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A guide to 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 in the excellent credit range and are ready to walk through the process of finding the best one for you. Want to learn more?
Compare the best credit cards for excellent credit for 2021
|Excellent Credit Card||Best for…||Annual Fee||CreditCards.com Rating|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||Unlimited cash back||$0||4.5 / 5|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Online shopping||$0||4.5 / 5|
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||Rewards at U.S. supermarkets||$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.||4.0 / 5|
|Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card||Simple rewards||$0||3.0 / 5|
|Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card||Flexible cash back categories||$0||4.2 / 5|
|Citi® Double Cash Card||Low interest||$0||3.5 / 5|
|Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card||Dining and entertainment||$0||4.4 / 5|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||U.S. Supermarkets||$0||3.4 / 5|
|American Express® Gold Card||No blackout dates||$250 ||4.5 / 5|
|Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card||Intro balance transfer offer||$0||3.6 / 5|
|Citi Rewards+® Card||Gas station rewards||$0||3.2 / 5|
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card||Travel rewards||$95||4.2 / 5|
Applicants with excellent credit are eligible for top credit card offers from issuers like Capital One, Chase, and American Express.
Editor’s picks: Credit cards for excellent credit details
Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best unlimited cash back card for excellent credit
Why we picked it: If you’re looking for an all-purpose, everyday cash back card, it’s hard to go wrong with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Like many cash back cards, you’ll get 1.5% cash back on general purchases – but that’s just your baseline. You’ll earn 3% cash back on dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services), 3% on drugstore purchases and 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You’ll also earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart®) on up to $12,000 spent during the first year. And there’s no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn.
Pros: With several lucrative rewards categories, it’s pretty impressive that this card has no annual fee. Add to that, the sign-up bonus is generous and easy enough to attain: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 within the first three months from opening an account. New cardholders will also enjoy the 15-month 0% introductory APR for purchases (it’s 14.99% to 23.74% variable after that).
Cons: There’s a 3% foreign transaction fee.
Who should apply? With a great rewards rate on general purchases and multiple opportunities to earn boosted cash back, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is bound to be valuable to nearly every type of consumer.
Who should skip? Anyone with excellent credit who loves to travel will want to look into a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
Read our Chase Freedom Unlimited® review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Discover it® Cash Back: Best online shopping card for excellent credit
Why we picked it: Online shoppers, foodies and road warriors can earn a versatile 5% cash back in rotating categories (on up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly after required activation, then 1%). After that, you can match your whole first year’s rewards with Cash Back Match™. That means you can turn the $300 from your maxed out quarterly categories into $600 at the end of your first year!
Pros: Online shoppers will enjoy 5% cash back at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com from now through December 31, 2021 (on up to $1,500, then 1%). Check Discover’s 2021 cash back calendar for the full round-up.
Cons: 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.
Who should apply? If you want to maximize your rewards, the Discover it Cash Back is a good choice. With opportunities to earn 5% back in rotating categories, a 14-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers and no annual fee, this is a high-earning cash back card for attentive cardholders.
Who should skip? If you spend a lot on gas or groceries, you might be better served by a credit card that lets you earn high rewards (up to a certain limit) in those categories throughout the year.
Read our Discover it® Cash Back review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best rewards at U.S. supermarkets for excellent credit
Why we picked it: This card offers an impressive 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%). There’s also unlimited 3% cash back on U.S. gas station and transit purchases and 1% on everything else.
Pros: The welcome offer sweetens the deal – earn a $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first 6 months.
Cons: It’s tough to find something not to love about this card, but the ongoing $95 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year) may be a tough sell for some.
Who should apply? 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 at the pump and for your supermarket spending.
Who should skip? This isn’t the card for you if you spend more on dining and entertainment or are looking for a travel rewards credit card.
Read our Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best simple rewards for excellent credit
Why we picked it: A straightforward card with a simple rewards structure, the Quicksilver from Capital One frees you up from having to keep track of rotating categories. Instead, use this card to get 1.5% cash back on every purchase. We also love that the required spend on the sign-up bonus is rock-bottom: Earn $200 after spending just $500 in the first three months.
Pros: There’s no annual fee, and no foreign transaction fee means it’s good to use worldwide.
Cons: 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.
Who should apply? The Quicksilver is a great card for anyone hoping to earn consistent, unlimited cash rewards.
Who should skip? Anyone with excellent credit who wants to earn as much cash back rewards as possible will want to take advantage of credit cards that offer a higher rewards rate, even if it is only in select categories.
Read our Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card: Best flexible cash back categories for excellent credit
Why we picked it: Imagine switching out your favorite category each month for a boost in rewards. Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, plus an automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases, then 1%) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
Pros: In addition to the tiered ongoing rewards with this card, you can earn $200 after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days of card membership. Plus, a card that lets you earn cash back at multiple wholesale clubs is a hard-to-find perk. And if you’re a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% to 75% more cash back on every purchase.
Cons: While the rewards are great, the quarterly $2,500 combined spend cap on 2% and 3% categories may not be the best fit for big spenders.
