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Comparing Credit Card Offers for Excellent Credit
Cards that require excellent credit can be among the best in the market. They can also be among the most expensive by way of an annual fee (but not always). Travel cards, cash back cards, balance transfer cards – the options are plentiful. We researched over 1,500 credit cards where excellent credit is needed to get approved and used the criteria below to choose the best cards. Want to learn more? Here, we look at:
We’ll walk you through each step of the process for deciding the best credit card for you in the excellent credit range. Let us know what other questions you have!
Best Credit Cards for Excellent Credit
Best credit card with excellent credit for online shopping
According to Discover’s 2020 cash back calendar, online shoppers are in luck – you can earn a versatile 5% cash back (on up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly after activation, then 1%) on purchases through PayPal (and restaurants) from July through September, and Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com from October through December. After that, you can double your whole first year’s rewards with Cash Back Match™. That means you can turn the $300 from your quarterly 5% categories into $600!
If you don’t treasure the idea of strategically timing purchases with rotating categories, this card is not the best option. Instead, look at a card with a flat-rate rewards offer, such as the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which can earn cash back online year-round.
Bottom line: If you want to maximize your rewards, the Discover it Cash Back is a good choice. For example, this card is especially worthwhile for frequent online shoppers, as Amazon.com has been featured as a rotating category.
Best credit card with excellent credit for no annual fee
This card has steadily evolved over the last 2 years to become a no annual fee travel card with valuable cash back features. Earn 3X points on everything from dining in and out to gas stations, flights, car rentals and more. The Propel has also kept up with the times by rewarding 3X points for homestays and rideshares, too. Plus, there’s a generous sign-up bonus of 20,000 points for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months – a $200 cash redemption value.
The Propel’s intro APR offer of 0% for 12 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (14.49% to 24.99% (Variable) thereafter) can easily be beaten by other no annual fee cash back cards, many of which have 15-month offers.
Bottom line: If you are a traveler who doesn’t love the idea of an annual fee, the Propel is a fine choice, particularly if you find yourself often opting for Uber and Airbnb.
Best credit card with excellent credit for sign-up bonus
This card’s worldwide travel and dining rewards are tough to match when you throw in the 80,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. Get a 25% boost when redeeming for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You can also transfer rewards from the Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited to earn the 25% bonus.
Unlike some competitor cards, there is a $95 annual fee. Also, the regular APR isn’t the best at 15.99%-22.99% Variable.
Bottom line: Chase Sapphire Preferred’s 80,000 points after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months make it a great choice for those who travel often, or anyone pooling points for a future vacation with paired Chase Freedom family cards.
Best credit card with excellent credit for rewards at U.S. supermarkets
This card’s time-honored 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%), unlimited 3% cash back on U.S. gas station and transit purchases, and 1% on everything else remain impressive thanks to another everyday category – unlimited 6% on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. The welcome offer sweetens the deal, now a limited time offer of $300 with a required spend of $3,000 within the first 6 months (offer expires 12/10/20).
It’s tough to find something not to love about this card, but you may find the $95 annual fee to be an unfortunate piece of the pie. However, for a limited-time, the annual fee is waived for the first year (offer ends 12/10/20).
Bottom line: If the Blue Cash Preferred’s tiered categories are ones that you find yourself often using, this is a card that can earn you significant rewards for the pump and your pantry.
Best credit card with excellent credit for simple rewards
A straightforward card with a simple rewards structure, the Quicksilver from Capital One frees you up from having to keep track of rotating categories and the like. Instead, use this card to get 1.5% cash back on every purchase. There’s no annual fee, and no foreign transaction fee means it’s good to use worldwide.
The disadvantage to a flat-rate cash back card is that you can’t maneuver your spending to maximize rewards on key categories like you can with the Discover it Cash Back and more specialized reward structures.
Bottom line: The Quicksilver is a great card to earn consistent, unlimited cash rewards, and the required spend on the sign-up bonus is rock-bottom.
Best credit card with excellent credit for travel
A competitive sign-up bonus paired with flat-rate rewards on all purchases makes this card a great contender, but it doesn’t end there. This card makes it easy to earn unlimited miles on any purchase, offering more than 10 hotel and airline transfer partners or a statement credit for any eligible travel purchase within the last 90 days.
Miles transfer at a less than 1:1 ratio, and the annual fee is $95.
