Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit
In personal finance circles, credit cards can have a bad rap for encouraging negative spending habits and causing cardholders to accrue unnecessary debt that could otherwise be avoided. Although credit cards are a double-edged sword for some, they also help you build credit, which can be crucial to bulking up your credit history and getting a solid credit score.
As you’re building credit (perhaps even repairing it after some stupid purchases in your early 20s), you may be interested in opening a new credit line. However, you might have the preconceived notion that the best credit cards with the best cashback rewards, introductory APR, and other perks are only for those with a perfect credit profile. While it’s true that there are some great credit card offers out there for folks with solid creditworthiness, it’s possible to qualify for good cards with average credit — or even bad credit.
Whether you’re looking for cash back, balance transfers, intro APR, lower interest rates, or a higher credit line, you can qualify for cards with a fair credit score. The only question then becomes which card to choose! From rewards programs to no annual fees, it seems like there’s a credit card for every possible iteration of your wants and needs. Here’s a helpful overview of some of the best credit cards to consider opening if you have fair credit.
- Overview of the best credit cards for fair credit
- Best credit cards for fair credit
- Summary table of the best credit cards for fair credit
- Why should (or shouldn’t) you apply for credit card with fair credit?
- The bottom line
Overview of the best credit cards for fair credit
|Credit Card||Best for|
|Capital One QuickSilverOne Cash Rewards||Credit builders who want some perks|
|Discover it Cash Back||Cashback junkies who need to make a balance transfer|
|Petal 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa Credit Card||Students interested in responsible credit building|
|Credit One Bank Platinum Rewards Visa||Fans of cashback looking to build their credit|
|Credit One Bank American Express Card||People wanting to take advantage of everything that comes with an AmEx card|
|Chase Freedom Flex||Consumers on the high end of fair credit|
Best credit cards for fair credit
Capital One QuickSilverOne Cash Rewards credit card
If you’re interested in cashback rewards, Capital One offers an easy-to-understand, flat-rate model for getting cashback on your purchases. For each purchase you make with your Capital One QuickSilverOne Cash Rewards credit card, you’ll get unlimited 1.5% cashback. This means that on a purchase of $1,500, you’ll get $22.50 back as a statement credit. While that might not seem like a lot, every little bit helps in keeping your card paid in full each month, so it’s nothing to sneeze at.
Another major perk of the Capital One QuickSilverOne Cash Rewards credit card is that Capital One will automatically consider you for a credit limit increase after six months of usage. You have to ask for an increase on other cards manually, so this perk is a great feature for folks interested in building their credit responsibly and with an eye towards their actual spending habits.
Beyond cashback and an automatic credit line increase, the Capital One QuickSilverOne Cash Rewards credit card also offers some perks that travelers can appreciate. With no foreign transaction fees, you can swipe with confidence whether you’re traveling on the European tour of your dreams or making the flight to Australia you’ve always dreamed of. Even so, you will pay an annual cardholder fee of $39 and miss out on promotional APR for regular purchases and balance transfers with the Capital One QuickSilverOne Cash Rewards credit card.
The Capital One QuickSilverOne Cash Rewards credit card also gives cardholders access to Capital One Shopping, which will automatically apply eligible coupons at check out to help you save even more money. Again, when it comes to managing your money — especially your credit — more responsibly, any way to save money can be a godsend, so this feature is worth considering as you weigh your options against each other.
Discover it Cash Back
If you love the idea of getting free money just for using your credit card for everyday spending, you’ll love Discover it Cash Back card. While your credit limit and regular APR may not be the greatest with fair credit, that shouldn’t stop you from seeking out one of the top cards when it comes to revolving cash back categories.
Each quarter, Discover will highlight different spending categories (ranging from gas stations and grocery stores to restaurants and big-box stores like Walmart, Target, and Amazon) where you can earn 5% in cashback up to $75. That money can be applied as a statement credit, converted into gift cards, or donated to charity, allowing you to pay it forward. You’ll also earn 1% cashback on all other purchases. The real kicker? Discover will automatically match your cashback earnings, dollar for dollar, with absolutely no limit for your first year of spending. That means if you rack up $600 in cashback in one year, you’ll get an additional $600 on Discover!
Beyond its reputation as a solid cashback card, Discover it Cash Back card also offers no annual fees. Combined with their policy to waive your first late fee in the case of late payment, it makes the card even more attractive. Speaking of attractive, you can even customize your card to come in a funky color such as purple or pink!
Even once the first year of cashback madness has worn off, you’ll still appreciate the fact that Discover has excellent customer service and no foreign transaction fees or penalty APR. Especially if you have a history of not-so-great credit card habits, the Discover it Cash Back card is a less risky option than others on this list regarding penalties and fees.
