories, the rewards will likely far outweigh the annual fee in value. Capital One’s partnerships with companies like Vivid Seats, Postmates and Resy also continue to add value for Savor cardholders. If you can out-earn the annual fee in rewards value, this will make a fantastic addition to your wallet.
Pros: The BankAmericard from Bank of America offers a 0% introductory APR for 18 billing cycles on both purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days (variable APR of 15.24% – 25.24% thereafter). If you’re looking for a way to cut out costly interest payments, this card is a great option.
Cons: Unlike some other balance transfer options, this card offers no sign up bonus or long-term rewards. You’ll also incur a 3% or $10 fee on any balances you transfer to the card, whichever is greater.
Bottom line: If your primary concern is paying off any debt you’ve accumulated on other cards and mitigating interest, the BankAmericard’s 18-billing-cycle introductory offer is hard to beat. Once the introductory offer ends, you may also benefit if you qualify for the lower end of the card’s variable 15.24% – 25.24% APR. Just be aware that any purchases you make won’t accrue any points or rewards value.
Pros: The Chase Freedom card offers great cash back value for anyone who doesn’t mind keeping up with rotating categories. Each quarter, you can earn 5% cash back on rotating categories (up to $1,500 per quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Past categories include gas stations, mobile wallet payments, wholesale clubs and department stores. You can also earn a $150 sign up bonus after spending $500 within three months of account opening and enjoy no annual fee.
Cons: If you’re looking for simple cash back rewards, this card’s rotating category structure may quickly become tedious. You may need to pair it with another card to earn the best value on the things you buy. There’s also a 3% foreign transaction fee, so it’s not ideal for international purchases.
Bottom line: The Chase Freedom’s diverse array of categories makes it a potentially lucrative cash back option if you’re willing to keep up with your earnings. Pair it with a flat cash back card to earn on your purchases not within each quarter’s categories and transfer your points to another Chase credit card to maximize the redemption value of your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Pros: If you prefer your mobile wallet over carrying plastic, this is the card for you. The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card offers 1.8% cash back on mobile wallet purchases (including Apple Pay® and Google Pay™) for the first 12 months of ownership, plus 1.5% back on all other purchases, with no annual fee. After the first year, you’ll get 1.5% unlimited cash back on everything. You can also earn $200 welcome bonus after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months.
Cons: This card has a variable 16.24%-28.24% APR, which is higher than many comparable cards. It also has a 3% foreign transaction fee, so it’s not ideal for international purchases.
Bottom line: For flat cash back rewards, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa is a solid offering. Between its first-year 1.8% mobile wallet bonus and up to $600 cell phone protection offer (when you pay your phone bill with the card), mobile-first users will benefit most from this card. The information related to the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card has been collected by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.
What is an excellent credit score?
Credit scores are one of the most important indicators of financial health, but they’re also one of the least understood. Your credit score is calculated using a series of factors pulled from your overall credit report. The most commonly-used scoring systems are developed by FICO (FICO Score 8) and VantageScore (VantageScore 3.0).
Both methods score in a range from 300 (the lowest) to 850 (the highest), with most people falling between 600 and 750. FICO deems 740-799 “very good” and 800-850 “excellent,” while VantageScore is a bit more lenient in considering “excellent” anywhere from 750 to 850.
Scoring systems use predictive analysis based on the individual financial history found in your credit report (pulled from one or more of the 3 big credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), to generate your score. VantageScore and FICO both use data from the credit bureaus but their scores are generated with different mathematical models. Despite their differences, if you have excellent credit, it will generally be reflected in both.
You should be aware that there are other, less common scoring systems with different scales. For instance, the FICO Auto Score 8 ranges between 250 and 900. If your lender uses a score with a different range than the standard 300 to 850, it may impact what constitutes a “good” versus “excellent” score.
Why should you aim for an excellent score?
Lenders use your score to estimate the likelihood that you will pay back and not default on the loan from your lender. Lenders and creditors all have their own thresholds for what makes a score fair, good or excellent and who will have the best chances of qualifying for the lowest rates on mortgages, credit cards, auto loans and most other types of loans. An excellent score can save you thousands of dollars in interest charges over the life of a loan.
If you have an excellent credit score, that indicates that you are timely and consistent with your payments and will make a good candidate for lower interest rates and other perks that someone less creditworthy may not.
The difference between “excellent” and “good” credit
The difference between an “excellent” credit score and a “good” credit score may seem like only a few points, but it can make a big difference for your wallet.
