Comparing Credit Card Offers for Excellent Credit
Updated: June 22, 2018
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!
Review Summary: Best Credit Cards for Excellent Credit of 2018
|Excellent Credit Card||Top Benefits||CreditCards.com Rating||Annual Fee|
|Chase Freedom® Unlimited||Cash Back, Sign-up Bonus||3.4 / 5||$0|
|Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card||Rewards on Gas, Groceries||3.8 / 5||$0|
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||Hotel Booking, Large Miles Bonus||4.4 / 5||$0 intro for first year, then $95|
|Discover it® Cashback Match™||Online Shopping, Rotating Rewards||4.1 / 5||$0|
|Chase Freedom®||Rotating Rewards, Sign-up Bonus||3.4 / 5||$0|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Flexible Travel Rewards, Large Sign-up Bonus||4.2 / 5||$0 intro for first year, then $95|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||U.S. Supermarkets, U.S. Gas Stations||3.3 / 5||$0|
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card||Cash Bonus, Mobile Pay||3.5 / 5||$0|
|Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card||Bonus Miles, No Foreign Transaction Fee||3.6 / 5||$0|
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card||No Annual Fee, Booking Trips||3.4 / 5||$0|
Applicants with excellent credit are eligible for top credit card offers from issuers like Capital One, Chase, and American Express. One of our favorites is the Chase Freedom Unlimited - which gets you 1.5% cash back on all purchases all the time (and you can pair it with a Chase Sapphire card to earn valuable Ultimate Rewards points). Explore a wide array of superb cards right here on CreditCards.com; compare offers and apply today to begin earning rewards.
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
Details on our top picks: the best credit cards for excellent credit
Chase Freedom® Unlimited
As a top tier cash back card, Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a solid 1.5% back on all purchases without the need to worry about rotating categories or keep track of different rates. It's a pretty sweet deal, especially considering there's no annual fee to deal with.
A highly versatile card, the Freedom Unlimited also comes with a $150 sign-up bonus (after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months) and can double as a cost-effective balance transfer card with its 0% intro APR period of 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (regular APR of 16.49% - 25.24% variable).
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Cash Rewards card is a true no-nonsense credit card. Like the Freedom Unlimited, it has a straightforward sign-up bonus: spend $500 in purchases in your first 90 days to earn $150 cash back.
However, its rewards rate structure is slightly different with varying tiers for major categories: 3% on gas, 2% on groceries and wholesale clubs (for the first $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter), and 1% on everything else. Keep in mind, there is a $2,500 limit in combined purchases per quarter on groceries/wholesale/gas before they fall to the 1% cash back rate.
Fortunately, there is no need to worry about expiration on your rewards. It is worth noting that if you are a BofA checking or savings customer, you can earn an extra 10% (or more, depending on your BofA Preferred Rewards status) when redeeming cash back to one of your checking/savings accounts.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
With the Venture card, we are venturing into the territory of truly premium credit cards. That means even more perks, higher sign-up bonuses, and rewards, but it also means the card comes with an annual fee of $95. However, this fee is waived for the first year and the sign-up bonus and rewards more than make up for it.
A larger sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles (equal to $500) is awarded upon spending $3,000 in your first 3 months. Meanwhile, you also earn unlimited 2 miles per dollar on all purchases – notice how this is a step higher from the 1.5 points per dollar rate on many of the top flat-rate cash back cards. Last but certainly not least, the Venture also earns 10 miles per dollar on purchases through hotels.com/venture.
Discover it® Cashback Match™
Much like the aforementioned Chase Freedom, the Discover it Cashback Match earns 5% cash back on different categories each quarter, and 1% back on everything else. Like the Chase Freedom, it has no annual fee and no expiration on rewards.
However, the Discover it Cashback Match is very much a unique card in its own right. Its name refers to perhaps its most distinguishing feature: at the end of your first year, Discover will automatically match every single cent of cash back you've earned throughout the year. Talk about making a statement – in the absence of a sign-up bonus, this is not a bad introductory offer at all.
