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We here at TPG devote a significant amount of time to talking about how credit scores work, how you can improve yours and how you can keep yours in shape. Although a score of above 720 will more than likely grant you access to almost any credit card on the market, having a lower score doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get those same cards. So, we’re kicking off a new series where we’ll analyze data points to try to uncover the unpublished (and perhaps unofficial) credit score requirements for some of the top travel rewards credit cards.
Just remember that while your credit score is a good indicator of your approval odds, at the end of the day, it’s not an absolute science. So you may still be denied for a card if you meet the “requirement” and you may still be approved if you’re below it.
First up is the 2018 TPG Award-Winning Best Mid-Tier Card of the Year, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. The card is a longtime favorite among advanced points and miles collectors. Primary car rental coverage and trip delay protections aside, it doesn’t have any fancy travel benefits like lounge access, but it has a great sign-up bonus of 60,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months) and earns some of the most valuable points around.
Although the CSP is considered a great beginner card and is easier to be approved for than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’re not likely to get approved if you’re just starting out or only have a single credit card to your name so far. I’d recommend applying for one of these cards first if you’re just starting to build your credit (or one of these if you’re a college student), but it’s important to understand that the key word here is “likely” — TPG contributor Ethan Steinberg had no trouble getting approved for the CSP as his first card.
According to Credit Karma, the average required score for the CSP is 736, meanwhile the typical low is 646. So, while the average score is considered “excellent,” you don’t need to have a perfect credit history to be approved. There are many other factors that go into qualification beyond your score, such as your income and age of credit accounts. Another big factor that’s often forgotten about is your relationship with the bank. If you’ve been a longtime Chase customer and have large balances in your banking accounts with them, but have a below-average credit history, reports suggest that you may have better approval odds — especially if you apply in a branch.
As is the case with most Chase cards, the CSP is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. This means that if you’ve opened five or more personal credit cards (with any issuer) in the last 24 months, Chase almost certainly won’t approve you for the card, even if you have a nearly perfect score.
How to Check Your Credit Score
Under no circumstances should you be shelling out cash to check your credit score. Most credit cards you open will come along with a free FICO score calculator. This will make it easy to see where your score lies on the scale from good to bad and keep up to date on how you’re doing in terms of each of the categories listed above. You can also easily open accounts on sites like and . These sites are free and can help you keep even better track of your score and its factors. You can also use these services to dispute any information on your score that isn’t accurate or appears to be fraudulent.
Unless you already have the Sapphire Reserve, received a sign-up bonus from any Sapphire card in the last 24 months or applied for 5 or more cards from any issuer in the last 24 months, you should probably get the Chase Sapphire Preferred. And hopefully, you won’t have trouble getting approved.
Although the average approved credit score is relatively high, as discussed, you shouldn’t let that scare you away as there are many other factors that are considered. Your best bet for keeping your score on a successful track is making on-time payments, keeping your closing balances low and being smart about the accounts you open and close. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary, so if you’ve recently applied for the Sapphire Preferred, feel free to share your application experiences in the comments below!
Know before you go.
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NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards