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

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, but it may come at a higher interest rate than someone who has super-prime credit.

Below, Select breaks down the credit score of a prime borrower and shares some of the best credit cards you can sign up for 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.

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 pay your monthly loan and credit card bills on time and in full than someone who is subprime. They have a greater confidence in lending you credit because they think 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 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.

For avid travelers, the Amex Gold Card is a great pick if you're looking to earn rewards every time you book a flight. Cardholders earn 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants and shop at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com and 1X points on all other eligible purchases. This card does have a $250 annual fee. (See rates and fees; terms apply.) (Read our full review of the Amex Gold Card.)

The Chase Freedom Flex offers a generous welcome bonus to new cardholders: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. This spend requirement is on the lower end for sign-up bonuses, plus there's no annual fee. (Read our full review of the Chase Freedom Flex.)

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 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening and 21 months on balance transfers from the date of first transfer (after, 19.24% - 29.99% variable APR; balance transfers must be completed within four months of account opening and you'll pay an introductory balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5). (Read our full review of the Citi Simplicity Card.)

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 716 in 2021, 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

For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.

Information about the Chase Freedom Flex℠, has been collected independently by Select 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 Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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