A popular card among new and experienced cardholders alike, the Chase Freedom certainly has a lot to offer. Besides its $150 sign-up bonus (same requirements as the Chase Freedom Unlimited), its biggest selling point is its cash back rate of 5% on select categories of purchases which rotate quarterly, and 1% back on everything outside of those categories.
With no annual fee, a solid intro 0% APR period of 15 months (then 16.49% - 25.24% variable APR), and new 5% categories to look forward to every quarter, it's easy to see why the Chase Freedom has found a home in so many consumers' wallets.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
A worthy competitor of the Capital One Venture card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred also has a $95 annual fee that is waived for your first year. With the CSP, the sign-up bonus comes out to 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. That is worth $625 dollars when redeeming these points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Indeed, being able to redeem points for 1.25x their base value via the Ultimate Rewards portal is a major selling point of this luxury card. You also won't have to worry about any blackout dates or restrictions when booking travel through the portal. Lastly, CSP cardholders can look forward to earning 2 points per dollar on travel and dining worldwide, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Although its $150 sign-up bonus comes with a higher spend requirement ($1,000 in 3 months) than some of our other top picks, the Blue Cash Everyday is an iconic credit card in its own right. This is largely due to its generous 3% cash back rate at U.S. supermarkets, making it a perfect choice for groceries. Its 2% cash back rate at gas stations and select department stores in the U.S. is also noteworthy, as is the 1% cash back on everything else.
Coming in at an annual fee of $0, the BCE has a lot to offer as a daily driver. It's also another viable option for balance transfers with a 0% intro APR for 15 months then a variable rate, currently 14.74% to 25.74%.
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
In a field packed with $150 sign-up bonuses, the Cash Wise stands out with its $200 intro bonus. For comparison, that's $50 more than the sign-up bonus offered by the Blue Cash Everyday which requires the same $1,000 spend in the first three months.
In a nutshell, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise card's biggest selling points are: 1) the sizeable $200 sign-up bonus, 2) no annual fee, 3) unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and 4) 1.8% cash back on qualifying mobile purchases. Just keep in mind that you can only redeem cash back in $25 increments.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
The VentureOne comes with a solid sized 20,000 bonus miles when you reach $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. With no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, and a solid rewards rate of 1.25 miles per dollar spent, the VentureOne is a superb option for folks with excellent credit.
But the real kicker is its unparalleled rewards rate for booking hotels. When you pay with your VentureOne card at hotels.com/venture, you earn 10 (ten) miles per dollar spent. This elevates the VentureOne as a top contender among the many attractive offers put forth by credit card companies vying for excellent credit customers.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
The Travel Rewards card is great for those who value a straightforward offer without any hassle. Its 20,000 bonus points offer (awarded after $1,000 spend in first 90 days of account opening) sits at a very respectable size while its simple rewards rate of 1.5 points per dollar is easy to remember. There's no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and no expiration on points – in other words, no worries.
Consumers who already bank with or plan on banking with BofA should strongly consider adding this credit card to their wallet. There's a 10% points bonus for cardholders with a Bank of America checking or savings account, even higher if you have Preferred Rewards status.
What is excellent credit
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 their own ranges and threshold for excellent credit. A FICO score above 800 or a VantageScore above 750 is considered excellent:
FICO score ranges
What determines an excellent credit score?
Your credit score is based on information in your credit report. Lenders 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. Here’s a breakdown of their credit scoring criteria and the weight placed on each factor for FICO and VantageScore (see below for an explanation of each factor):
|FICO scoring criteria||VantageScore scoring criteria|
|Payment history (35%)||Payment history (extremely influential)|
|Credit utilization and total debt owed (30%)||Credit utilization (highly influential)|
|Length of credit history (15%)||Length of credit history and type of credit (highly influential)|
|Type of credit (10%)||Total debt owed (moderately influential)|
|New credit accounts and recent credit inquiries (10%)||Recent credit inquiries (less influential)|
|Available credit (less influential)|
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. Seriously delinquent payments stay on your credit report for seven years, so one serious mistake is enough to keep you out of the “excellent” credit category.
The amount of credit that you are currently using is the next greatest factor in your credit score. Lenders look at the total amount that 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. Revolving debt, including credit cards, is an especially important consideration in this portion of your score. The general guideline is to keep your revolving balances under 30 percent of your available credit limit. The lower, the better.