Bottom line: For frequent travelers, the flexible rewards and travel perks make this a good choice.
Best credit card with excellent credit for dining and entertainment
For no annual fee, SavorOne’s unlimited 3% on dining and entertainment can earn you a hearty helping of cash back at a surprising variety of places, thanks to Capital One’s generous category definition. The added 2% at grocery stores, 1% on everything else and 5% with Uber Eats (through 1/31/21) compliment SavorOne’s 15-month 0% intro purchase APR (15.49% – 25.49% (Variable) after that) for some versatile purchasing power.
Its bigger sibling, the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, earns a slightly better 4% on dining and entertainment and offers a higher sign-up bonus of $300 (after a $3,000 spend in the first 3 months) at the cost of a $95 annual fee.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a card with excellent rewards for dining and entertainment, this is the best choice among no annual fee cards. But if you don’t want to think about your rewards, or your idea of entertainment doesn’t fall under this card’s categories, a flat-rate cash back card like the Quicksilver may be a better choice.
Best credit card with excellent credit for flat rewards rate
With no annual fee and a flat rate of 1.25 miles for each dollar spent on all purchases, the VentureOne is a good travel card for those looking for an array of benefits without the hassle of tracking categories. With several notable travel perks, this card is great for racking up miles at home if you’re an occasional traveler.
The introductory bonus is not as impressive as the big sibling Venture Rewards card. The VentureOne also doesn’t offer as many perks, such as up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
Bottom line: If you are a traveler seeking a card with no annual fee or foreign transaction fee that earns reward miles on everything, Capital One VentureOne may be a good fit.
Compare the best credit cards for excellent credit for 2020
|Excellent Credit Card||Best for…||Annual Fee||CreditCards.com Rating|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Online shopping||$0||4.3 / 5|
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card||No annual fee||$0||3.5 / 5|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Sign-up Bonus||$95||3.9 / 5|
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||Rewards at U.S. supermarkets||Limited Time Offer: $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95. Offer Expires 12/10/2020||4.3 / 5|
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card||Simple rewards||$0||3.4 / 5|
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||Travel||$95||4.2 / 5|
|Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card||Dining and entertainment||$0||3.7 / 5|
|Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card||Flat rewards rate||$0||3.5 / 5|
Applicants with excellent credit are eligible for top credit card offers from issuers like Capital One, Chase, and American Express.
Methodology: how we got to the best cards
Credit cards for excellent credit analyzed: 1,526
Criteria used: Credit needed, rewards rates, rewards categories, sign-up bonus, point values (if any), redemption options and flexibility, annual fee, other rates and fees, customer service, application process, miscellaneous benefits
What is an excellent credit score?
The answer to this question varies from lender to lender. Each lender decides what an “excellent” credit score range is and what constitutes a risk. Lenders depend on credit scoring agencies to assign scores to potential customers. The scores from FICO and VantageScore are the most frequently used, and each has its own ranges and threshold for excellent credit. A FICO score above 800 is considered exceptional and a VantageScore above 750 is considered excellent:
|FICO score ranges|
How does an excellent credit score work?
At first blush, there may not seem to be much difference between good and excellent credit. But look deeper, and you’ll see that it’s a difference of interest rates and credit cards that you qualify for.
Other than bragging rights, excellent credit can save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars by landing you a lower interest rate and better terms, particularly with car loans and mortgages. That’s because lenders deem you to be more credit-worthy when your score is outstanding. In the case of credit cards, a better score will help get you a lower rate on the range of the card’s variable APR.
Also, your options can open up. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve only accepts excellent credit. This is a high-end card with a pricey annual fee, but it is also packed with superior rewards and benefits.
What determines an excellent credit score?
Your credit score is based on information in your credit report. Scoring models like FICO (the dominant model) and VantageScore assign the highest scores to consumers who pose the lowest risks – that is, consumers who consistently pay their bills on time and carry small amounts of debt compared to their overall borrowing capacities. To establish or maintain your excellent credit, here’s a breakdown of the credit scoring criteria and the weight placed on each factor for FICO’s and VantageScore’s most widely used models (FICO 8 and VantageScore 3.0).
