The best credit cards for excellent credit

Apr 5, 2020

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You can be approved for some of the best rewards credit cards if you have a decent credit score. But, having an excellent credit score can unlock access to the most rewarding premium cards, higher credit lines and lower interest rates.

Most of the best credit cards for consumers with excellent credit are travel credit cards that earn transferable points currencies or rewards for a specific loyalty program, but we’ve also included a couple of cash-back cards. These rewards cards can help you save money now, or they can help you build up a future travel fund that can be used once coronavirus concerns subside.

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Best credit cards for excellent credit in 2020

In This Post

Comparing the best credit cards for excellent credit

Rewards credit card Best For Bonus value** Earning rate Annual fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve Rewards and travel Insurance $1,000  Earn 10x on Lyft, 3x on travel (after using the $300 travel credit) and dining, 1x on everything else  $550
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Travel rewards $1,200 Earn 5x on Lyft, 2x on travel and dining, 1x on everything else $95
The Platinum Card from American Express Perks and benefits $1,200 Earn 5x on flights booked directly with airlines and on flights and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, 1x on everything else $550 (see rates & fees)
American Express Gold Card Dining rewards $700 Earn 4x on restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, then 1x), 3x on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com, 1x on everything else $250
(see rates & fees)
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Fixed-rate earning and flexible rewards $700 Earn 2x on every purchase $95
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express Gas, groceries, and streaming $250 Earn 6% at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year) and select U.S. streaming services, 3% on transit and U.S. gas stations, 1% on everything else $95 (see rates & fees)
Citi Double Cash Card Fixed-rate earning and balance transfers None Earn 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay your bill $0
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard American Airlines flyers $840 Earn 2x on eligible American Airlines purchases, at restaurants and at gas stations, 1x on everything else $99
United Explorer Card United flyers $520 Earn 2x on eligible United purchases, at restaurants and on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel, 1x on everything else $95*
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card Delta flyers $420 Earn 2x on eligible Delta purchases, at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets, 1x on everything else $99* (see rates & fees)
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card Stays at Hilton properties $900 Earn 14x on eligible Hilton purchases, 7x on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants, 3x on everything else $450 (see rates & fees)

*Annual fee waived the first year.
**Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.

Best credit cards for excellent credit

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for rewards and travel insurance

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months

Rewards rate: Earn 10x points on Lyft through March 2022; 3x on travel (after using $300 travel credit) and dining; 1x on everything else

Annual fee: $550

Who should apply: The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the top premium travel rewards cards available. Although recent changes to the card have upset some cardholders, the card remains a staple in my wallet due to 3x earnings and travel protections.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points and offers perks including an annual $300 travel credit, Priority Pass lounge access, a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credit every four years, $60 annual DoorDash credit (for 2020 and 2021), at least one free year of DashPass membership through DoorDash, a Lyft Pink membership and an impressive array of travel protections.

All of these perks and benefits make the Chase Sapphire Reserve a great option for frequent travelers. But, if you can’t quite justify the $550 annual fee, you may find that the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a better fit.

Check out the full card review for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for travel rewards with a low annual fee

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months

Rewards rate: Earn 5x points on Lyft through March 2022; 2x on travel and dining; 1x on all other purchases

Annual fee: $95

Who should apply: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best beginner travel cards available. Plus, it offers a sign-up bonus worth $1,200 based on TPG’s valuations. The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which you can redeem for 1.25 cents each through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Or, you can transfer your points to one of Chase’s airline or hotel partners and then redeem through these programs.

If you’re looking for a solid travel rewards card with travel protections but can’t quite justify the $550 annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great option.

Check out the full card review for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Platinum Card from American Express: Best for perks and benefits

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. However, be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for a higher welcome bonus (offer subject to change at anytime).

