Best Credit Cards for Excellent Credit
Cardholders with a rock-solid credit history have a wealth of high-quality credit cards at their disposal, including those with the largest new member bonuses, highest cash-back rates, and longest 0% intro APR offers.
When you have excellent credit, shopping for a new credit card becomes less stressful and a lot more exciting. Your credit score is the No. 1 piece of information banks will look at when you apply for a card, so you can expect to qualify for most of the best credit cards on the market. Instead of basing your decision on what cards you’ll be able to get, you can base it on what you want in a card.
An excellent credit score is a terrible thing to waste, so I’m going to cover assessing what you need in a card, some of the best credit cards you can choose, and how you can keep building your credit.
Best for: Travel miles and points transfers Chase Sapphire Preferred®
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 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, 50,000 points are worth $625 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
Best for: Bonus cash back Discover it® Cash Back
- INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
- Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
- Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
- Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
- Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
- No annual fee.
Best for: Cash rewards program Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
- No annual fee
- NEW OFFER: $200 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
- Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
- No changing categories and no expiration on rewards
- 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases AND for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then, 14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR. 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers
- Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account
- If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
- Easily add your Mastercard® credit card to any digital wallet for a simple, secure, and convenient way to pay online, in-app, and in-store
Best for: Flat-rate travel miles and sign-up bonus Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
- Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Best for: Unlimited cash abck Capital One® Quicksilver® Card - 0% Intro APR for 15 Months
- One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
- No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
- 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that
- 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
- Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Best for: Travel card with no annual fee Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
- NEW OFFER: 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
- Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
- Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
- Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
- 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR
- Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
- If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
Best for: Cash sign-up bonus Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
- Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases
- Enjoy 1.8% cash rewards on qualified mobile wallet purchases, like Apple Pay® or Google Pay™, during the first 12 months from account opening
- No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open
- Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card
- 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 15.74%-26.74% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rates and fees
- $0 Annual Fee
- Select “Apply Now” to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
Best for: Balance transfers Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card
- 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 17.24%-26.74% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rates and fees
- Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card
- Free access to your FICO® Credit Score with Wells Fargo Online®
- Zero Liability protection for promptly reported unauthorized transactions
- Convenient tools to help create a budget and manage your spending with My Money Map
- $0 Annual Fee
- Select “Apply Now” to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
Get our latest tips and uncover more of our top picks to help you conquer your money goals
Why you can trust me
Confession time -- for years, I failed to take advantage of a high credit score. I used my credit card for all my purchases and paid in full, but I was earning a flat rate of 1 point per $1 and redeeming it for cash back. I’m not keen on admitting this, but I even considered redeeming my points for a TV, which would have probably gotten me $0.005 per point at best.
Then I saw the light. Travel rewards credit cards piqued my interest, and I started applying for ones I liked. I’ve since used my cards and their sign-up bonuses to earn thousands of dollars in benefits. I know how much money I was leaving on the table before, and I’ve spent years learning how to maximize the value of excellent credit.
What is considered an excellent credit score?
The widely-used FICO® scoring model goes from 300 to 850, and one of the major credit bureaus, Experian, considers an excellent credit score to be from 800 to 850.
Other companies have their own idea of what an excellent credit score is and set the bar lower, such as a score of 720 or 740.
Once you have an excellent credit score, the exact number is more important for mortgages than it is for credit cards. You probably wouldn’t receive a denial on a credit card application because your score is 750 instead of 780. Either number will be good enough for just about any card. But that 30-point difference could change your annual percentage rate (APR) on a mortgage, causing you to pay thousands more over the lifespan of the loan.
How to take advantage of an excellent credit score
The basic idea behind taking advantage of an excellent credit score is that you leverage your score to improve your financial situation. How you do this will depend on what your current money goals are, but I’ve outlined your main options below.