FICO: 35% | VantageScore: 40%
Making payments on time is the most important aspect of a credit score. This portion of your score factors in the frequency of late or missed payments and the length of each delinquency. The more severe, recent and frequent your late payments, the larger the impact on your score. You need to be scrupulous about paying your bills by the due date if you want to push your score into the excellent range – your credit history should show no recent late payments. Negative information can stay on your credit report for 7 years, although the older the information, the less of an impact. That means that even if with a credit mistake, by correcting your behavior, you will see your score rise again soon after a drop.
FICO: 30% | VantageScore: 20%
The amount of credit that you are currently using is the next greatest factor in your credit score. Lenders look at the total amount you owe on each of your accounts compared to your credit limit, and the total that you owe overall compared to your overall credit limit. It’s called your credit utilization ratio. If you owe $100 and you have $1,000 in available credit, that means your ratio is 10%. Keep your debt as close to 0% as possible. Revolving debt, including credit cards, is an especially important consideration in this portion of your score.
Length of credit history
FICO: 15% | VantageScore: 21%
Scoring models consider the newest, oldest and average ages of your credit accounts and their recent activity. Whether it’s for payment history or credit history, time is a key player (and double-edged sword) in reaching an excellent score. But how much time is needed? According to Experian data, the average FICO score increased by 10-30 points for each 10-year age range below the age of 80 – scores quickly picked up in the average person’s 30s and made the biggest jump in their 50s-60s. Thankfully, you don’t have to have decades of experience under your belt to achieve an excellent credit score. Experian notes that of the small population with a perfect 850 FICO score, only 4% are millennials, a number which jumps to 25% for Generation X.
The types of accounts under your name get a smaller amount of weighting in your score. FICO and VantageScore give higher scores to consumers who have a diversity of credit, usually a mix of revolving credit (like credit cards) and installment loans (like mortgages). While FICO keeps this factor separate, VantageScore weighs this factor in credit history. To bump your score into the excellent range, you should make sure you have multiple types of well-managed credit in your credit history.
FICO: 10% | VantageScore: 5%
Your number of recent credit inquiries and new accounts are small factors in both your FICO score and VantageScore. This factor is labeled as “recent credit” by VantageScore. You should be careful about applying for new credit cards. Make sure you qualify before you apply, as these “hard inquiries” show up on your credit report and temporarily ding your score by a few points. “Soft” inquiries (inquiries you did not initiate by a credit application) do not count. To nudge your score up, you should be careful not to open too many new accounts or apply for a lot of cards in a brief period.
Balances (VantageScore only)
The total debt you owe isn’t nearly as important as how much of your credit you are utilizing, but lenders do look at the balances that you owe on all your accounts. It has a moderately influential weight in the VantageScore model. In general, you should try to minimize your account balances to increase your credit score and decrease interest.
Available credit (VantageScore only)
For VantageScore specifically, your amount of available credit is ranked as a “less influential” factor, but we’ve found a good supply of available credit can keep your credit all-around healthier.
Credit card perks you can earn if you have excellent credit
- Rewards: While even cards that accept bad credit can offer rewards, the rewards steadily improve as your credit improves and you qualify for better cards. Sign-up bonuses are higher and ongoing rewards can earn you hundreds of dollars a year if you use them correctly.
- Benefits: Benefits for the cardholder with excellent credit can include access to airport lounges, annual credits for travel, travel fees and even shopping at exclusive retailers. There can also be numerous shopping and travel benefits such as extended warranties and car rental insurance.
- Types of cards: With good to excellent credit, your options open up considerably to include cards with 0%, loyalty cards like airline and hotel cards, business cards, even luxury cards with exceptional benefits.
- Interest rates: There are a few things you should do once you achieve excellent credit, including doing a loan check to see if you can get better rates, including calling your card issuers.
- Higher available credit: Also, a better credit score can get you higher credit limits, which not only give you access to more money, but also can improve your score further by lowering your credit utilization ratio.
The advantages to having excellent credit are numerous, from superior rewards and welcome bonuses to convenient benefits that can save you time and hassle. There are also some advantages that may not have occurred to you, such as being able to get a credit limit increase.
How to compare similar credit cards
Here are two comparisons of seemingly similar credit cards that are both designed for people with excellent credit. However, once we break down the details on different spending categories and other features, one card in each comparison quickly rises to the top. When comparing two credit cards, look out for details like rewards rates, other hidden benefits, annual fee, intro and ongoing APRs, other fees, and more. We break down rewards comparisons below.
