In the post industrial world, it is very difficult to get by without a credit card. Even if you have cash on hand, you often cannot check into a hotel or rent a car without providing a credit card. However, all credit cards are not created equal. It is wise to compare credit cards to attempt to obtain the best possible rates as well as perks that are relevant to you. Nonetheless, the options for credit cards that are actually available to you may vary widely according to whether you have excellent, good, fair or poor credit scores.
Major Credit Score Levels
The most commonly used credit scores are those generated by Fair Isaac Corporation, and which are called FICO scores. FICO scores range from 350 to 850, with higher scores corresponding to better credit levels. Exact categories vary by creditor, but in general, FICO scores fall into four ranges: Excellent, Good, Fair and Poor. Excellent scores are generally 750 and above. Good scores range from 660 to 749. Fair scores range from 620 to 659. Scores below 620 are generally considered to be Poor.
Your credit rating and your FICO scores have a major influence on whether you are able to obtain credit cards as well as the interest rates you must pay. Likewise, the terms and perks that are available to you vary according to your credit scores. As you might expect, the best credit cards are available to those with Good or Excellent credit, while individuals with Poor credit often have few credit card options available.
Cards for Excellent Credit
If you have excellent credit, you have your pick of credit cards. Depending on your preferences, you can choose cards with no annual fee or cards with low interest rates. If you travel extensively, a credit card that is affiliated with a major airline may provide useful perks, such as free checked baggage or early boarding. If you prefer to receive cash back or rewards from your credit card, the rewards levels offered for cards that are available to you are more generous than for anyone else. If you are stuck with a balance on a card with a high interest rate, a card that offers interest free balance transfers may represent significant savings for you. You will also probably qualify for zero percent interest rate credit cards, which can also represent significant savings. Your main concern is to avoid getting in over your head, which could jeopardize the excellent FICO score you worked so hard to build.
Cards for Good Credit
With Good credit, airline affiliated credit cards may be out of reach for you, unless your FICO score is on the high end of the range for Good credit. However, you still have a number of attractive options open for you. For instance, many merchants that offer cash back and reward credit cards readily welcome your business. You may also qualify for zero percent interest rate credit cards, if you are willing to shop around. Balance transfer cards may also be an option, although the interest rates that you are able to obtain are probably less attractive than interest rates for balance transfer cards that are available to customers with Excellent credit.
Cards for Fair Credit
If your FICO score falls in the range for Fair credit, you are unlikely to qualify for airline affiliated credit cards, zero interest rate credit cards or balance transfer cards. However, the odds are better than average that you can qualify for a cash back or rewards credit card, especially if your FICO score is at the high end of the Fair credit category range. You may also be able to negotiate a reduction in the interest rates for your credit cards after several months or a year, if you maintain a consistent record of on-time payments.
Cards for Poor Credit
If you have Poor credit, obtaining any type of credit card will be a challenge. If your FICO score is over 600, you may be able to qualify for an unsecured card; however the card will probably carry a high interest rate and hefty fees, yet have a very low credit limit. It is more likely that you will have to settle for a secured credit card. You should compare credit cards secured versus unsecured and make an honest assessment about which card represents the best deal for you. The good news is that with time and a good payment record, you will eventually qualify for unsecured credit cards with a decent interest rate.