Max out what you earn on your spending
If you don’t have any high-interest debt to pay off, then you’re free to focus on maximizing what you earn from your credit card. You can choose whether to do this with:
- Travel rewards cards -- These will earn points that you can redeem towards travel purchases.
- Cash-back cards -- These will earn you money back that you can redeem as a statement credit or check.
Carrying multiple cards
Contrary to the popular misconception, having multiple credit cards isn’t bad for your credit score. And with an excellent score, you have a good chance of getting approved for multiple cards.
How does having multiple credit cards help you earn more back? The first way, and the most significant, is the signup bonuses. It’s simple math - - getting four 50,000-point signup bonuses beats getting one. Those bonuses are how even someone relatively frugal can collect enough points to pay for all their travel.
The second is mixing and matching cards based on which cards earn the most back in each spending category. Since there are so many cards with different rewards rates, combining cards like this can help you earn much more on your everyday expenses. Here’s an example of how this could work with cash-back cards:
- Activate the rotating bonus categories on the Discover it® Cash Back every quarter so that you can earn up to 5% back in combined spending on those categories.
- Use the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card or Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card to earn 1.5% cash back on everything else.
That example uses cash-back cards, but you could do the same with travel rewards cards.
You should exercise caution here, as more credit cards means more to manage, and one late fee can wipe away a lot of hard work. But if you’re willing, multiple cards can pay off.
Refinance your debt
If you have debt, your credit score can help you refinance it, so you pay less in interest and only need to make one payment towards it per month. The two most common financial tools for this are balance transfer credit cards and personal loans.
With a balance transfer credit card, you can move all your credit card debt to one card. Although you’ll typically pay balance transfer fees for this, the best balance transfer cards offer low intro APR rates, sometimes even at 0%, so you’ll have time to pay off what you owe without accumulating any more interest.
A personal loan allows you to pay off any existing debt, and then pay the loan off in equal installments. There aren’t any 0% APR offers, but the best personal loans do offer low interest rates. And unlike credit cards, personal loans don’t require you to transfer balances or pay balance transfer fees.
Finance a purchase
I usually don’t recommend financing large purchases, as I’ve found it’s better to save enough money to pay for what I want outright and avoid the debt entirely. But if you really want or need something that’s out of your budget, you can apply for a 0% APR credit card and put the purchase on that.
The 0% APR will only be the intro rate (no bank would have much success offering 0% APR indefinitely). This means it’s imperative that you’re able to pay off your purchase in full before that intro period ends.
More on the cards to consider
he best credit card for excellent credit varies by person, since you need to pick the one that matches your needs. For one person, a card with fantastic travel rewards may be the top choice, but that same card wouldn’t be as useful if you needed to transfer balances.
Here are some of the best credit cards you’ll find for each of the goals mentioned above:
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card -- A high flat rate and easy-to-use rewards.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® -- Solid travel rewards and a reasonable annual fee.
- Discover it® Cash Back -- 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined spending per quarter at rotating spending categories after you activate the bonus rate, Discover matches the cash back you earn in your first year.
- Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card -- The biggest sign-up bonus ($200) with a low spending hurdle to qualify (spend just $500 within three months).
Balance transfers and 0% intro APR offers:
- Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card -- A lengthy intro period of 18 months.
- Chase Freedom® -- An intro period of 15 months and 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending per quarter at rotating spending categories after you activate the bonus rate.
Improve a high credit score
This may seem a bit redundant, but there are situations where you’d want to improve an excellent credit score. Maybe you’re planning to apply for a mortgage, or you could just be in pursuit of that mythical 850.
If your score is in the mid to high-700s, you probably already have a rock-solid payment history and low credit utilization. At this point, you’ll need to focus on those factors that make up a smaller portion of your credit score, which are:
- Length of credit history -- 15% of your score
- Recent credit inquiries -- 10% of your score
- Types of credit used -- 10% of your score
The optimum strategy is to keep new credit applications to a minimum (avoid them entirely if you can). You won’t add any credit inquiries this way, and you also won’t add new accounts that decrease your average account history length.