Length of credit history
The age of your accounts is a less-important, but still significant factor in your score. This portion of the score factors in the age of your oldest account, the average age of your accounts and the age of specific types of accounts such as credit card accounts, car loans and mortgages. To achieve an excellent score, you need to be especially careful about shutting down long-standing accounts, and you shouldn’t open too many new accounts at once, since this can drag down the average age of your accounts.
Types of credit
The types of accounts under your name (also referred to as your “credit mix”) gets a smaller amount of weighting in your score. FICO and VantageScore give higher scores to consumers who have a diversity of credit, including credit cards, installment loans and mortgages. To get your score into excellent rage, you should make sure you have multiple types of credit in your credit history, including a couple of credit cards, a mortgage or an installment loan (e.g., a loan for a car or furniture purchase).
Recent credit inquiries
Your number of recent credit inquiries is a small factor in both your FICO score and VantageScore. You should be careful about applying for new credit cards. Make sure you can qualify before you apply and try not to apply for a lot of cards all at once, as this can cause your score to drop. Note, this part of the score only looks at “hard inquiries” on your credit report. “Soft” inquiries (inquiries you did not initiate by a credit application) do not count. Also, the impact to your score from a hard inquiry tends to be temporary – it usually bounces back quickly.
New credit accounts (FICO only)
FICO factors in the number of new accounts that you’ve opened recently as a small part of your score. To nudge your score up, you should be careful not to open too many new accounts in a brief period.
Total debt owed (VantageScore only)
The total debt that you owe isn’t nearly as important as how much of your credit you are utilizing, but lenders do look at the total amount that you owe on all your accounts. In general, you should try to minimize your account balances to increase your credit score.
Available credit (VantageScore only)
For VantageScore in specific, having too much available credit can negatively impact your score. You should avoid taking out more credit than you need, but, you should also weigh this factor against other factors, including credit utilization and account age, which have a much larger impact on your score. Having a lot of available credit also works to improve your credit utilization ratio. Furthermore, older accounts – though you may no longer need them – add to the length of your credit history, so you should think twice before closing them in attempt to reduce your available credit.
Why should I care about my credit score?
Simply put, you should care about your credit score because it’s worth a lot of money – an excellent credit score can save you thousands upon thousands of dollars over time.
Lenders use your credit score to determine your creditworthiness, as well as the conditions of your loan, including the interest rate. A good credit score can help you finance valuable purchases – such as a home – which you can use to build wealth. An excellent credit score can help you get a prime interest rate on the mortgage for that home, which can save you thousands of dollars over 30 years, compared to a merely good interest rate.
Also, credit card issuers will offer you special perks and bonuses based on your credit score to encourage you to apply for their products. If you have an excellent credit score, you can qualify for sign-up bonuses worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. You can use your credit card rewards to finance vacations and hotel stays at sharply reduced or even no cost.
What should I look for in a credit card if I have excellent credit?
If you are a cardholder with excellent credit, you are a coveted customer for credit card issuers. Credit card companies will ply you with generous offers and may even target you with special offers that can amount to twice the value of their publicly advertised offers. You can use your credit score to your advantage to score hundreds of dollars of rewards or 0-percent financing. Here are some hallmarks of a great credit card offer:
- Sign-up bonus
A credit card’s sign-up bonus is the card issuer’s biggest maneuver for getting your business, and can be one of the most valuable features on the card, worth hundreds of dollars, or even more than $1,000. For a points- or miles-based rewards card, keep an eye out for offers of 50,000 points or more. For cash back cards, you should be able to land a sign-up bonus of at least $150.
- Ongoing rewards
You will also be offered generous rewards on your ongoing purchases. In today’s market, you should qualify for a card that offers at least at an average of 1.5 percent back on every dollar (when you combine all the bonus categories), and you should be on the lookout for cards with 2 percent rewards rates. If you’re savvy on how you earn and use your rewards, you can push your earning rate even higher.
- 0-percent financing
You should also be able to find some plum deals for financing a balance transfer or a new purchase at 0-percent. While the average introductory period lasts for 12 months, you may qualify for introductory periods of 18 months or even longer.
