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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 flexible cash back categories
Imagine switching out your favorite category each month for a boost in rewards hard to find elsewhere. Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
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. Also, there’s no annual fee. If you’re a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase.
You can do better with a cash back card that doubles as a 0% intro APR card, although the regular APR is competitive. Get 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then it’s 13.99%-23.99%variable.
Bottom line: The rewards on this card are excellent, and there’s no annual fee, but the 0% intro APR could be better.
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, an offer of $300 with a required spend of $3,000 within the first 6 months.
It’s tough to find something not to love about this card, but you may find the $95 annual fee (waived for the first year) to be an unfortunate piece of the pie.
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 unlimited cash back
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. And there’s no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn.
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 3 months from opening an account. New cardholders will also enjoy the 15-month 0% introductory APR for purchases (it’s 14.99%-23.74% variable after that).
There’s no introductory APR offer for balance transfers, so this probably isn’t your card for paying down debt.
Bottom line: 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.
Best credit card with excellent credit for no blackout dates
If you love to travel and eat well, the American Express Gold is unlikely to disappoint. Cardholders earn 4X points at restaurants worldwide, 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. And don’t overlook the fact that there will be no blackout dates when it comes time to redeem your points.
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 offers 2X points on travel and restaurant purchases for an annual fee of only $95.
Bottom line: While $250 isn’t the most expensive annual fee, it is cause for a second glance. If you spend big on food and flights, you’ll likely reap the rewards to make the Amex Gold worth it.
Best credit card with excellent credit for online shopping
According to Discover’s 2020 cash back calendar, online shoppers are in luck to end the year strong – you can earn a versatile 5% cash back in rotating categories (on up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly after required activation, then 1%) on purchases through 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. With opportunities to earn while shopping online, a rotating category schedule and Discover’s generosity, this is a high-earning cash back card for attentive cardholders.
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: Earn $200 after spending just $500 in the first 3 months.
Best credit card with excellent credit for rewards at U.S. gas stations
American Express gives ways to earn on can’t-miss purchases: Cardholders earn an unlimited 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, a lucrative 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 annually, then 1%) and 1% cash back on other purchases. In addition to uncapped earnings at the pump, the Blue Cash Everyday Card is fueled by non-expiring cash back, no annual fee and an intro 0% APR offer for 15 months on purchases (then it’s 13.99%-23.99% variable).
Unlike the 2% cash back categories, your 3% earning at U.S. supermarkets is limited to $6,000 per year. Also, rewards can’t be transferred or pooled with other cards.
Bottom line: 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 suits its name as a great regular-use option.
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 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 low interest
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 a fair interest rate of 13.99%-23.99% variable, cardholders enjoy what is effectively 2% cash back – one percent as you buy, and one percent as you pay off your purchases.
There is no 0% 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.
Bottom line: Earning 2% cash back on all purchases (1% as you buy, 1% as you pay off your purchases) is fantastic. If you’re in need of a go-to cash back card, you should certainly consider the Citi Double Cash.
Best credit card with excellent credit for travel rewards
The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card offers both boosted rewards for travel and a flat rate for all other purchases. Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points for each dollar spent on all other purchases.
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, there’s no limit of points, and points don’t expire.
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.
Bottom line: Although the $95 annual fee isn’t waived the first year, there are a number of ways to earn and redeem with this card, including the sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after $3,000 spend the first 90 days.
Best credit card with excellent credit for gas station rewards
If you’re like most people, your commute isn’t the best part of your day. But with the Citi Rewards+® Card, you can feel a little better knowing that you’re earning 2X points every time you fill up your tank. That rate also applies to supermarket purchases. That’s up to $6,000 annually combined, then 1X point. While this offer isn’t remarkable on its own, 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 double the 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.
If you’re hoping to redeem your points for cash back, you may find a better return by redeeming for gift cards.
Bottom line: Considering there’s no annual fee, this is a solid choice for someone who wants to rack up points on everyday purchases.
Best credit card with excellent credit for intro balance transfer offer
New cardholders who need to pay off debt will have 18 months on 0% introductory APR of balance transfers (14.74%-24.74% variable APR thereafter), one of the longer offers on the market. That same rate (0% introductory APR for 18 months, then 14.74%-24.27% variable) applies to purchases, too.
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.
Bottom line: If you’re planning a balance transfer or a large purchase, the Citi Diamond Preferred can help out with its lengthy 0% introductory period. If you’re not in debt and don’t plan to be, a rewards card will probably suit you better.
Compare the best credit cards for excellent credit for 2021
|Excellent Credit Card||Best for…||Annual Fee||CreditCards.com Rating|
|Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card||Flexible cash back categories||$0||4.0 / 5|
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||Rewards at U.S. supermarkets||$0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95.||4.3 / 5|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||Unlimited cash back||N/A||4.7 / 5|
|American Express® Gold Card||No blackout dates||$250 ||4.3 / 5|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Online shopping||$0||4.3 / 5|
|Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card||Simple rewards||$0||3.4 / 5|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express||U.S. Supermarkets||$0||3.5 / 5|
|Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card||Dining and entertainment||$0||3.7 / 5|
|Citi® Double Cash Card||No annual fee||$0||3.7 / 5|
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card||Travel rewards||$95||3.9 / 5|
|Citi Rewards+® Card||Gas station rewards||$0||3.0 / 5|
|Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card||Simple rewards||$0||3.9 / 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 of 800 to 850 is considered exceptional and a VantageScore of 781 to 850 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 is a comparison of two 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 the comparison may become the frontrunner to certain cardholders. 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 (when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards)||$1,000*2X pts*12 mths*125%=$300||$1,000*1X pts*12 mths*125%=$150||$95||$1355|
|Capital One Venture Rewards||^^60,000 miles=$600||$1,000*2X miles*12 mths=$240||$1,000*2X miles*12 mths=$240||$95||$985|
**80,000 points after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months
^^60,000 miles after a $3,000 spend within the first 3 months
Here’s what you’d have to spend each month to fully take advantage of these cards’ welcome bonuses. As you can see, for heavy spenders, both cards provide an excellent first-year value, although the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers slightly more value due to the boost provided by redeeming through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
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. Sometimes just calling and negotiating can lead to better terms.
What missteps do people with excellent credit make?
If you have excellent credit, you likely already have solid credit card habits. Here are a few key things to remember that can take you over the top as a cardholder:
- 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.