Who should apply? Anyone looking for a no-annual-fee flexible rewards card will find plenty to like about the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card. If you’re an existing Bank of America or Merrill account holder, you may qualify to boost your reward earnings through the Preferred Rewards program.
Who should skip? Anyone eager to maximize their credit card rewards will first want to check for cards that offer higher rewards in the categories that matter most to them.
Read our Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Citi® Double Cash Card: Best low interest for excellent credit
Why we picked it: Some credit cards with excellent rewards rates seem to compensate by having sky-high interest rates. This isn’t the case with the Citi Double Cash. In addition to an interest rate of 13.99% to 23.99% variable, cardholders enjoy what is effectively 2% cash back – 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay off your purchases.
Pros: The 2% cash back on all purchases (1% as you buy, 1% as you pay off your purchases), which makes for a fantastic card for everyday spending.
Cons: There is no introductory APR for purchases, so if you’d like some time to pay off an upcoming purchase without accruing any interest, you should go a different route. Potential applicants should also know that there’s a $25 minimum redemption for cash back – not a huge deal, but something to consider. There’s also no sign-up bonus.
Who should apply? Anyone who would prefer cash back to travel rewards will appreciate this straight-forward rewards card. Plus, the intro offer is ideal for anyone thinking about a balance transfer.
Who should skip? If you enjoy unlimited 2% cash rewards and are looking for an introductory APR for purchases or a cash rewards bonus, take a look at the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card.
Read our Citi® Double Cash Card review.
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best dining and entertainment card for excellent credit
Why we picked it: 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. Additionally, the 3% cash back on popular streaming services and grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®) and 1% on everything else complement SavorOne’s 15-month 0% intro purchase APR (14.99% to 24.99% variable after that) for some versatile purchasing power.
Pros: New cardmembers can earn a $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Through January 2023, cardholders can earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats. Plus, rewards don’t expire as long as the account remains active.
Cons: 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 three months) at the cost of a $95 annual fee.
Who should apply? 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.
Who should skip? Anyone with excellent credit who wants to earn more cash back at U.S. supermarkets and gas stations.
Read our Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Best U.S. gas station rewards card for excellent credit
Why we picked it: Cardholders earn an unlimited 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 annually, then 1%) and 1% cash back on other purchases.
Pros: Rewards don’t expire as long as the account remains active. This card charges no annual fee. Cardholders enjoy an intro 0% APR offer for 15 months on purchases (then it’s 13.99%-23.99% variable).
Cons: Unlike the 2% cash back categories, your 3% earning at U.S. supermarkets is limited to $6,000 per year, then drops to 1%.
Who should apply? Those constantly on the road might want to take advantage of the unlimited cash back available when filling up your tank. With multiple ways to earn while making typical purchases, this card is a great regular-use option.
Who should skip? This isn’t the card for you if you’re looking for a dining or travel rewards credit card.
Read our Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express review.
American Express® Gold Card: Best no-blackout-date card for excellent credit
Why we picked it: If you love to travel and enjoy eating out or getting takeout delivered to your door, the American Express Gold is unlikely to disappoint. Cardholders earn 4X points at restaurants, 4X points on Uber Eats purchases, 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1X) and 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com. It’s also packed with additional benefits, like an annual dining credit of up to $120 (up to $10 in monthly statement credits at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations, enrollment required).
Pros: When you’re ready to redeem your points for travel, there are no blackout dates.
Cons: You will need to use the card often to outweigh the cost of the $250 annual fee. If you don’t spend a significant amount on flights, dining or at U.S. supermarkets, there are plenty of cards with low or no annual fee that can give you rewards on similar categories. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers 2X points on general travel and 3x points on dining purchases for an annual fee of only $95.
Who should apply? If you spend big at restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and flights, you’ll likely reap the rewards to make the Amex Gold worth it.
Who should skip? If you balk at paying high annual fees and aren’t certain you will take advantage of the high rewards rates and spending credits, substituting this card for a number of cards that offer high rewards in certain categories and come with a more affordable fee (or no fee) could be the answer.
Read our American Express® Gold Card review.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card: Best balance transfer card for excellent credit
Why we picked it: New cardholders who need to pay off debt will have 21 months of 0% introductory APR on balance transfers completed within the first four months (13.74% to 23.74% variable APR thereafter). This is one of the longer offers on the market. There is also an introductory APR offer for purchases (0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases, then 13.74% to 23.74% variable).
Pros: Cardholders get access to Citi Entertainment®, preferred seating and VIP packages at concerts, sporting events and dining experiences, plus discounts on everyday purchases through Citi Easy Deals.
Cons: There is a fee for balance transfers, which is something to keep in mind, especially if you’re transferring a large balance. You also won’t earn rewards with this card, so it’s really only a good option for those who want to do a balance transfer or split up a purchase over several months.
Who should apply? If you’re planning a balance transfer, the Citi Diamond Preferred can help out with its lengthy introductory period.
Who should skip? If you’re not in debt and don’t plan to be, a rewards card will probably suit you better. And with excellent credit, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a balance transfer credit card with a 3% fee or even no fee, which will help you save money.