Petal 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa Credit Card
Petal may not be a big name in the banking industry like some of the other cards on this list, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your consideration. In fact, for students interested in avoiding predatory credit card offers during welcome week, Petal is a great option — assuming you’re willing to skip out on a free T-shirt.
For example, the Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card offers various perks that make it ideal for students and campus life. For starters, you can earn up to 1.5% cashback on purchases, with some local merchants offering 2% to 10% in cashback. That cashback earning comes with a catch. However, to qualify for cashback rewards with Petal, you’ll need to have a history of 12 on-time payments. This is why Petal is so great for teaching you responsible credit card usage!
Beyond a far-from-predatory, behavioral approach to credit cards, the Petal 2 card has other perks that put it squarely on this list, too. While you won’t get any promotional APR on the card (which can encourage you to stretch your spending beyond its means), you do get a $0 annual fee with your Petal Visa Credit Card.
Petal is also great for students who’re commuting to and from school (or traveling for spring break). With no foreign transaction fees and Visa perks like roadside assistance, you can have peace of mind that you’ve got an added layer of protection wherever you go with your Petal Visa Credit Card in your wallet or purse.
Credit One Bank Platinum Rewards Visa
Credit One Bank, founded in Las Vegas, is a credit card company that focuses on helping those with fair or poor credit get access to credit cards. While their Credit One Bank® NASCAR® Credit Card is worth looking into if you’re a big racing fan, for most consumers with fair credit, the Credit One Bank® Platinum Rewards Visa is generally a better option to consider.
The Credit One Bank® Platinum Rewards Visa offers 5% cashback on up to $5,000 worth of purchases in the categories of groceries, gas, internet, TV, and cell phone service each year. All purchases not in those categories (or above and beyond the first $5,000) get a 1% cashback match.
The Credit One Bank® Platinum Rewards Visa has some other perks that make it a good choice for anyone interested in building their credit, too. For example, you’ll get regular credit limit increase checks as well as no fraud liability with this Visa credit card from Credit One Bank, meaning that you can rest assured that your available credit will likely grow over time with the card. Even so, a $95 annual fee may be a turnoff for some.
Credit One Bank offers a serious alternative to Discover cards for cashback cards for consumers with fair credit. After all, the chances are high that if you pay for groceries, gas, internet, TV, and your phone bill each month, you’re already likely to get close to that threshold—if not surpass it—like clockwork each year. That means that you can expect to have an extra $250 of spending power every year around Christmas time. Not bad for just keeping the lights on and the children fed!
Credit One Bank American Express Card
American Express is a popular credit card provider known for its exclusive perks for cardholders. As such, you might think it’s out of reach for you if your credit score is just fair. However, Credit One and American Express provide a solution for those with weaker credit scores with the Credit One Bank American Express® Card.
For starters, anyone using the Credit One Bank American Express® Card will get to take advantage of the various AmEx offers, shopping protections, and perks for travelers that make American Express a popular credit card provider amongst consumers of all stripes. Protect your purchases if they’re damaged in the first 90 days (up to $1,000), return protection (in case a merchant won’t take an item back), and exclusive priority access to entertainment events like concerts and live tickets all make the Credit One Bank American Express® Card an excellent credit card option for anyone with fair credit who wants a lot of value from their new card.
The Credit One Bank American Express® Card also offers 1% cashback on all purchases. This isn’t the sort of amount to rack up lots of rewards, but it is a defensible amount that won’t cause you to overcommit to purchases to get extra rewards, either. This makes it a good choice for anyone with fair credit looking to get some perks without being tempted to go all-out.
The annual fee on the Credit One Bank American Express® Card of $39 is the major drawback of this card. While it’s true that your annual cash back could cover that fee, if you’re trying to use the card responsibly, it might not be wise to spend close to $4,000 a year on credit. Although it is a reason for pause, so much of the extra value still makes this a solid contender among a limited lineup.
Chase Freedom Flex
Chase typically requires higher credit scores than other credit card providers and banks to qualify for their cards. Even so, there are plenty of reports online of individuals with a score of around 645 qualify for the Chase Freedom Flex credit card, which offers a variety of welcome bonuses and other perks that make the card worth shooting for.
For starters, the Chase Freedom Flex credit card offers you a $200 bonus for spending at least $500 in the first three months after you’ve opened the card. As if this welcome bonus wasn’t enough, the Chase Freedom Flex credit card also grants you 5% cashback on rotating quarterly categories, just like Discover. You’ll get 3% cashback at dining and drugstores, too, followed by 1% cashback on all other purchases.
