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Best credit cards for fair credit from our partners

Updated, September 18, 2018

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You obviously want excellent terms for your credit cards, but, unfortunately, your credit score doesn't quite make it into the "excellent" range. 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! There are some good 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.

Cash-back credit card for fair credit

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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, usually with annual fees or higher finance charges.

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

The Annual Fee: $39

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

Credit Needed: Average, Fair, Limited


Lower interest credit card for fair credit

USAA® Secured Card Visa Platinum® Card

Why We Like It:  Finding a zero-interest card for fair credit is next to impossible; however, this card does offer qualified applicants a lower-than-many cards' interest rate of 11.65% to 21.65% Variable.

The Annual Fee: $35

The Rewards: This isn't a rewards card; rather its primary feature is that it offers a fairly low APR given it's status as a secured card, which is reward enough if you need to carry a balance and are trying to avoid a sky-high interest rate. It's really designed for people who are looking to rebuild their credit with responsible credit card use. USAA membership is limited, so not everyne will qualify. But if you do and this card fits your needs, it's a solid choice.

Credit Needed: None/Limited History, Poor, Fair


Student card for fair credit

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Why We Like It:  Discover rewards good grades by offering students $20 statement credit each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to five years. Additionally, you receive a 0 percent APR on purchases for six months from the time of account opening (after the intro period, the APR becomes 14.99% - 23.99% Variable). What we love best, though, is that all the cash back you earn during your first year, will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, by Discover. That means $200 in cash back is actually $400 in cash back after your first year.

The Bonus: ALL the cash back you earn during your first year will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, by Discover.

The Annual Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn 5 percent back up to the quarterly maximum in categories that rotate each quarter (you must activate the bonus each quarter). Earn 1 percent back on all your other purchases and in the bonus categories after your reach the quarterly cap. Read our full Discover it® Student Cash Back review.

Credit Needed: Fair


No-annual-fee card for fair credit

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Why We Like It: Sometimes finding a card for average 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 after making your first five monthly payments on time – you could consider that a bonus for good behavior of sorts.

The Annual Fee: $0

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.

Credit Needed: Average, Fair, Limited


Rewards card for fair credit

NASCAR® Credit Card from Credit One Bank®

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 rewards – 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 Annual Fee:$0 - $99

The Rewards: Earn 1 percent cash back on your eligible purchases and double cash back on purchases at the NASCAR.com superstore.

Credit Needed: Fair


Secured credit card for fair credit

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

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 Annual Fee: $35

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

Credit Needed: Fair/Poor/Bad/No Credit


Learn more about credit scores

Don't know your credit score? Read this first!

A credit score is a number that credit card issuers use to evaluate you. You'll often see this referred to as your FICO score, though there are other companies that produce credit scores. It considers such factors as your history of paying bills on time, how much available credit and existing debt you have, how long you have maintained various financial accounts and is designed to help a lender evaluate whether you are a risky borrower. Credit card issuers use credit scores to decide whether to approve your application, to set your credit limit and, in many cases, to determine what your APR will be on a card for which you qualify.

CardRatings recommends that you do not apply for credit cards without understanding where your credit scores stands. If you apply for multiple cards and are denied repeatedly, these multiple credit card inquiries can (and likely will) end up lowering your credit, thereby making it even more difficult to qualify for a card. If you don't know your credit score, sign up for a free credit score, credit report card, as well as a personal credit analysis with our preferred partner, Credit Sesame. And if your credit score isn't strong, fret not – there are cards suited for every credit tier. Click the links on the right to find a card that matches your credit or jump to CardRatings' picks for "Best Cards for Fair Credit Scores".
Credit Score
Rating
 
 
720-850
Excellent
Click here to see offers for Excellent credit
 
690-719
Good
Click here to see offers for Good credit
 
630-689
Fair
Click here to see offers for Fair credit
 
300-629
Poor
Click here to see offers for Poor credit
 
 

Generally speaking, you'll need a FICO score of at least 630 (out of a possible 850) to qualify for a traditional, unsecured credit card. In fact, scores from about 630-689 are considered "fair/average." Of course, your credit history, income and housing costs also will play into what you can get.

The majority of Americans today fall in the "fair/average" to "good" range. Though it doesn't seem like it would make a huge difference, cracking the 680 credit score can actually reap a large reward, like lower rates, more offers and better rewards.

So what are some of the top cards for people with 630-689 credit scores? Remember, each lender makes its own definitions for "good" and "fair." For instance, a 680 credit score without a lot of available income probably won't get you far with issuers like Chase or American Express. On the other hand, positive cash flow and stability on your credit report can inspire some lenders to take a chance on you even if your score is in the middle range of "fair."

Keep in mind, a credit score of 650 isn't terrible, but it's not exactly considered tops in the class either. That said, some credit card issuers consider 650 good or reasonably decent, and so you should be able to get a credit card without too much difficulty. It won't, however, be a card with a low purchase APR, but you already know that.

A few years ago, your 680 FICO score would have landed you in the "very good" to "excellent" range. In today's post-Great Recession lending market, however, that 680 lands you toward the upper end of "fair/average." Let it slide below 650 and you could find it difficult to qualify for a traditional credit card.

That said, no one knows any of the trade secrets that credit card issuers use when determining who gets a credit card and who doesn't, but keep in mind that FICO scores aren't everything. If you still have trouble getting approved, there may be other things in your credit history that are keeping you from getting a credit card with decent terms.

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