Rewards rate: Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly with the airlines or through Amex Travel; 5x on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel; 1x on everything else

Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)

Who should apply: Although the welcome bonus can provide significant value and 5x earning on select airfare and hotel expenses is nice, The Platinum Card from American Express is a card that you keep for its benefits and perks. You can get up to $500 in credits each year — $200 airline fee credit, up to $200 in Uber savings and up to $100 in statement credits for purchases from Saks Fifth Avenue. Plus, you’ll get access to Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, Priority Pass lounges and many more lounges through Amex’s Global Lounge Collection.

You’ll also get automatic Marriott Gold status and Hilton Gold status. Plus, you can book exceptional hotel stays at select properties through Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program. And, you can add three authorized users for just $175 per year (see rates and fees). In terms of redeeming, the American Express Membership Rewards program has many airline and hotel partners to which you can transfer your reward points.

Check out the full card review for The Platinum Card from American Express.

Official application link: The Platinum Card from American Express

American Express Gold Card: Best for dining rewards

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. However, be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you’re targeted for a higher welcome bonus (offer subject to change at anytime).

Rewards rate: Earn 4x at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 spent each year, then 1x); 3x on flights booked directly through airlines or Amex Travel; 1x on all other purchases.

Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)

Who should apply: With the Amex Gold Card, you’re getting a great 8% return on worldwide restaurant and U.S. supermarket spending and a solid 6% return on airfare. Plus, you’ll get a dining credit of up to $120 each year and an airline-fee credit of up to $100.

If you want an Amex card that makes it easy to earn Membership Rewards on everyday expenses such as dining and groceries at U.S. supermarkets, this is definitely a card to consider. However, if you’re looking for an Amex Membership Rewards card that earns bonus points on a wide variety of travel expenses, you may be better off with the American Express® Green Card.

Check out the full card review for the Amex Gold.

Official application link: Amex Gold Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for fixed-rate earning and flexible rewards

(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months

Rewards rate: Earn 2x miles on every purchase except hotel and car rental purchases made with the card through Capital One Travel, which earns 5x miles

Annual fee: $95

Who should apply: The Capital One Venture is a great card if you’re looking for simplicity and flexible redemptions. You know you’re getting 2x on every purchase (except hotel and car rental purchases made through Capital One Travel which earn 5x), so you don’t need to worry about how a purchase will code. The miles you earn can then be used to “erase” eligible travel purchases or they can be transferred to one of Capital One’s transfer partners. As an added perk, you’ll also get a statement credit of up to $100 every four years for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, which isn’t a benefit commonly found on low-fee cards.

This card is often marketed as a beginner card, but anyone can take advantage of the card’s rewards structure and benefits. Beginners often enjoy the simplicity of using the Venture, but experts can utilize it as a great card for non-bonus spending. TPG himself even said the Capital One Venture was the one card he’d keep if he could only keep one card.

Check out the full card review for the Capital One Venture.

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express: Best for gas, groceries, and streaming

(Photo by The Points Guy)
(Photo by The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: A $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 annually; then 1%) and select U.S. streaming services; 3% on transit and at U.S. gas stations; 1% on everything else

Annual fee: $95 (see rates and fees)

Who should apply: The Blue Cash Preferred Card has bonus categories that are well aligned with many consumers. With many consumers spending a decent amount on streaming services, earning 6% in this relatively rare bonus category can provide solid value. Plus, you can earn $360 back on purchases at U.S. supermarkets each year if you hit the $6,000 cap.

Plus, you’ll earn 3% cash back on commuting expenses involving gas and transit (which includes taxis, ride-shares, tolls, trains, buses and more). Although the card does not earn Membership Rewards points, it provides a simple way to earn rewards on common everyday spending categories.

Check out the full card review for the Blue Cash Preferred.

