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The perks of having prime credit and the credit scores that qualify

CNBC Select defines what it means to have a prime credit score, some of the benefits and the best available credit cards for this type of borrower.

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Borrowers generally fall into two main types of classifications, depending on their credit score — prime or subprime.

Someone with prime credit may not have a perfect credit score, but it's high enough to qualify for the best, or "prime," interest rates.

For this reason, prime borrowers are likely to get approved for the best credit cards and top rewards, but it may come at a higher interest rate than someone who has super-prime credit.

Below, CNBC Select defines the credit score of a prime borrower, what it means and the best credit cards if you fall into this category.

The credit score of a prime borrower

A prime credit score falls within the range of 660 to 719, according to data from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Consumer Credit Panel.

It's important to note, however, that what classifies as a prime credit score can vary between lenders and different organizations. For example, Experian defines prime borrowers as those with credit scores of 670 or above.

Whichever bucket you fall into, a good rule of thumb is that those with good credit are considered prime consumers.

What it means to have prime credit

If you have prime credit, lenders see you as more likely to make your monthly loan payments and credit card bills on time and in full than someone who is subprime. They have a greater confidence in lending you credit because you pose less of a risk of defaulting.

As a prime borrower, you will receive higher credit limits than those who are subprime, but you may not get offered the most favorable terms, such as the lowest interest rate on your mortgage, like someone with a super-prime score would.

To see an example of this, let's look at current interest rates on a 30-year fixed mortgage. For context, a 30-year fixed mortgage means a mortgage that is completely paid off in 30 years at an interest rate and monthly payment that stays the same over the life of the loan.

Using FICO credit scores and their home purchasing data from Informa Research Services, we calculated what the national average APR and monthly payment would be for homeowners of various credit score ranges on a $300,000 mortgage. The far-left column represents borrower profiles based on credit score, as defined by the CFPB Consumer Credit Panel.

Below is the table that breaks down the data:

FICO® score APR Monthly payment
Super-prime borrower760-8502.843%$1,240
Prime/Super-prime borrower700-7593.065%$1,275
Prime borrower680-6993.242%$1,304
Prime borrower660-6793.456%$1,340
Near-prime borrower640-6593.886%$1,413
Near-prime borrower620-6394.432%$1,508

As you can see above, the interest rates increase slightly as the credit score ranges go down. The monthly payments, in accordance with the interest rates, increase as well. You'll notice that a prime borrower would fall at least at the 660-679 mark, incurring an interest rate of 3.456% and making a monthly payment of $1,340 — a savings of between $73 and $168 per month compared to what someone with near-prime credit would pay.

The best credit cards for prime borrowers

Just like super-prime borrowers, prime borrowers have many options when it comes to choosing which credit card to apply for.

Here are some credit cards to take advantage of if you have good credit as a prime borrower:

Prime credit consumers should take a look at their spending habits when they go shopping for a new credit card. Three of the four cards above offer rewards, but in different categories.

For avid travelers, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a great pick that will earn you 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠ and 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase.

The Chase Freedom, on the other hand, puts $200 cash back into your wallet when you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months, which is on the lower end for sign-up bonus spending requirements.

For no annual fee, cardholders of the well-rounded Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card receive 3X points on dining (including ordering in), gas, transit, flights, hotels, car rentals and streaming services (including Apple Music, Hulu, Netflix and Spotify Premium) and 1X points on all other purchases. Points can be redeemed for travel, cash, gift cards and more.

And if rewards aren't at all important to you, the Citi Simplicity Card is your best bet with an introductory 0% APR for the first 18 months on balance transfers and purchases (after, 14.74% to 24.74% variable APR).

Learn more: Read a full breakdown of our best credit cards for good credit.

Bottom line

With the average FICO score in the U.S. hitting a record high of 703 in 2019, latest consumer credit data shows that the average borrower classifies as having prime credit. This indicates that most consumers with a credit score can likely access lending when they need it — a noteworthy consideration for the current global pandemic and economic recession we're in, when access to funding has definitely become a bit more limited.

Despite the current situation, know that having prime credit is a good goal to aim for since it will open the doors for many types of credit cards and loans. 

While you work on maintaining your good credit score — by paying your bills on time and in full every month and keeping your credit utilization low — know that you are on the path forward to having super-prime credit.

Don't miss: Deep subprime borrowers incur $1,599 more interest on the average credit card balance than super-prime borrowers

Information about the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card, Citi Simplicity® Card, and Chase Freedom® has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.