Home > Credit Cards > I Can’t Get a High-End Rewards Credit Card. What Are My Options?

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Many credit card users love the idea of earning valuable points, miles or cash back. But not every applicant gets approved for a premium rewards card.

The reason is typically a low credit score due certain missteps, like bankruptcy, foreclosure, collection accounts, or missed payments. Other people may have their applications for a rewards card denied simply because they lack a credit history.

But just because your application was denied doesn’t mean you should give up on credit cards altogether. Here are a few of your options.

1. Seek Reward Cards for Fair Credit

The vast majority of reward credit cards are made for consumers with good or excellent credit — particularly those with the most competitive cash back rewards and cards that offer extra points, miles and perks to put toward airline and hotel programs. But there are a few cards out there that offer rewards to consumers with fair or average credit. (Fair credit is generally defined as having a credit score between 650 and 699.) These cards may offer less lucrative rewards or carry higher rates and fees than their premium counterparts.

For instance, Capital One’s QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, available to those with fair/average credit, allows cardholders to earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases, but carries a $39 annual fee and a 26.74% (Variable) APR, once the introductory APR expires. Its standard Quicksilver Cash Rewards credit card, available to those with good or excellent credit, allows cardholders to earn the same rewards, but doesn’t charge them an annual fee, and has a broader purchase APR range, after the introductory period expires.

Those with fair credit may also qualify for the Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard. It features double points on all gas, utility and grocery store purchases, and one point for every dollar spent elsewhere. Points can be redeemed for bank deposits, statement credits or gift cards starting at 1,000 points for $10. The card has no annual fee, but does tout a 25.24% variable purchase annual percentage rate, so be wary of carrying a balance (a best practice among rewards cardholders generally, since otherwise you’ll lose your points, miles or cash back to interest.)

2. Apply for a Non-Rewards Card

Although you won’t rack up rewards, there are some advantages to carrying non-rewards cards. First, there is a broad selection of non-rewards cards offered by major card issuers to applicants with fair credit. In addition, a non-rewards card will often have a lower standard interest rate than a similar card with rewards. So if you’re prone to overspending, particularly to net rewards and discounts, you might be better off with this type of credit card anyway. And many non-reward cards can still offer the security and convenience of reward credit cards, as well as valuable benefits like travel insurance and purchase protection. Just be sure to read the terms and conditions of any credit card you are considering carefully to be sure it’s right for you.

3. Consider a Secured Card

If your credit score is below 650, consider applying for a secured credit card. Secured cards work much like other credit cards, except that applicants are required to submit a refundable deposit before the account can be opened. Once that happens, secured card holders can enjoy many of the protections and benefits of a credit card. As with any other card, they must make a payment every month. When payments are made on time, secured card users should ultimately see their credit scores improve so that they can qualify for a traditional credit card.

Some secured cards even offer rewards. The Discover it Secured offers cardholders 1% cash back on every purchase and 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. It carries no annual fee and a  APR. U.S. Bank also offers several secured cards that feature rewards with partners such as Aeromexico, Korean Air and Harley-Davidson.

4. Work on Your Credit Score

Just because you weren’t approved for a rewards credit card doesn’t mean you should be discouraged. By considering other cards, you can still access credit. And that will give an opportunity to work on improving your credit score so you can qualify for some premium plastic in the future. To build good credit in the long-term, you want to focus on making all loan payments on-time, keeping debt levels low and adding a mix of accounts over-time as your score and wallet can handle it.

And if your score is currently less than stellar, you can generally fix your credit by disputing errors on your credit report, identifying your credit score killers and coming up with a game plan to address them. (If you don’t know where your credit currently stands, you can view a free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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