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Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit

Edvisors rates credit cards objectively based on credit card features, fees and interest rates, as well as how a credit card compares with similar cards within the same category. "Best" determinations are solely the opinion of Edvisors. 

Whether you have fair credit or no credit at all, you may be wondering if there’s a credit card option available for you. The good news is there are credit cards options and exclusive offers available for a variety of circumstances. While fair credit is certainly better than bad credit, it will be harder to qualify for the more competitive cards that offer quality rewards and other perks. Begin building your credit with the credit card options we share at the end of this article to help you build your credit over time. It will pay off when you’re able to qualify for better credit card options in the future.

What is Credit

In simple terms, credit is having the ability to access funds or resources with the knowledge you’ll eventually have to pay back the money later.  Credit is expressed in a general range of excellent to bad credit, and the numerical score can be plus or minus 50 points depending on the credit reporting resource. Depending on whether you’re using your credit for loans or a new line of credit, the preferred score ranges will vary. There are numerous elements that play into your credit score being considered excellent or bad.

The most negative impacts on your credit score include poor payment history, the length of your credit history, overusing your available credit amounts, applying for too many credit accounts, and defaulting on current accounts. Positive impacts to your credit score include paying your bills on time, paying off existing debts or loans, limiting credit requests, and making any outstanding payments. It’s important to evaluate all these factors when looking to apply for a new credit card, so you can make your best choice. 

Credit is generally categorized based off the FICO® score ratings as follows: 

Excellent: A score of 800 – 850    
You will be qualified for the best credit card offers, cash back rewards, most loans, and receive low interest rates.

Good: A score of 750 – 800
You’ll have the benefit of lower interest rates, exclusive rewards, and the ability to receive loans more easily.

Fair: A score of 680 – 740
You’ll most likely be able to apply for most conventional loans, but you may run into mediocre interest rates.

Poor: A score of 590 – 680
Interest rates may be high but you’ll most likely be able to apply for some credit or certain types of loans.

Bad: A score of 300 – 580
It will be difficult to get approved for most loans and quality lines of credit. 

“FICO® Score”, “Credit Score” and Credit Reporting Companies

Your credit score is a numerical figure that expresses your ability to borrow responsibly. FICO® (which stands for Fair Isaac Corporation) helped develop the method for how scores are calculated and is a prominent standard for credit scores in the industry. Credit rating companies (such as Experian®, Transunion® and Equifax®) use your score to generate a credit report that lenders will use to determine if you will qualify to borrow money from them.

FICO® scores are used by most top lenders and can be one of the most accurate models to determine your current credit standing.

What Does it Mean to Have Fair or Average Credit

If you’re a current student or have little to no established credit history, your credit score may fall into the fair/average category. Those in the process of rebuilding their credit history may also fall in the fair/average credit score category. 

Fair to average credit is a 650-699 FICO® score based off:

  • Your payment history: Not paying bills on time can take a hard hit at your credit score. Staying timely and consistent with recurring payments will have a positive impact on your credit score over time.
  • Your credit history: If you’re new to credit, you won’t have the same score as someone with a long credit history. When it comes to credit, the longer the history the better. A strong credit history is needed when qualifying for the best loans, rates, credit cards, and terms. If becoming an authorized user is an option for you, it can be a great option to kick-start building your credit history.
  • Your credit mix: Your credit mix is the different types of credit accounts you currently have. This can include student loans, car loans, credit cards, and more. Be sure to keep tabs on your current credit mix. Staying diligent with paying off your accounts on time will go a long way for building your credit score.
  • Your credit application activity: If you apply to too many lines of credit at once, it can negatively impact your credit score. If you’re a student just beginning to build credit, it’s important to take your time when applying for any kind of credit account. If you apply for multiple types of credit within a span of 3-6 months, you may be seen as a liability to lenders.  When it comes to building credit, slow and steady wins the race.

An average score usually means you may not  get the best interest rates, loans, and you’ll have limited credit card options. The good news is, there’s a variety of credit cards available for both students and those at the beginning of their credit journey. Having great credit can open doors to lower interest rates, higher credit lines, home loans, and cash back rewards. When it comes to being a student, having a high rated credit score can help you get into your first apartment, buy your first car, or help you apply for your first rewards or cash back credit offer. Working hard towards a high FICO score will financially benefit your future in more ways than one.

Credit Cards for Consumers with Fair or Average Credit

Discover it® Student Chrome

Why We Like It:

This is a great choice for students who have no credit or fall into the fair/average credit range.

Pros/Cons:
  • No annual fee 0%
  • Introductory APR on purchases in the first 6 months from date of account opening then the standard purchase APR applies
  • $500 minimum credit limit
  • 2% cash back combined on the first $1,000 you spend at restaurants or gas stations each quarter
  • Mobile App

Product Details:

  • With no required credit score to apply, Discover will dollar-for-dollar match the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. 

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

Why We Like It:

This card has an 85% approval rate so it’s a great choice for those looking to improve their credit. 

Pros/Cons:

  • Secured credit card
  • $35 annual fee
  • Cardholders typically improve their FICO score by 30 points within their first three months
  • Flexible payment due dates

Product Details:

  • Find out if you are approved for this card with no credit check required, though additional criteria may apply. 

Platinum Mastercard® from Capital One

Why We Like It:

This credit card has no annual fee and is good for those with fair or limited credit history. 

Pros/Cons:

  • Reports to the 3 top credit bureaus every month, so it’s easy to quickly build credit
  • $0 annual fee
  • If your card is lost or stolen, you will not be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Be considered for a better credit line after 6 months

Product Details:

  • This card also offers free credit score access and no foreign transaction fee.

QuicksilverOne from Capital One®

This card is available for those with limited or fair credit and you can earn 1.5% back on every purchase. 

Pros/Cons:

  • You will not be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Strengthens credit with responsible use
  • The ability to check your credit with the Credit Wise® app

Product Details:

  • There’s no limit on how much cash back you can earn, but the $39 annual fee may not work for students.

Upgrade Cash Rewards Card

Why We Like It:

This is a great card for anyone with average credit that is looking for a card with great rewards.

Pros/Cons:

  • $0 annual, activation, and maintenance fees
  • Reports to the top three credit bureaus
  • $200 bonus when you open a Rewards Checking account and make 3 debit card transactions -subject to other criteria
  • 1.5% unlimited cash back every time you make a payment

Product Details:

  • Qualify for this credit card with an average credit score and reap the benefits of this card.

Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card

Why We Like It:

This card is great for students or people with little to no credit or those who have a poor credit rating. Must have a Chime Checking Account and qualifying direct deposits of $200 or more. 

Pros/Cons:

  • The ability to create your own credit limit based off the money you move to your Chime account
  • 0% APR  

Product Details:

  • This card has no fees and no required credit check needed for approval.

5 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score: 

If you have fair or average credit and are looking to improve your credit score, then there are steps you can take. Improving your credit score often results in amazing benefits like lower on average interest rates, annual fees and the ability to apply for cards with better rewards. 5 ways to improve your credit score if you have fair to average credit include:

  1. Pay Your Bills In Full And On Time
  2. Try To Keep Your Credit Utilization Under 30 Percent (10% Is Even Better)
  3. Look For Pre-Qualified Offers On Credit Cards, Loans And Other Types Of Credit
  4. Check Your Credit Report And Be Prepared To Correct Errors
  5. Be Careful About Canceling Older Credit Accounts
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