Official application link: Blue Cash Preferred Card

Citi Double Cash Card: Best for fixed-rate earning and balance transfers

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: None

Rewards rate: 2% on every purchase — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay your bill

Annual fee: $0

Who should apply: Two percent cash back on every purchase is a great offer for non-bonus spending. Plus, now you can convert your Double Cash rewards to ThankYou points via a linked ThankYou account. TPG’s valuations peg the value of ThankYou points at 1.7 cents due to Citi’s solid list of transfer partners — this means you can effectively get a 3.4% return on every purchase. But, you’ll only unlock the complete list of transfer partners if you also have the Citi Prestige® Card or the Citi Premier℠ Card. If you’re in the market for a simple card that earns flexible rewards, it doesn’t get much better than the Citi Double Cash.

The information for the Citi Prestige and Citi Premier has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Check out the full card review for the Citi Double Cash.

Official application link: Citi Double Cash Card

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard: Best for American Airlines flyers

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben/The Points Guy)

Current bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,500 in the first three months of account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, restaurants and gas stations; 1x on everything else

Annual fee: $99

Who should apply: If you pay to check a bag on domestic American Airlines flights at least a few times each year, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard can be worth having since it provides your first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation. Since TPG’s valuations peg the value of American Airlines miles at 1.4 cents each, you’ll get an effective 2.8% return on the 2x bonus categories.

Check out the full card review for the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.   

Official application link: Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

United Explorer Card: Best for United flyers

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Current bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in the first three months your account is open

Rewards rate: Earn 2x miles on eligible United purchases, at restaurants and on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel; 1x on everything else

Annual fee: $95, waived your first year

Who should apply: The United Explorer Card provides various benefits when flying United including two United Club one-time passes after account opening and on each anniversary, priority boarding and the first checked bag free for the primary cardmember and one companion traveling on the same reservation on United-operated flights when the primary cardmember purchases their tickets from United with their card. Plus, you’ll get a statement credit for a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee charged to your card every four years. If you fly United even infrequently, it could make sense to have this card.

Check out the full card review for the United Explorer Card

Official application link: United Explorer Card

Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card: Best for Delta flyers

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Current bonus: Earn 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of account opening.

Rewards rate: Earn 2x miles at restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and on eligible Delta purchases; 1x on everything else

Annual fee: $99, waived your first year (see rates and fees)

Who should apply: If you fly Delta even infrequently, the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex may be worth having — especially if you’ll use the first checked bag benefit on Delta flights that allows you and up to eight other passengers on your reservation to check a first checked bag free. You’ll also get Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights as well as a 20% statement credit for eligible in-flight purchases of food, alcoholic beverages and audio headsets on Delta-operated flights.

Check out the full card review for the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex.

Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Best for staying at Hilton properties

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Current bonus: Earn 150,000 bonus Hilton points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months of card membership

Rewards rate: Earn 14x points on eligible Hilton purchases; 7x on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and U.S. restaurants; 3x on everything else

Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)

Who should apply: The Hilton Aspire Card is one of the most valuable cobranded hotel credit cards since it provides automatic Hilton Diamond status as long as you’re a cardholder and an effective 8.4% return on eligible Hilton purchases. You’ll also get one weekend night reward with your new Hilton Aspire Card and every year after renewal, as well as the ability to earn an additional night after you spend $60,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year. And, you’ll also get an up to $250 Hilton Resort statement credit each year of card membership that can be used to offset eligible purchases at participating Hilton Resorts. If you can use most of the card’s benefits, this card is a great choice to add to your wallet whether you’re a Hilton loyalist or you simply plan to stay at Hilton a few times each year.

Check out the full card review for the Hilton Aspire Card

Official application link: The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

How we chose the best credit cards for excellent credit

When choosing our top rewards cards for consumers with excellent credit, we considered various factors. Primary factors included welcome bonuses, rewards rates and annual fees. But, we also considered the flexibility of each rewards card, the type of rewards each card earned, the simplicity of the redemption process and the perks offered by each card.

Related reading: How to assess and build your credit card portfolio

What is an excellent credit score?

(Image courtesy of Experian)
(Image courtesy of Experian)

FICO Score and VantageScore credit scores range from 300 to 850. An excellent credit score is generally considered to be a score that is 760 and above. With a credit score in this range, you should be able to get accepted for most of the best rewards cards on the market.