- Perks and benefits
On top of rewards and 0-percent financing, your list of benefits should extend beyond the standard list of Mastercard or Visa benefits. Depending on the type of card and whether it charges an annual fee, you should expect to have a full list of travel and purchase protections, special perks such as concierge services and presale tickets for events and – for luxury cards – lounge access and hundreds of dollars in travel credits.
- Interest rates
You should qualify for the lowest interest rate on the card. “Lowest,” of course, depends on the type of card. A true low interest card might start at 8 or 11 percent. Rewards cards, which tend to be pricier, start around 14 to 16 percent.
How many of people have excellent credit?
According to data from Experian, only 20 to 30 percent of cardholders fall with the excellent credit range (depending on the scoring system). 19.9 percent of cardholders have a FICO score above 800, and 30.3 percent of cardholders have a Vantage score above 750:
Cardholder score ranges
|FICO score||Percent of cardholders||VantageScore||Percent of cardholders|
|300-579 (very poor)||17%||300-549 (very poor)||16.7%|
|580-669 (fair)||20.2%||550-649 (poor)||34.1%|
|670-739 (good)||21.5%||650-699 (fair)||18.3%|
|740-799 (very good)||18.2%||700-749 (good)||12.6%|
|800-850 (exceptional)||19.9%||750-850 (excellent)||30.3%|
Types of rewards that excellent credit consumers are typically eligible for
If you have a credit score that falls within the excellent range, you are eligible for your pick of rewards. You should be able to qualify for almost any rewards card, including travel, airline, hotel and cash back cards. You should also qualify for high-end luxury cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Platinum, Citi Prestige or Mastercard Black card.
How to build and maintain an excellent credit score
With time, patience and responsible use of credit, you can easily take your credit score from good to great. Here are some suggestions for tipping your score over the excellent mark:
Pay your bills on time
Since payment history is the biggest factor in your credit score, you need to be especially careful about paying your bills on time – especially the balances on your credit cards or loans, since lenders report your account balances and payments monthly. Pay your bills early to make sure you meet the due date and set up automatic payments to ensure you at least pay the minimum amount by the due date.
Keep your credit utilization low
Credit utilization is the next biggest factor in your credit score, so you need to keep the balances on your accounts low. The lower your balances, the better. If you make a large purchase, pay your bill off immediately. Pay your bill in full at the end of the month and try to send in your payment before the statement closing date.
Sign up for credit cards and use them
Credit cards, when used responsibly, can be a great tool for building and maintaining a credit history. If you sign up for a card and maintain a low balance on it, you can improve your overall debt to credit ratio. And, if you use your card and pay it off each month, you can create a history of timely payments.
Don’t apply for too many cards at once
That said, don’t go wild with your credit card applications, since each application results in a hard inquiry to your account, which can temporarily lower your credit score. Be selective in which cards you apply for and make sure you can qualify for a card before you apply.
Sign up for a mix of credit products
Applying for different types of credit products can help boost your score. Make sure you have at least a couple credit cards to your name, and, in addition to credit cards, consider applying for an installment loan (if you have a student loan, it counts as an installment loan). When you purchase a new car or a piece furniture, finance a portion of the purchase and pay it off over a few months. Or, you can take out a credit building loan – a small bank loan specifically designed to build credit history – to pad your credit report.
Become an authorized user
Becoming an authorized user on another cardholder’s account can be the fastest track to an excellent credit score. Once you’re added to a card, the entire history for the account becomes part of your credit report. If the primary cardholder has a long history of on-time payments and low credit utilization, it could jump-start your credit history.
A couple of caveats: You should make sure that the card has a clean record, since you will also inherit any negative marks on the account. And, if you are cardholder thinking of adding an authorized user to your account, you should be extremely careful about handing out cards to additional users, since you will be responsible for any balances they put on the cards.
Keep a close eye on your credit
Check your credit card accounts and check your credit report often to map your progress and to keep an eye out for any problems or inaccuracies. For instance, if you find that you are using more than 30 percent of your available credit in one month, you should try to scale back your card use the next month.
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