Read our Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card review.
Citi Rewards+® Card: Best round up rewards card for excellent credit
Why we picked it: Citi’s unique round-up feature is what makes this card special. The rewards for all purchases get rounded up to the nearest ten. For example, if you bought a snack at the supermarket for $6, you would earn 2x points, so 12. Then the 12 points would be rounded up to 20. With this setup, it’s easy to see how rewards can stack up quickly.
Pros: Points never expire as long as your account remains active and there are no blackout dates.
Cons: Only two categories that earn 2X points (gas stations and supermarkets).
Who should apply? Considering there’s no annual fee, this is a solid choice for someone who wants to earn points on everyday purchases.
Who should skip? Anyone who wants to maximize their rewards earning potential will have plenty of other options, especially if you have excellent credit.
Read our Citi Rewards+® Card review.
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Best travel rewards card for excellent credit
Why we picked it: The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card offers both boosted rewards for travel and a flat rate for other purchases. Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases, 2 points for every $1 spent on grocery store purchases (through 12/31/21) and unlimited 1.5 points for each dollar spent on all other purchases.
Pros: This card’s travel perks don’t seem to quit, with the ability to earn a statement credit of up to $100 every 4 years on TSA PreCheck/Global Entry, as well as up to $100 in airline incidental statement credits annually. Also, points are unlimited and don’t expire.
Cons: The annual fee of $95 isn’t waived, and there’s no 0% intro APR on purchases or balance transfers, so it may not be the best choice for the cardholder looking for something other than stellar travel options.
Who should apply? Someone who doesn’t mind a moderate annual fee will find a number of ways to earn and redeem with this card, including the sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days.
Who should skip? If you don’t travel often and spend more in other categories like supermarkets, takeout and gas stations, this isn’t the card for you.
Read our Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card review.
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 of 800 to 850 is considered exceptional and a VantageScore of 781 to 850 is considered excellent:
At first blush, there may not seem to be much difference between good and excellent credit. But look deeper, and you’ll see that excellent credit will qualify you for better interest rates and credit cards.
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.
How many people have excellent credit?
Research from Experian suggests that the average FICO score in the United States in 2021 is 716, and the average VantageScore sits at 695, both increases from last year. Our credit score statistics indicate that both older and younger borrowers across the country are becoming more likely to have an excellent credit score and that average credit card debt fell to $5,525 between 2020 and 2021. Here is a geographic breakdown of scores and the states that claim them:
Average credit scores have been trending upward since the Great Recession when many people were struggling with an array of financial problems such as layoffs and underwater mortgages. Despite the pandemic and its associated unemployment rates, credit score averages in the U.S. are up 20 points from pre-COVID levels.
For the fifth consecutive year, Minnesota residents took the nation’s top spot for highest average credit scores with 726, followed by Vermont with 719. Meanwhile, residents of New Hampshire, Washington and Massachusetts also have average scores well above 700. While it is not perfectly clear why certain states boast higher average credit scores than others, many of the top-performing states have median incomes above the national median of $62,843.
Tips to maintain excellent credit
Whether you’re looking to maintain your excellent credit or improve your credit score, keep the following in mind:
- Freeze your credit reports. It’s now free – and advisable – to freeze your 3 credit reports to help prevent identity theft and misuse of your personal identification.
- Make multiple payments in a month. Since you won’t know when card issuers report 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.
- 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 an auto loan or a mortgage so that you don’t have large balances on your cards and you don’t take out new cards.
- Follow the 20/10 Rule. This rule of thumb 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 keep your contact information current. 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. Sometimes just calling and negotiating can lead to better terms.
Credit card perks with excellent credit
- Rewards: While even credit cards for 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 airport lounge access, annual credits for travel, reduction in 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 or excellent credit, your options open up considerably to include cards with 0% APR, 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 we picked the best excellent credit cards
Methodology: We analyzed 1,526 of the top credit cards on the market to narrow down a selection of the best choices. Core criteria we considered in our analysis include:
- Base rewards program: How well is your spending rewarded? We identified cards at the top of their class when it comes to competitive rewards. These earnings span across a variety of categories (cash back, travel, gas, dining, entertainment, etc.).
- Introductory offers: Many cards provide enticing rewards for opening an account, such as a welcome offer of 0% APR on your purchases and/or balance transfers for a period of time, or a lucrative sign-up bonus after eclipsing a certain spending requirement in the first few months. Some of the best cards offer both. We looked to find the best welcome offers and sign-up bonuses available.
- Extra benefits: Does the card include any luxury benefits often seen with elite cards? Perks like airport lounge access, sizable statement credits, baggage insurance and more are featured with some top options.
- Annual fee: Does the card have an annual fee? A few of the top rewards cards carry hefty annual fees, but the rewards programs and other offerings can make up for these tenfold.
- Redemption options: How much are points worth? Is the redemption process easy? Are there worthwhile redemption options? Some structures can be difficult and lacking in value, so we seek out the top choices when it comes to capitalizing on your spending.