Beyond these monetary rewards, there are additional perks to consider when applying for the Chase Freedom Flex card. From auto rental collision waivers to extended warranties and purchase protection, the Freedom Flex credit card goes toe-to-toe with cards like American Express, offering more than many competitors for applicants with fair credit.
Unlike a lot of other cards on this list, you can also take advantage of 0% APR with the Chase Freedom Flex credit card—and you won’t pay annual fees for the card either, like other Chase cards. This makes it a worthy contender when stacked up against other big names like Discover and American Express.
Summary table of the best credit cards for fair credit
|Credit Card||Annual Fee||Cashback Rewards||Purchase Intro APR||Balance Transfer APR||Regular APR|
|Capital One QuickSilverOne Cash Rewards||$39||Yes||No||No||26.99% (variable rate)|
|Discover it Cash Back||$0||Yes||0% for 14 months||0% for 14 months||11.99% - 22.99% (variable rate)|
|Petal 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa Credit Card||$0||Yes, after 12 months of on-time payments||No||No||12.99% - 26.99% (variable rate)|
|Credit One Bank® Platinum Rewards Visa||$95||Yes||No||No||23.99% (variable rate)|
|Credit One Bank American Express Card||$39||Yes||No||No||23.99% (variable rate)|
|Chase Freedom Flex||$0||Yes||Yes||No||14.99% - 23.74% (variable rate)|
What constitutes fair credit?
A credit score between 580 and 669 constitutes a fair credit score.
Will opening a new credit card improve my credit score?
Not necessarily, but it depends! The number of accounts you have open impacts your credit score, so if you’re using your cards responsibly and paying them off in full monthly, it could help boost your score over time.
Will I definitely be approved for a credit card on this list?
Again, it depends on a variety of factors. Your approval odds are good if you have fair credit and are applying for any of the cards on this list; however, there are many factors that can affect your eligibility for any credit card offer.
Why should (or shouldn’t) you apply for credit card with fair credit?
Before applying for any of the above credit cards, it’s a good idea to find out what kind of credit score you have. You can get your credit report from each of the major credit bureaus online by heading to annualcreditreport.com. This will give you the option to see what each credit bureau (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) has to say about your creditworthiness based on your credit utilization, payment history, and available credit compared to your credit limit.
When you pull your credit score from the reporting agencies (or check out your FICO score on a website like Credit Karma), you’ll need to see what score range your credit falls in. While card members may get a different number or ranking from bureau to bureau, generally speaking, the following are the credit ranges and their corresponding rank:
- Poor Credit (300-579)
- Fair Credit (580-669)
- Good Credit (670-739)
- Very Good Credit (740-800)
- Excellent Credit (800+)
Once you know whether you have poor credit, fair credit, or a good credit score, you’ll have a better idea of which of the above cards makes the most sense for you. If you have poor credit (or limited credit), getting a secured credit card—which may require a security deposit to open—might be your best bet as you build things up. However, if you already have fair credit or better, getting an unsecured credit card from the list above may make sense, assuming that you can confidently make the monthly payments in full each month.
See How Much Experian Boost™ Can Raise Your Credit Scores Instantly
- Experian® is one of the three credit bureaus providing your credit scores
- Experian Boost is a free feature that can help you increase your credit scores for making on-time payments for your phone, utility, or streaming service bills for 100% free and in minutes
- Average users who received a boost improved their FICO® Score 8 based on Experian Data by 13 points. Some may not see improved scores or approval odds. Not all lenders use credit information impacted by Experian Boost™.
- Credit score calculated based on FICO® Score 8 model. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO® Score than FICO® Score 8, or another type of credit score altogether.
The bottom line
As you can see from the above credit cards, just because card members may only have fair credit doesn’t mean that they’re constantly making major sacrifices. From CapitalOne and Discover to Chase and American Express, there are plenty of options to consider if you’re looking for credit cards with no cash advance fee or balance transfer fee in the first year after you open the card. Even getting a cashback card with a competitive rewards rate is possible with fair credit, and if you’re on the higher end of fair credit, your options are even better.
As is the case with any personal finance decision—the best course of action, once you’ve gathered information about the different financial products you’re comparing—is to make a list of wants and needs, as well as the pros and cons of each of your options. Doing so will allow you to more fully weigh whether or not variable APR or foreign transaction fees are a deal breaker in your decision. Remember that personal finance should be personalized to your own situation, and you’re sure to make the right decision. Who knows? You might even boost your credit score enough that in six months, you can get the credit line increases you’re hoping for!
Share this article