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Best credit cards for fair credit of August 2020

With responsible use, the right credit card – and yes, there are plenty of excellent options for fair credit scores from our partners – can help you move your average credit score into the excellent range and open up even more options for rewards, perks and features.
Brooklyn Lowery, CardRatings Senior Manager Last Updated, July 30, 2020

Our credit card articles, reviews and ratings maintain strict editorial integrity; however we may be compensated when you click on or are approved for offers (terms apply) from our partners. How we make money.

best credit cards for fair credit You obviously want excellent terms for your credit cards, but, unfortunately, your credit score doesn't quite make it into the "excellent" range (yet!). These days, credit scores dictate most offers from reputable lending institutions, with a few tiered categories in which you can fall: excellent, good, fair/average and poor/bad/limited/no credit. If you fall into the fair/average range, don't give up hope on a getting a decent credit card!

LIST OF WINNERS

There are some superb options out there and with responsible use you could do some good for your score overall and soon find yourself qualifying for even better offers. Here are CardRatings' picks for the top credit cards for people with fair/average credit.

BEST CASH-BACK CREDIT CARDS FOR FAIR CREDIT

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card is great because there are no categories; you earn cash back with every purchase. If you don't qualify for Capital One's very best offer, the bank's system will suggest one or two similar deals, though often those will have higher finance charges.

The Bonus: Once you've established a solid payment history with the bank you can request credit line increases, new features or even check to see if you qualify for an even better offer.

The Rewards: Earn 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase with no categories, caps or deadlines to consider. Your cash back doesn't expire as long as your account remains open.

The Annual Fee: $39

Credit Needed: Average, Fair, Limited

PROS:

  • As far as annual fees go, this one is quite reasonable for the rewards you'll be able to earn with a Fair credit score.
  • Includes some nice features that often come with credit cards, and are nice to have, like travel accident insurance, roadside assistance and an extended warranty protection plan.
  • Capital One will automatically consider you for a higher credit limit in as little as six months.

CONS:

  • There's a $39 annual fee? (That's right. We're listing the annual fee as both a pro and a con.) Sure, it's reasonable (a pro), but there are no-annual-fee options for Fair credit.
  • There's no big and glorious welcome bonus to see here. Actually, there's no welcome bonus at all.

Read our full Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

3
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Being able to pre-qualify without a hard inquiry on your credit report sells us immediately on this card. Plus, you can choose your monthly due date (terms apply) AND earn cash back – rewards cards are a bit hard to come by at this credit-needed level. This is a great card for those looking to boost their credit standing with responsible use.

The Bonus: There isn't a traditional bonus with this card.

The Rewards: Earn 1% cash back on your eligible purchases and up to 10% cash back when you shop with participating merchants (the list is updated often).

The Annual Fee: $0 - $99

Credit Needed: Fair

PROS:

  • You can choose what date you pay your monthly payment.
  • You'll receive "unauthorized charge protection," so if somebody uses your card for a purchase that you didn't authorize, you don't have to pay it. The card promotes it, and it's worth knowing, which is why we're mentioning it, but you'll want to keep in mind that this is standard with any good credit card.
  • You'll receive free access to your credit score. Every month, you can look at your Experian credit score and view a summary of their credit report.

CONS:

  • It's always nice to earn some cash back on every purchase, but 1% is a low flat rate.
  • There are some fees to be aware of, such as a foreign transaction fee and an authorized user fee, as well as the annual fee that could be as high as $99.
  • Your initial credit limit may be pretty low, in the beginning, like around $300. That's not unusual for a card available to this credit score range, but is something to be aware of.
4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Not only is this cash-back rewards card available to people with fair/average credit, you actually don't have to have any credit history for approval. Plus, it encourages responsible credit card use by offering you a higher rewards rate after making 12 on-time payments.

The Bonus: It's not a traditional bonus, but if you make 12 on-time payments you'll start earning 1.5% cash back on every purchase instead of the standard 1%. Furthermore, you can earn up to 10% cash back when you use your card with select merchants.

The Rewards: Earn 1% cash back on eligible purchases. You can increase that percentage to 1.5% cash back by making 12 payments on time.

The Annual Fee: N/A

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good, Limited History

PROS:

  • It has a higher than normal credit limit, from $500 to $10,000, though it is extremely unlikely many cardholders will qualify close to $10,000. But it's possible.
  • Earning 1% cash back on your purchases is pretty good, but this card encourages paying your bills responsibly by offering you 1.5% back afther you make 12 payments on time.
  • It has some perks (which is pretty unusual for a credit card aimed at people with no credit), such as free credit score tracking, auto rental collision insurance, theft coverage and roadside dispatch.

CONS:

  • You can't use this card for cash advances, which are expensive, anyway, so honestly, you could and should see this as a plus.
  • The APR is fairly high, which isn't unusual for a card for Fair to no credit history. Just commit to not carrying a balance and this won't be a problem for you.
  • There isn't a big welcome bonus, which is pretty standard for a credit card designed for people with little credit history, but still, that may make you want to look around and see if you can find another credit card that you would prefer more.

Read our full Petal® Visa® Credit Card review.

BEST INTRO 0% APR CREDIT CARDS FOR FAIR CREDIT

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: A strong cash rewards setup, no foreign transaction fees, a nice 0% intro APR period and more set this card apart for people with Fair credit.

The Bonus:  Earn a $150 cash back bonus when you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days of account opening.

Intro 0% APR details: Enjoy an intro 0% APR on purchases for six months (then, 9.65% - 18.00% Variable)

The Rewards: Earn 1.5% cash backon all your purchases.

Annual Fee: $0

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good, Fair

PROS:

  • This card offers a relatively low ongoing APR, and that's after you enjoy that intro 0% APR on purchases (then, 9.65% - 18.00% Variable).
  • Pay no foreign transaction, balance transfer, cash advance or annual fees.
  • The perks are really nice, like the cell phone insurance, which ranges from $250 to $600 worth of insurance for up to three phones. You do, of course, have to pay for your phone service with this credit card.

CONS:

  • Well, if you get excited about getting this card, and you then realize you need to be a member of the Navy Federal Credit Union, you will be disappointed and consider this membership rule a strike against the card.
  • As with any flat-rate rewards card, if maximizing rewards earning is your priority, you'll do better with a tiered or rotating categories card (proably alongside a flat-ra CREDIT CARDS FOR FAIR CREDIT
3
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® gives students both the chance to build credit and to earn cash back rewards for making purchases. So it rewards good behavior and in theory, that should help new cardholders develop lifelong financial habits that can keep them in good stead with lenders. (Just don't carry a balance if you can help it; the card has a 26.99% (Variable) APR). Capital One® can help remind you to pay things off, though. With this card, you can set up your account so that you receive text alerts and email reminders to help you keep track of your spending.

The Bonus: Considered for a higher line of credit in as little as six months.

The Rewards: The cash back rate is 1% on all purchases, and it's unlimited. However, when you pay your monthly bill on time, you'll earn 1.25% back on all purchases instead.

The Annual Fee: $0

Credit Needed: Average, Fair, Limited

PROS:

  • If you're traveling anywhere and lose your card or run out of money or something else goes wrong, you can call travel assistance services. They can get you money, send you a replacement card, talk to you for awhile until you no longer feel homesick...
  • No annual fee, which is always appreciated.
  • You get to pick the due date that you want to make your payments on. This is not a standard feature on every credit card (but it should be), and so it's definitely a nice little perk.

CONS:

  • The rewards are great, but there's no big welcome bonus to make you feel, well, welcome.
  • It's a card for students, so if that isn't you, you'll need to keep looking for a card to help you build your credit.

Read our full Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® review.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card is full of perks. To start, you can earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, online shopping, and more, up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases, automatically. And all of this comes with no annual fee.

The Bonus: Discover will match all the cash back you earn during your first year as a cardholder. Earn $200 cash back and that will become $400 cash back at the end of the first year.

The Rewards: Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, online shopping, and more, up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate

Annual Fee: See Terms

Credit Needed: Fair, New to Credit

PROS:

  • If somehow your Social Security number winds up on one of the websites in the Dark Web or other questionable places online, Discover will alert you as part of the included monitoring of your Social Security number. It's the kind of feature that's easy to overlook – until the day it saves you from an identity theft nightmare.
  • You'll be happy to see that there is no annual fee, but there are still decent rewards and even a potentially substantial bonus opportunity.
  • And if you go crazy with your spending and over the card's limit, there is no over limit fee.

CONS:

  • Being Discover, the card isn't as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard, and so that may be frustrating to you occasionally, but Discover it regularly expanding its network, so this really may never be an issue.
  • The cash back bonus opportunity is impressive (and as lucrative as you want it to be), but for impatient cardholders, you might be frustrated that you have to wait a year to get it rather than getting something big in the first few months.

Read our full Discover it® Student Cash Back review.

BEST NO-ANNUAL-FEE CREDIT CARDS FOR FAIR CREDIT

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Sometimes finding a card for average or fair credit can feel like all you're doing is settling for more fees and fewer services or perks; with this card, there's no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and the opportunity to gain access to a higher credit limit fairly quickly with responsible use.

The Bonus: There's not a traditional bonus with this card, but you can gain access to a higher credit limit in as little as six months. You could consider that a bonus for good behavior of sorts.

The Rewards: You won't earn rewards, but you will have a card that allows you to rebuild your credit with responsible use and without paying loads of fees or even a security deposit. Use it responsibly and you could find yourself in a position to qualify for a rewards card at some point in not-too-distant future.

The Annual Fee: $0

Credit Needed: Average, Fair, Limited

PROS:

  • You can change the monthly due date by up to 15 days so that it better aligns with your paychecks or other bills.
  • Feel free to travel internationally with this card. There are no foreign transaction fees to worry about.
  • Obviously, you don't want to reach your limit on any credit card, but should that happen, Capital One doesn't charge an over-the-limit fee.

CONS:

  • This is not a credit card you get for the rewards (because there are none) but rather one you get to use responsibly and build your credit.
  • There isn't an exciting welcome bonus either.
  • This is also not a card you would want to carry a balance on for long as it charges a pretty high APR, which isn't uncommon for credit cards available to those with fair credit. Still, it's something ot be aware of.

Read our full Capital One® Platinum Credit Card review.

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: One of the toughest things to get a handle on when it comes to credit cards is how interest can compound and quickly turn a manageable molehill of a balance into an impossible mountain of debt. This card helps cardholders avoid that scenario with a payment schedule of regular fixed payments.

The Bonus: There's no traditional bonus available with this card, but you could consider the bonus the fact that responsible use can lead to a higher credit score.

The Rewards: The card does not yet offer a rewards program, but there are plans to add one in the future that will be tied to successfully making payments on time rather than on actually swiping your card.

The Annual Fee: $0

Credit Needed: Fair

PROS:

  • There's the possibility of a very low APR for cardholders with excellent credit. If your credit history is mediocre to terrible, though, you'll likely have a higher APR, but still enjoy the regular payments feature of this card.
  • This card gives you access to a line of credit instead of a traditional credit card credit limit. That's what enables the system of fixed regular payments rather than differing payments based on your spending each month.
  • Because this is a line of credit, you can transfer money directly to a bank account for withdrawal and not incur a cash advance fee.

CONS:

  • There's no way to get cash from an ATM as with a traditional cash advance. You'll need to transfer the money to your bank account and then take a withdrawal if that's what you choose to do. The good news is that you won't incur cash advance fees as you would with a traditional card.
  • The card is aimed at people with poor credit history but not with no credit history. So if that's you, you may have trouble getting this card.

Read our full Upgrade Card review.

BEST REWARDS CREDIT CARDS FOR FAIR CREDIT

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: There are some serious points availble with this card, which is highly unusual for a card available to those with fair/average credit. Combine that with the other strong protections and features it offers, and this card is a winner for those who qualify.

The Bonus: Earn 30,000 bonus points (that's equal to $300) when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days of account opening.

The Rewards: Earn three points per $1 spent on food delivery, gas, supermarket and transit purchases and one point per $1 spent on everything else.

The Annual Fee: $0

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good, Fair

PROS:

  • In most cases (read the terms and conditions), you won't have a cash advance fee (but you will have the cash advance APR, so best to not take out cash from an ATM with your credit card).
  • You can take your credit card anywhere in the world. There are no foreign transaction fees to worry about.
  • Some nice perks, such as extended warranties on products you buy and lowest advertised price matches, as well as a really nice rewards earning rate.

CONS:

  • You do have to be a member of the Navy Federal Credit Union, which is great for its members but not so great for everyone else. If you love the idea of having this card but haven't served in the military and don't have active or retired family members in the military, you'll need to look for a credit card elsewhere.
  • There isn't currently a 0% APR promotion, so don't plan on using this card and having extra time to pay off a big purchases interest-free.

BEST SECURED CREDIT CARD FOR FAIR CREDIT

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It:: This card allows you to build or rebuild your credit, but doesn't lock you into a specific refundable security deposit. You can choose what amount to deposit and establish your credit limit from $200-$3,000.

The Rewards: The reward is the opportunity to build your credit, but still have some flexibility with your security deposit. Use the card responsibly and you could go a long way toward increasing your credit score into a new tier, opening up a whole new range of credit card offers.

The Annual Fee: $35

Credit Needed: Fair/Poor/Bad/No Credit

PROS:

  • While this isn't a card known for having a lot of perks (it's primary purpose is helping you build a better credit score or hisotry with responsible use), your card does come with auto rental insurance.
  • There's no credit check required for your to apply.
  • The variable APR is decent for a secured credit card. Sure, we've seen lower APRs on credit cards in general, but we've also seen much higher.

CONS:

  • You probably wouldn't want to travel far (internationally) with this card. There is a 3% foreign transaction fee.
  • While the annual fee isn't high, you will have to pay that in addition to the security deposit. There are secured cards available that don't charge an annual fee.
  • You definitely don't want to apply for this card, get accepted and then stop using it for a long period of time. After 12 months of no activity, you'll get a $10 inactive account fee (every month!).

Read our full OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card review,.

CAN I GET A CREDIT CARD WITH FAIR CREDIT?

Yes, several credit card companies offer cards to those with fair credit. While you may not be able to get some of the most popular rewards or travel cards, there are many options from which to choose.

A fair credit score ranges from 580-669 on the current FICO scoring system, according to credit reporting company Experian. While many companies use FICO scores to make lending decisions, other use VantageScore. On this system, a credit score of 601-660 is considered fair.

If your score is on the lower end, you may need to get a secured credit card. A secured card requires a deposit that is often equal to your initial credit line. While that may seem unappealing, a secured credit card can be a useful tool to raise your credit score and open the door to better cards in the future.

However, many people with fair credit scores can be approved for unsecured cards which do not require a deposit. Some of these cards are designed with students in mind while others have benefits that anyone might find valuable.

There are even some rewards credit cards available to those with average or fair credit. For instance, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases and the Petal® Visa® Credit Card provides 1% cash back.

Credit cards for those with fair credit can come with annual fees or high interest rates though, so just be aware of this. While it's best to pay off what you charge each month, if you think you'll be carrying a balance, you might want to consider an intro 0% APR card instead.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

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