But, it’s important to realize that you don’t have just one credit score. There are three main credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) as well as two primary methods for calculating credit scores (FICO Score and VantageScore). So, you’ll likely have slightly different credit scores from one credit reporting agency to another.

Related reading: How to check your credit score for absolutely free

What determines an excellent credit score?

A variety of factors determine your FICO score, the most widely used credit score.
A variety of factors determine your FICO score, the most widely used credit score.

Both VantageScore and FICO use proprietary credit scoring models that aren’t publicly available. But, FICO is relatively forthcoming about the factors that make up its credit-scoring model. Here’s an overview of these factors:

Payment history. 35% of a FICO score is made up of your payment history. If you get behind in making loan payments, the longer and more recent the delinquency, the greater the negative impact on your credit score.

Amounts owed. 30% of your FICO score consists of the relative size of your current debt. In particular, your debt-to-credit ratio is the total of your debts divided by the total amount of credit that you’ve been extended, across all accounts.

Length of credit history. 15% of your score is based on the average length of all accounts on your credit history. This becomes a significant factor for those who have limited credit history, such as young adults, recent immigrants and anyone who has largely avoided credit. It can also be a factor for people who open and close accounts within a very short period.

New credit. 10% of your credit score is determined by your most recent accounts. Having recently opened too many accounts will harm your score, as the scoring models will interpret this as a sign of possible financial distress.

Credit mix. 10% of your score is related to how many different types of credit accounts you have, such as mortgages, car loans, credit loans and store charge cards. While having a larger mix of credit is better than having fewer, you shouldn’t take out unnecessary loans just to boost your credit score.

Related reading: How credit scores work

What credit cards are only available if you have excellent credit

There are two types of cards that are generally only available if you have very good or excellent credit:

Amex charge cards

Amex charge cards are incredibly unique in that they aren’t technically credit cards. They don’t come with a preset spending limit; rather, purchases are approved on a case-by-case basis. This means that, in the wrong hands, they could be very dangerous. Someone could spend tens of thousands of dollars on these cards before Amex caught on and started declining the charges. To stop this from happening, Amex will generally only approve applicants with excellent credit.

Related reading: Choosing the best American Express credit card for you

Premium credit cards

Even if they come with a fixed spending limit, you can expect to face stricter approval requirements for the ever-growing list of premium credit cards. These cards offer valuable perks and are generally marketed toward higher spenders who in turn need a larger credit limit.

Related reading: Why a $500+ per year credit card isn’t crazy — At all

Tips to maintain excellent credit

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

FICO and VantageScore scores are designed to predict the likelihood that you will become 90 days late on any of your credit obligations within the next 24 months. So, in short, to maintain excellent credit you should avoid moves that may increase the perceived likelihood that you will become less financially stable during the next two years. But, you don’t need to work toward a perfect 850 score.

To maintain excellent credit you should generally continue to pay your bills on time, keep your debt-to-credit ratio low, avoid closing any accounts you’ve kept open for a long time and avoid opening an excessive amount of new accounts. If you’re looking to maintain your excellent credit, you should also check your credit score regularly.

Related reading: 8 biggest factors that impact your credit score

Perks that come with having excellent credit

Having excellent credit can help you get accepted for some of the best premium rewards credit cards, but excellent credit can also unlock various other benefits. For example, higher credit scores can often help you to qualify for lower interest rates on your mortgage. And, depending on your state of residence, your credit may be used to price your insurance premiums. So, having excellent credit may allow you to snag less expensive auto and homeowner’s insurance.

You may also find that having excellent credit can help in the following ways:

  • Higher chance or approval and lower interest rates on loans
  • Higher credit limits on your cards
  • Easier approval for apartments and rental homes, usually without a large security deposit
  • Ability to sign up for utilities without a security deposit or letter of guarantee
  • Get a cell phone contract without paying a security deposit

Related reading: How much money can good credit really save you?

Related credit card guides

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, please click here.

Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.