What Credit Score Do I Need to Get an American Express Card?

What Credit Score Do I Need to Get an American Express Card? article image.

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The credit score needed to qualify for an American Express credit card depends on the card and its issuer. You can get an Amex card through a variety of card issuers, each of which will have its own standards for approval. Most American Express cards are issued by the company itself, however, so you'll want to familiarize yourself with their expectations.

Those who are unsure whether they'll qualify for an American Express credit card may benefit from a limited-eligibility pilot program that allows card applicants to know with certainty if they'll be approved without impacting their credit score. (Your score could still be affected if you are approved and choose to accept the card, however.) If you're thinking about getting an Amex credit card, here's what to know about eligibility.

Is There a Minimum Score Needed for an American Express Card?

Credit score requirements can vary depending on the credit card and its issuer. In addition to being a card issuer, American Express is a credit card payment network (like Visa, Mastercard and Discover), which means other companies are able to issue Amex cards as well. As a result, it might be possible to qualify for American Express credit cards whether your credit is stellar or less so.

While each card issuer has its own way of categorizing credit scores, here are the general ranges, according to FICO:

  • Exceptional: 800 to 850
  • Very good: 740 to 799
  • Good: 670 to 739
  • Fair: 580 to 669
  • Very poor: 300 to 579

If you're getting a credit card directly from American Express, you'll generally need good credit to qualify. If you have fair credit, though, you may be able to get an Amex card from a different credit card issuer.

American Express Prequalification and Preapproval

If you're not sure your credit is good enough to qualify for a credit card with American Express, you can submit a request for prequalification through the card issuer's website.

Prequalification starts when you seek out a credit card issuer and provide some information to see whether you might qualify for a particular offer. With credit cards, prequalification might be used interchangeably with preapproval, but they are different processes. Preapproval involves a credit card issuer asking a credit bureau for a list of those who meet the specific factors they have in mind. Preapproved consumers are then typically contacted by the card issuer and invited to apply.

A limited-availability American Express prequalification process allows applicants to know with certainty if they'll be approved for the card without affecting their credit score. Due to the resulting hard credit inquiry, however, your credit score may be impacted if you are approved and choose to accept the card.

The new application experience is currently available for individuals applying for a U.S. personal card via Experian, at AmericanExpress.com/us/credit-cards, or by calling American Express and is not available if you apply for a Card after you log into an existing Card Member Account.

Things to Keep in Mind When Applying for an American Express Card

If you're thinking about applying for an American Express credit card, there are some things to understand before you start the process.

How to Apply

The application process can vary a bit depending on which credit card issuer you're applying with. However, you'll generally need to provide more information than you would during prequalification.

Your application may need to include your:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Employer identification number (if it's a small business credit card)
  • Contact information
  • Financial information, such as income
  • Employment information, including how long you've been at your current job
  • Housing status and costs

If you want to add an authorized user, you'll also typically indicate that in the online application. Once you submit the application, you'll typically get one of three responses within seconds: an approval, a denial or a pending decision. Keep in mind that identity theft prevention measures such as a frozen or locked credit file can prevent an immediate decision from being made, but can't prevent you from being approved.

With the new, limited-availability American Express application process, you can find out with 100% certainty if you'll be approved for the card without affecting your credit score. Once you're approved, you'll just have to accept the card, which will result in a hard inquiry that could reduce your credit score by a couple of points temporarily.

If you're notified that the card issuer's decision is pending, you'll typically get an answer within seven to 10 business days.

Understand How Welcome Offers Work

Like many other credit card issuers, American Express provides upfront incentives called welcome offers to new cardholders. These initiatives allow you to earn a bonus when you meet a minimum spending requirement in the first few months.

However, American Express only allows you to earn a card's welcome offer once. This means that if you've had a certain American Express card before and canceled it, you can't get its welcome offer ever again.

Other card issuers may have similar restrictions, so make sure you do your research before applying.

Use Your Credit Card Responsibly

Regardless of where you get your credit card, it's crucial that you develop good credit card habits. For starters, it's important to pay your bill on time every month to avoid missing a payment, which can hurt your credit score and result in a fee.

Also, make it a goal to pay your balance in full every month, which will ensure you never pay interest. If you can't pay back what you charge to your card, consider using cash or a debit card to avoid overspending.

Finally, it's critical that you keep your credit card balance as low as possible. Your credit card balances affect your credit utilization, which is an important factor in your credit scores. If you're constantly bumping up against your credit limit, that could be seen as risky behavior by lenders and credit scoring models, even if you pay your bill in full every month. When your balance climbs above 30% of your credit limit you risk credit score harm. There's no hard-and-fast rule, but the lower, the better.

How to Improve Your Credit Score Before Applying

Even if you meet the minimum requirements to get an American Express credit card—or any other card for that matter—it's still usually a good idea to work on your credit score for a better chance of approval, or better terms such as a lower interest rate.

Here are some things you can do to improve your credit:

  • Pay your bills on time every month.
  • Get caught up on past-due payments and accounts in collections.
  • Get added as an authorized user on a family member's credit card account with a positive history.
  • Use Experian Boost®ø to get credit for on-time utility, cellphone and streaming payments.
  • Pay down credit card balances and keep them low.
  • Avoid closing unused credit card accounts.
  • Take on new credit only when necessary.
  • Dispute inaccurate information on your credit reports.

Building credit can take some time, but as you start making positive changes, you may start seeing results as quickly as a few months. Experian Boost can help you improve your scores instantly. Before you apply for a credit card, check your credit score to see where you stand. Then use an online tool like Experian CreditMatch™ to get an idea of which cards are accessible based on your credit profile. CreditMatch can pair you with cards suitable for your unique credit profile, so it's a great resource if you're unsure where to start.

Continue to Monitor Your Credit After Approval

After you've gotten approved for a new credit card, avoid the urge to ignore your credit until the next time you want to apply for a credit card or loan. You can get a free credit report weekly from all three credit bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com. This can help you keep a close eye on any changes.

Additionally, you can use Experian's credit monitoring tool to stay on top of your credit. Experian provides free access to your FICO® Score powered by Experian data and access to your Experian credit report. You'll also get real-time alerts when new information is added to your report, including inquiries, accounts, personal information and suspicious activity.

Finally, if you notice something is amiss on your Experian credit report, you can file and track disputes directly through the Experian platform.

Fortunately, monitoring your credit doesn't take as much work as actively working to improve your credit score, so it's a good idea to keep an eye on where you stand, so you can address potential problems as they arise and help ensure you're credit-ready the next time you want to apply.