While you can diversify your types of credit by adding a loan to the mix, it wouldn’t be wise to do so solely for this purpose, because you’d need to pay interest on it for a minor bump to your credit score.
Maintaining your credit
If you’re satisfied with your credit score and just want to maintain it, then you’ll be fine applying for new credit as you please. The hard credit inquiry will have a negligible impact on your score, as the average drop is a mere five points. Your credit score can bounce back from that within a matter of months.
There’s no secrets needed to get a high score or to keep one. The only two financial habits you need are on-time payments and low credit utilization.
Why your application may be declined when you have excellent credit
One of the biggest perks of an excellent credit score is that when you apply for a new card, the odds are in your favor. But no credit score guarantees you a successful application. To help you avoid situations where you receive a denial despite a high credit score, it helps to understand the most common reasons that would happen:
- Insufficient income -- Card issuers will only extend you so much credit based on your income. If the minimum credit limit on a card is more than what the card issuer is willing to issue to you, then they won’t approve your application.
- Too much credit extended already -- When you have one or more credit cards with a card issuer, there could come a point where they’re unwilling to issue you any more credit. One method to get around this that has worked for me is asking a customer service representative to reduce the credit lines on my other cards, and then put that available credit towards the new card.
- Too many recent credit inquiries -- Card issuers get wary when they see several recent credit inquiries on your file, because there’s the risk of you either racking up huge balances you don’t pay or getting a card’s sign-up bonus, and then canceling the card. What constitutes too many inquiries varies by card issuer, and some are believed to have their own internal rules about this.
- Too many cards opened recently -- Closely related to the reason above, this is another area where card issuers seem to have their own internal rules that come into play. A confirmed restriction is Chase’s 5/24 rule, which automatically denies your Chase credit card application if you’ve opened five or more credit accounts in the previous 24 months.
As you can see, most of these issues relate to applying for new credit cards frequently, and you’re unlikely to run into any of them if it’s your first application in some time. The only exception is insufficient income, but you can get most credit cards with an annual salary in the $30,000 to $40,000 range, and potentially even less.
What to do if your application is denied
For one reason or another, you’ve probably seen the dreaded “We’re unable to approve you for a credit card at this time.” It’s even more frustrating to read this when you know you’re an ideal client, but it’s not the end of the road.
Whenever you have a denied application, you should contact the card issuer’s reconsideration line and ask them to take another look at it. Be sure to mention everything that demonstrates your financial responsibility -- never missing a payment, paying your bill in full, and so on.
With any luck, the representative will push your application through. If not, you can always call back and try again. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no, so this is a no-lose scenario.
Making the most of your credit
I’m not saying you should go out and apply for a dozen credit cards, but if you have an excellent credit score, you should absolutely get at least one card that helps you reach your financial goals. That could be paying off debt, or you could pick up a travel rewards card that helps cover your next vacation.
Card issuers want nothing more than for consumers with excellent credit to apply for their cards. They’ll offer benefits and bonuses worth hundreds of dollars or more just to get your business. When you know how to handle credit, you can cash in on your credit score.
To recap, here are the best credit cards for excellent credit
|Card||Top rewards||Best For…|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred®||
Up to $625 sign up bonus
Travel miles and points transfers
|Discover it® Cash Back||
Double cash back in the first year
Bonus cash back
|Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card||
3% back on groceries
Cash rewards program
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||
2 miles per $1
Flat-rate travel miles and sign-up bonus
|Capital One® Quicksilver® Card - 0% Intro APR for 15 Months||
1.5% cash back
Unlimited cash abck
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card||
50,000 bonus points
Premium travel rewards
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card||
25,000 bonus points
Travel card with no annual fee
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card||
$200 cash sign up bonus
Cash sign-up bonus
|Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card||
0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers and purchases