If you’re thinking of applying for an American Express card, you should learn if you have a good chance of getting approved before you apply. That starts with understanding what credit score you need for a card.
What Credit Score Do You Need for an American Express Card?
Unlike some other issuers, American Express does not offer cards geared toward people who have poor credit or who are rebuilding their credit. In other words, you’ll likely need a score in at least the “good” range to qualify for an AmEx card. Other American Express cards will usually require even higher scores.
According to the score ranges from FICO, that means American Express applicants typically have at least a 670 score:
- Exceptional. 800 and above.
- Very good. 740-799.
- Good. 670-739.
- Fair. 580-669.
- Poor. 300 – 579.
Why do credit scores matter to card issuers? “Consumers with lower credit scores are more likely to have a history of missed payments, high balances on credit cards or more serious things like collections or bankruptcy,” says Rod Griffin, senior director for consumer education and advocacy with Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus. “Consumers with higher credit scores are more likely to have a well-established history of on-time payments along with low utilization rates and no record of default.”
As such, lenders will look at an applicant’s credit score to determine whether they will extend an offer of credit at all and to determine appropriate credit limits, interest rates and other terms, adds Griffin.
Beyond scores, credit card companies also have a unique set of requirements that a consumer must meet in order for the companies to extend a card offer, and these will differ by issuer and by specific card.
How to Get Your Credit Score
There are many ways to get your credit score online for free. Here are three routes you can go:
- Use a free service. Sign up for a service like American Express’s MyCredit Guide or Capital One’s CreditWise, which are both open to anyone.
- Check with your issuer. If you have a credit card, your issuer or bank likely allows you to see your credit score via your online account.
- Register with Experian. The credit bureau includes a monthly credit report and FICO score for those who sign up.
American Express Cards for Different Credit Scores
The specific credit score needed for any single American Express card isn’t publicized, but you can make an educated guess. “In general, most card issuers offer many different types of credit cards with different features and terms and may have different risk thresholds depending on the card’s features,” says Tom Quinn, vice president of scores at FICO.
And your credit score is just one part of the evaluation American Express makes. “While exact requirements vary across American Express products, we look at things like payment history and total number of cards with American Express if applicable, overall debt, reported income, credit bureau scores and other information from credit bureau reports,” the company said in a statement.
In general, you’ll need to have good to excellent credit, with some cards harder to qualify for than others.
“You can assume cards with the best perks and rewards will require an average credit score of 700 or greater to qualify,” says Griffin. “Higher scores may be required to receive the best terms. Scores of 750 and higher, as a rule of thumb, will usually result in receiving the best terms.”
Here are three American Express cards at varying tiers to consider:
AmEx EveryDay Credit Card. This is a no-fee rewards card that features two points per dollar on groceries and one point per dollar on all other purchases. It’s a solid entry-level rewards card that requires good credit, but because there are higher-end products available, this would likely be an easier one to get.
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express. This card offers a wider variety of benefits, including 6% cash back on groceries (on the first $6,000 spent annually) and 3% cash back on gas stations and transit. It also charges a $95 annual fee.
The Platinum Card from American Express. The rewards and benefits with the Platinum Card are geared toward big spenders and frequent travelers with excellent credit who are seeking a VIP-like experience. The card charges a $695 annual fee.
How to Get Preapproved for an American Express Card
First, you should understand the difference between preapproval and prequalification. Quinn says the terms are used interchangeably, even though they are different. “Preapproval usually means the credit card issuer has reviewed your information and based on that review has determined if they will make you a firm offer of credit. A prequalification typically means the issuer has reviewed your financial information and makes a ‘best guess’ if you’d be approved if you applied,” he says.
American Express encourages applicants who are curious about what cards might fit them best to check for prequalification offers online from the issuer. After inputting your basic information, you’ll receive personalized offers.
Alternatively, you may receive an unsolicited preapproved credit card offer in the mail, which means the lender has done an automated review of your credit history and other criteria and determined that you meet the terms of that offer, says Griffin. “Preapproved offers are a good thing because they expand the marketplace for consumers.”
While these offers do not affect credit scores, when you accept an offer, you are officially applying for the credit card, at which time the lender will pull your credit.
Of course, you don’t need a formal preapproval offer to apply for a card. However, it’s wise to do some research on the particular card you’re interested in to get a sense of the requirements.
How to Improve Your Credit Score Before Applying
For most people, the two most important things they can do to improve their scores quickly are catching up on late payments and lowering any existing credit card balances, says Griffin. That’s because payment history and amounts owed account for 35% and 30%, respectively, of the FICO score calculation.
It’s also good to keep tabs on your progress. If you visit annualcreditreport.com, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies once a week until the end of 2022. “Checking your credit report will help you see where you stand from a credit perspective,” Griffin says.