There are many choices you can make when it comes to credit cards, even if your credit is less than stellar. At every credit score level, there are different types of credit cards that offer benefits designed to help you where you are in your credit journey. With features like travel rewards and credit monitoring, these credit cards will provide you with benefits designed to cater to your credit needs and fit your lifestyle.
This list is meant to show you what type of credit cards and benefits are available to you at your current credit score and provide insight into what you might gain from working to boost your credit.
The best credit cards for excellent credit
An excellent credit score — ranging from 800 to 850 on the FICO scoring model (or a VantageScore of 780 or above) — is hard to come by, only 21 percent of Americans have a score over 800. An excellent credit score can open up a world of opportunities when it comes to credit cards (as well as giving consumers the chance to secure the best mortgage and car loan terms).
Excellent credit is the best your credit can get. Once you reach this level, you’ll have your pick of credit cards. Depending on what you’re looking to get from your credit card, you could seek out a card with a generous welcome offer, lucrative rewards for specialized or everyday spending, top-of-the-line perks, low interest rates and more.
Citi Custom Cash: Best for fine diners
The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card holders will earn an elevated 5 percent in their top eligible spending category. If that category happens to be restaurants, you can earn 5 percent on up to $500 per month every time you dine out. You’ll also get 20,000 ThankYou Points — valued at $200 in cash back — after spending $750 on purchases in the first three months. So cardholders who like to try new restaurants will see a lot of value.
Cardholders will get to carry a balance at no extra cost for 15 months with this card because of the 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers during that period, which is great for diners who may go over budget once in a while. The card’s 16.24 percent to 26.24 percent variable APR that kicks in after 15 months is also fairly standard.
Amex Platinum: Best for luxury travelers
The Platinum Card from American Express cardholders can expect some pretty substantial luxury travel benefits. You’ll get expansive access to airport lounges all over the world, making travel a much more luxe experience. Cardholders will earn 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel. And you’ll get 100,000 points (valued at $1,000) after you spend $6,000 in your first six months of account ownership, which makes carrying this card even more lucrative.
The card is pricey, the annual fee is $695, but you really do get what you pay for with this card. You’ll need at least a 670 credit score to qualify, but consumers with higher scores are more likely to be approved.
The best credit cards for good/very good credit
Good/very good credit scores range from 670 to 799 according to the FICO score model. A good credit score — though not quite as lucrative as excellent credit — can still offer many benefits to consumers. Good credit definitely takes time and effort to build up, so it’s a great idea to finally feel out the world of rewards credit cards once you’ve reached it. With good credit, you can find cards that reward you for everything from everyday purchases to travel.
Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best for budget travelers
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the best travel rewards credit cards. Budget travelers should be excited to learn it’s an inexpensive card option with an annual fee of only $95, and it offers solid travel rewards and protections. Cardholders earn 5X points on every travel purchase made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3X points on dining purchases and 2X points on all other travel purchases. Cardholders also get significant travel protections like trip cancellation insurance and car rental collision insurance.
The card’s APR is reasonable — 17.49 percent to 24.49 percent variable, and its welcome bonus is lucrative. (Cardholders will get 60,000 points if they spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening, valued at $750 when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.)
This card lacks some of the perks you’ll find in more premium-level travel credit cards, like airport lounge access, but for its price and credit score requirements, it’s a solid option for budget travelers with good credit looking for their first travel card. You’ll need a credit score of at least 670 to be approved for this card.
Amex Blue Cash Preferred: Best for home cooks
If you enjoy crafting delicious meals at home and are keen on earning rewards when you shop for ingredients, then the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express should be top-of-mind when you consider a credit card. Cardholders will earn an elevated 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year then 1 percent (cardholders also get 6 percent back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3 percent cash back on transit; 3 percent back on U.S. gas station purchases; 1 percent back on all other purchases).
Though the welcome bonus is lukewarm (cardholders will get $350 in statement credit after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first six months of account opening), there are only a handful of rewards cards that reward spending at grocery stores as generously, so it evens out. The 16.24 percent to 26.24 percent variable APR is pretty middle of the road for this type of card, and you’ll need a credit score of at least 670 to snag this card.
The best credit cards for fair credit
Fair credit — a credit score with a FICO range of 580 to 669 or a VantageScore 601 to 660 — is held by about 17 percent of Americans. Consumers with fair/average credit scores likely won’t qualify for premium credit cards that offer luxury perks. Fortunately, there are solid options that will help them to build up their credit and potentially earn some pretty decent rewards.
Capital One Quicksilver One Cash Rewards: Best for adventurers looking to boost their credit
The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Card is designed for consumers with fair credit. Cardholders will earn an elevated 5 percent cash back on car rentals and hotels booked through Capital One Travel and 1.5 percent cash back on all other purchases. Plus, you’ll get access to CreditWise from Capital One, a credit monitoring service aimed at helping you increase your credit score. You can also be considered for a higher line of credit with six months of on-time payments, which would go a long way toward helping you keep your credit utilization ratio in check.
You’ll need a credit score of at least 580 to be considered for this card. You can expect a reasonable 26.99 percent variable APR to accompany this card. And expect to shell out $39 for the annual fee, which is pretty inexpensive for a card like this.
Capital One Platinum: Best for someone dedicated to their credit-building journey
Beyond helping you build credit, the Capital One Platinum Credit Card doesn’t have a ton to offer (there’s no rewards program), but that’s sort of the point. This card is designed to help someone on their credit-building journey graduate to the next level. Cardholders will get unlimited access to Capital One’s credit monitoring tool CreditWise, and you’ll be considered for an increased credit limit automatically after six months of on-time payments.
Cardholders can expect a pretty middle-of-the-road interest rate at 26.99 percent variable APR. This card also offers some savings in the way of its $0 annual fee. You’ll need a credit score of at least 580 to qualify for this card.
The best credit cards for bad credit
FICO identifies poor credit as ranging from 300 to 579. Finding the right credit card when you have poor credit can be difficult. Fortunately, there are many cards designed especially for people with bad credit, aimed at helping them boost their credit scores. When your credit is bad, it’s probably best to look for cards that are designed to help you boost your credit with features like credit monitoring over cards with perks like rewards programs. However, there are some cards that can accommodate both.
Discover it Secured: Best for budget-conscious credit-builders
Considering its lack of an annual fee, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card is one of the best cards for consumers with poor credit. Cardholders can also be considered for a higher credit limit automatically after holding the credit card for seven months, boosting its credit-building powers. You’ll also get free access to credit monitoring tools through the Discover app. Be mindful of how much cash you’ll need for your security deposit — at least $200 is required.
All in all, considering its lenient credit requirements (the card doesn’t have a minimum credit score requirement), its decent rewards rate (earn 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases) and its helpful credit-building tools this card should be top of your list if you’re seeking out a credit-builder card.
Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa: Best for credit-builders who want to earn rewards
Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card stands out amongst credit-building cards because of its lack of an annual fee, lack of a required security deposit and lenient credit score requirements. Cardholders will also earn 2 percent to 10 percent rewards with the Petal Perks program and be considered for an automatic credit limit increase within six months of account opening — which, if approved, will boost your credit score.
You should expect a fairly high APR (22.24 percent to 31.74 percent variable), which is more common amongst credit cards for poor credit.
How to find a credit card for your credit score
To understand what credit card options you have available to you, you need a complete picture of your credit. This includes understanding your credit history, knowing your credit score and using the correct tools. Here’s how to find out exactly which credit cards would suit your financial situation best.
1. Check your credit score
There are cards for every credit level. The first — and most important — step to finding out what cards are available to you is knowing your credit score. This information will inform which types of credit cards you should go for. You can check your credit score through credit monitoring with the three credit bureaus. Many credit card issuers also offer credit monitoring services — which includes access to your FICO credit score as well.
2. Find the recommended score for each card
Each credit card is going to have a different credit score requirement, among other factors that credit card issuers use to approve you for a credit card. These credit score requirements often come in ranges (good-to-excellent or fair-to-good). Knowing what these requirements are should help you decide which cards to pursue and which to put aside as you’re searching for your next credit card.
3. Use prequalified tools
Each time you apply for a credit card, your credit score temporarily takes a small hit. This can be difficult to navigate if you are applying for credit cards for the purpose of building your credit or if you simply want to keep your score as high as possible.
Luckily there are ways to determine how likely you are to be approved for a particular credit card without the (albeit temporary) damage to your credit score. Using a tool like our Bankrate CardMatch™ will give you an idea of what cards are in your reach while helping you to keep your score intact.
How to improve your credit score for better credit cards
The higher your credit score, the higher the caliber of cards you’ll have access to. You’ll also have a better chance of securing a credit card with a more favorable APR — which makes carrying a credit card balance from month to month less costly. Improving your credit score is a fairly straightforward process — though it may be time-consuming.
You’ll need to exhibit good credit behaviors over a sustained period of time to boost your credit. Luckily many of the best cards for people with bad credit and the best cards for people with fair credit are designed to help boost credit scores.
How to maintain your credit
Maintaining your credit score once you’ve built it up is simple — though it’s not always easy. To maintain your credit score, you’ll have to stay on top of your credit card bills, being sure to pay them on time and in full each month. Another important aspect of maintaining your credit score is using your credit responsibly.
You’ll need to keep your credit utilization ratio low, as well as trying not to carry a balance on your credit cards from month to month. You should also avoid applying for new credit cards too often, as each credit card application requires a hard inquiry and can temporarily ding your credit score.
The bottom line
You can find a credit card that will suit your financial needs at every stage in your credit journey. From rewards to credit-building features, there’s a credit card out there that will help you with your credit goals. Understanding where your credit score stands is the key to determining which credit card is right for you, and the list above is a good place to start.
Be sure to frequently check your credit score to know where you stand, and use your credit cards responsibly to help you bring your credit to the next level.