U.S. News has been helping consumers make money decisions for decades. For our Best Credit Cards for Excellent Credit list, we considered overall issuer satisfaction rating, ease and flexibility of rewards redemption, rewards earning rate, annual fee, APR, sign-up bonus value, cardholder benefits, foreign transaction fee, and balance transfer fee. Satisfaction data is based on an annual nationwide U.S. News consumer survey.
To be considered for the Credit Cards for Excellent Credit list, the card must be exclusively offered to consumers with excellent credit. You’ll qualify for many credit cards with an excellent credit score, so be sure to consider your spending habits as you compare cards to find the best credit card for you.
What Can You Expect From Credit Cards for Excellent Credit?
Cards for excellent credit come with big benefits and rewards, but expect high annual fees. Before you apply for one of these cards, make sure it offers you enough value to justify the annual fee. Learn about the U.S. News methodology for ranking the best credit cards.
How to Build Excellent Credit
The most common FICO and VantageScore models call their top credit ranges exceptional and excellent, respectively, and both may seem out of reach or mysterious. But the path to excellent credit is neither secret nor simple.
Your credit score is determined by these five factors:
- Payment history.
- Amounts owed.
- Length of credit history.
- Credit mix.
- New credit.
Payment history is the most important factor that influences your FICO credit score, and it’s considered “extremely influential” with your VantageScore. That means if you expect to have excellent credit, pay your bills on time, every time.
You will not only need to make timely payments but also demonstrate exceptionally low credit risk. Lenders are looking at your credit utilization, or the percentage of total credit you’re using.
Generally, they don’t want to see you use more than 30% of your available credit on any card, and lower is even better. This tells lenders that you don’t max out credit cards when you can’t pay your bills, but you also have a lot of room for running up balances compared with other consumers.
Credit mix and new credit each make up 10% of your FICO score. When you avoid opening too many accounts too quickly and you successfully manage different loans and lines of credit, you may see a bump in your score.
How Long Does It Take to Build Excellent Credit for Credit Cards?
The length of your credit history is an especially important factor for achieving excellent credit. Paying your bills on time for a few months shows commitment, but staying on top of payments for years tells lenders that they probably don’t need to worry about you missing payments.
A longer credit history provides lenders more payment data to determine your risk. If your credit history is short, you may need more time to improve your credit score.
Your FICO score considers how long credit accounts have been open, including the average age of your accounts; how long specific types of accounts have been open; and when you last used these accounts.
A longer credit history will always have a positive effect on a FICO score, according to myFICO, the consumer division of FICO.
What Are the Benefits of Credit Cards for Excellent Credit?
Cards for excellent credit typically offer attractive rewards and benefits, plus you may be able to qualify for the lowest APRs. Here is what you can expect:
Valuable rewards. When you have excellent credit, you can choose virtually any credit card you want. You will be able to select from among cards with generous rewards rates in rotating and fixed bonus categories.
At the same time, many cards for excellent credit offer flexible points that can be redeemed for statement credits, gift cards and travel purchases, among other options, or transferred to airline or hotel partners. Lucrative sign-up bonuses are also common among cards for excellent credit. Some sign-up bonuses are worth more than $500.
Cardholder benefits. Although rewards can be valuable, cardholder benefits are what really set apart cards for excellent credit. These cards may be your ticket to top-tier benefits, such as travel credits, complimentary hotel stays or flights, and free baggage privileges, plus priority boarding, elite hotel status and airport lounge access.
Many cards for excellent credit provide trip cancellation or interruption insurance and auto rental collision damage waiver benefits, which can save money on travel. Other card benefits often include extended warranty coverage and purchase protection.
Interest rates. Consumers with excellent credit can expect to qualify for some of the lowest rates on credit cards. A good APR will be at or below the national average, which is now more than 16%.
If APR is your priority, you will want to shop specifically for low-interest credit cards or check credit unions, which tend to offer competitive rates. You could also search for a card with a 0% introductory APR of at least a year, followed by a low ongoing rate.
High credit limits. You’re more likely to be approved for a high-limit credit card, such as a credit line of $5,000 to $10,000, if you have excellent credit. A high credit limit can come in handy, whether you plan to make a large purchase, transfer a balance or stash away a card for emergencies.
High-limit cards also offer flexibility, giving you room to transfer balances without eating into too much of your available credit and potentially dropping your credit score.
What Are the Drawbacks of Credit Cards for People With Excellent Credit?
The main drawback of cards for excellent credit is that some of them can charge high annual fees.
Fees can be hundreds of dollars, but rewards and benefits frequently offset what cardholders pay. Make sure you will come out ahead before you apply for a card.
Check that your spending aligns with reward categories, and estimate how much you can earn in points, miles or cash back rewards. You can find plenty of rewards credit cards that won’t charge annual fees, but they will come without the bells and whistles of cards for excellent credit.
How Can You Qualify for a Card for Excellent Credit?
FICO scores are used most often by credit card issuers. You will need a FICO score of 760 or better to get approved for a card that requires excellent credit. But an excellent credit score alone is no guarantee of approval for this type of card: Issuers will also assess your income, debt and credit history.
Check whether you prequalify, which does no harm to your credit score, before you apply for a card. If you don’t meet the criteria for the card at this stage, then you will know to move on and can avoid a hard credit inquiry.
Is a Card for Excellent Credit Right for You?
You don’t have to get a card for excellent credit, even if your score falls in this range. Yes, cards for excellent credit may offer low APRs, valuable rewards and other perks, but a card for good credit might be a better fit for you.
Even if you have a lot of choices, consider all cards available to you. A card for excellent credit could be right if:
- Your spending habits align with the card’s rotating and fixed rewards categories.
- You will easily offset an annual fee with the card’s robust benefits and perks.
- You can comfortably meet a spending requirement for a large sign-up bonus.
When to choose another type of credit card:
- Your priority is getting the lowest APR or avoiding an annual fee.
- The card offers benefits and perks you can’t or won’t use.
- A high limit could tempt you to overspend.