Comparison of Sapphire Preferred vs. Venture Rewards…
|Card||Sign-up bonus||Travel and restaurants||Other ongoing rewards||Annual fee||Total end of first year|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||**80,000 pts*125%=$1,000||$1,000*2X pts*12 mths*125%=$300||$1,000*1X pts*12 mths*125%=$150||$95||$1355|
|Capital One Venture Rewards||^^100,000 miles=$1,000||$1,000*2X miles*12 mths=$240||$1,000*2X miles*12 mths=$240||$95||$1385|
**80,000 points after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months
^^100,000 miles after a $20,000 spend within the first 12 months (or 50,000 miles after $3,000 spend in the first 3 months)
Here’s what you’d have to spend each month to fully take advantage of these card’s welcome bonuses. As you can see, for heavy spenders, both cards provide an excellent first-year value, although the Capital One Venture Rewards offers slightly more value due to the flat 2x reward rate on all purchases. However for more modest spenders, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card may be a better fit. Evaluate your personal spending patterns to make the best decision for you.
How many people have excellent credit?
Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, has found that the average consumer’s score reached 701 in June 2020. It’s a slight dip from September 2019’s 706 average, but still a far cry from when the figure bottomed out in 2009 at 686. Here is a breakdown of scores and the percentage of consumers who have captured them.
- 800-850 FICO Score (Exceptional)
- 740-799 FICO Score (Very Good)
- 670-739 FICO Score (Good)
- 580-669 FICO Score (Fair)
- 300-579 FICO Score (Very Poor)
Experian June 2020 figures
Fortunately, this stumble could be temporary since FICO’s September 2019 data shows that more people are scoring higher, and there has been a yearly average credit score increase since that 2009 low. FICO attributed much of this improvement on strong economic growth since the Great Recession and an increased awareness of scores and active credit building among consumers.
Expert tips to maintain excellent credit
Freeze your credit reports. It’s now free – and advisable – to freeze your 3 credit reports to ensure no one accesses them illegitimately.
Pay multiple payments in a month. Since you won’t know when your card issuers will send your information to the credit bureaus, it’s a good idea to pay at least 2 times a month, even if you pay in full each month. That increases the likelihood that your balance will be low when the credit scoring models pull your information.
Keep old debt on your credit reports. As tempting as it may be, Bankrate recommends that you avoid trying to get your old debt removed from your credit reports once they have been paid off. When you’ve paid the bill off, that actually benefits your credit.
Apply for loans in a short amount of time. FICO scoring models only count up to 3 loan inquiries as one when they are made in a short period of time, as little as 14 days and as much as 45 days. This includes mortgages, student loans and auto loans but not credit cards.
Consolidate balances. Credit expert John Ulzheimer notes that when you carry small balances, it’s best to consolidate them “because you’re penalized for having too many accounts with a balance. It’s better to have fewer accounts with a balance than more accounts. So to the extent you can use fewer cards for the same purchases, the better you’ll be.”
Plan out loans. Strategize several months out before taking out auto loans or mortgages so that you don’t have large balances on your cards and you don’t take out new cards.
Follow the 20/10 Rule. Wells Fargo advises that you not let your card debt exceed more than 20% of your total yearly income after taxes, and that you not have more than 10% of your monthly take-home pay in credit card payments.
Notify your bank of a move. Wells Fargo also advises that you make sure you notify your card issuers and other lenders of address or email changes so that you get your statement in a timely manner.
Stay in touch with creditors. If you are late on a payment, or can’t pay, reach out to your creditor and see what alternative payment plans they might offer, says Wells Fargo.
What missteps do people with excellent credit make?
- By failing to put someone you trust on your card as an authorized user, you are missing out on rewards you can get through their spending.
- If you aren’t reviewing what’s on the market periodically, new rewards cards that suit your lifestyle may be passing you by.
- By keeping a card that doesn’t serve your needs, like a card with an annual fee that you don’t really use, you’re not taking full advantage of your excellent credit. If it’s an older card that you want to keep to continue to build your credit, you can ask for the annual fee to be waived, or you can ask for the card to be downgraded to a no annual fee card.
- There’s nothing in the credit rule book that says mortgage payments or student loans are more important to your credit than card debt. Everything matters, and you need to be sure to pay everything on time, every time. One missed payment can quickly drop your score.
- Don’t make sudden changes such as suddenly paying less or charging more, says Bankrate. That can indicate to your card issuer that you are having credit issues.