Benefits of excellent credit vs. good credit
If you’re applying for a credit card that offers a variable APR, the issuer will assign a more favorable interest rate if you have better credit, which can save you money. For instance, if you are assigned a 17% interest rate, the amount you owe on any balance carried would increase by .046575% each day. With a 25% interest rate, you would accumulate an additional .068493% daily until your next billing cycle. According to Bankrate’s Credit Card Payoff Calculator, if you carry a $5,000 balance and make $200 monthly payments, the difference between 17% and 25% interest is worth $920 in extra interest payments.
There are more credit card benefits to having an excellent credit score as well. You can qualify for a great credit card with a good score, but many of the most premium cards, those with exclusive benefits and higher rewards earning, require excellent credit. Be prepared to pay the high annual fees that often accompany those premium cards, though, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express.
Consider the types of loans you’ll take out over your lifetime, too, like mortgages, which can take decades to repay. According to the most recent data from FICO, a person who takes out a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with an excellent score can score an average 3.84% interest rate while someone with good credit can get an average 4.07% interest rate. For a mortgage of $216,000, that’s a difference of $9,720 in interest over the lifetime of the loan.
It’s possible to take out a car loan with subprime credit, but those loans often come with high interest rates and subpar terms. If you have excellent credit, though, you’ll qualify not only for a wider selection of cars on the market but also better loan terms and possibly even 0% financing.
Working on your financial health to attain excellent credit will ultimately help you save on many of these big purchases and allow you to pay less over each loan’s lifetime, freeing up your money for other goals.
How to get an excellent credit score
Achieving excellent credit requires a combination of good financial habits and patience.
The best way to start improving your score is by checking your credit report. You can find out where your score stands now and evaluate your report for any errors. Next, familiarize yourself with the factors that make up your credit score.
Your credit score is calculated using a number of factors: debt utilization, the age of accounts, payment history, credit mix and new credit.
How to improve your credit score
Improving your score largely comes down to patience, but there are ways you can begin working towards better credit now:
- Dispute any errors you find on your credit report. Reach out directly to the credit bureau reporting the error.
- Work to pay down any outstanding balances on your credit cards and keep your credit utilization ratio around 10%. That means, if your credit card has a limit of $10,000 try to keep your balance around $1,000. Some experts recommend a utilization ratio of 30%, but different scoring methods have different ideal utilization ratios and staying around 10% should cover you under them all.
- Pay all of your bills in full and on time every month.
- Avoid opening several new lines of credit in a short time period, as this can indicate risk to lenders and temporarily lower your score.
- Once you’ve paid off a loan or no longer use a card, don’t remove it from your report. Bankruptcies, late payments and other bad debts are removed automatically after seven years, but your good debt history can improve your score through factors like age and responsible payment history, until it drops off as well, typically after 10 years.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to have patience. You likely won’t achieve an excellent score within months of opening your first credit card. All of the major factors are improved over a long period of time: your history of on-time payments, your available credit, your mix of accounts and the age of all your accounts.
How to keep your credit score from going down
If you’ve obtained an excellent credit score, you’ve likely already established the good habits that it takes to maintain that score, like on-time payments and low utilization. The best way to keep it from dropping is simply to maintain.
You can monitor your credit report every few months to keep track of any changes or practices that may be impacting your score negatively. Keep in mind that there are factors, like opening or inquiring about a new account that can make your score drop temporarily, but you should focus on long-term maintenance rather than short-term fluctuations.
Also remember that you don’t need to strive for a perfect 850 credit score. Anyone with a score within the “excellent” range, which FICO considers 800 and above, can obtain the same perks and rates as someone with a perfect score. Ultimately, if you pay your bills in full and on time, your credit score will remain strong.
How many people have excellent credit?
According to FICO, an excellent credit score isn’t as uncommon as you may think. In 2018, 21.8% of consumers had an excellent score (between 800 and 850), making excellent the most common score among Americans. That’s the result of a steady increase since April 2005, when just 16.2% of consumers had an excellent score.
What’s more, FICO data shows that the average credit score in the U.S. sits at 704, a new high and the result of 8 consecutive years of growth. If trends continue, more and more Americans may find an excellent rating within their grasp.
FICO credits an increase in credit responsibility, reduced negative histories and consumer education for the improvement.
More reviews and research if you have excellent credit
If you have excellent credit, you can qualify for some of the best cards on the market right now. Here are some popular categories that can help narrow down your search: