Credit Cards

Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit

Building credit is something of a catch-22. If you need to build your credit, that means you don’t already have great credit. And if you don’t have great credit, you may not have access to the best tools available that will help you build it. That’s where our list of best credit cards for fair credit comes in.

Editor's Note

You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone. This content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser, unless otherwise noted below.

The goal for everyone is to have excellent credit, but sometimes we don’t have enough credit history, or we made past credit mistakes that are holding us back. As a result, we have fair or average credit. Unfortunately, some of the most highly-rated credit cards, especially those with exceptional rewards, are only available to those with excellent credit. The good news is that there are many credit cards for those with fair credit who want to work on improving their situation.

We’ll look at the best credit cards for fair credit while helping you figure out how to improve your credit score. Let’s get started.

What Are the Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit?

Many of the best cards for fair credit are often secured cards. When your credit score is fair, you often get recommended a secured card that requires you to make a deposit upfront. For the sake of this article, we’re going to look at the best credit cards for fair credit that are unsecured.

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One QuickSilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is an excellent option for those with average credit because you can earn an unlimited 1.5% in cash back rewards on all your purchases so that you’re rewarded as you attempt to build up your credit. With an annual fee of $39, you don’t have to worry about stretching the budget here.

This card also comes with access to your credit score through CreditWise® from Capital One. Anyone over 18 can enroll in CreditWise® (whether you have a Capital One card or not), so it’s an excellent perk to help track your credit changes as you improve your credit history.

The APR for this credit card is 29.99%. You can find out if you’re pre-approved without risking your credit. You’ll start with a low credit limit, but you’ll automatically be considered for a higher credit line when you make your first six monthly payments on time.

The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great stepping stone to a higher-reward credit card. And with 1.5% cash back, it doesn’t take too long to out-earn that annual fee.

Milestone® Mastercard®

The Milestone Mastercard® is another no-rewards card you might qualify for if you have fair credit. This credit card touts that they want to help those with challenging credit histories looking to improve their credit.

It doesn’t offer any rewards but comes with a tiered annual fee system. The standard APR is 35.9%, and the annual fee is $175 the first year; $49 thereafter.

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card has no annual fee, which is a great selling point if you’re looking to rebuild your financial situation. Like the QuicksilverOne Credit Card, it comes with a high APR, so you’ll definitely want to pay the balance in full each month.

It’s a straight-up credit card with no frills and no rewards. It could be a good fit if you don’t see yourself using a credit card often enough to out-earn the QuicksilverOne credit card’s annual fee. But if you do plan to charge some of your everyday expenses to a credit card, you’ll get more bang for your buck by using a rewards card.

It also has the same credit score monitoring perks as the QuicksilverOne, so you can see how your credit improves with time. You’re also automatically considered for a higher credit line in six months to keep increasing your credit limit as you continue to make your payments on time.

This is the perfect starter credit card for anyone looking to focus on building up their credit without the distractions of trying to chase rewards.

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® Card

The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® Card is an unsecured credit card, and it works a little bit differently than most other cards. Your monthly payment will be fixed, and so will the interest rate. You’ll start out with a credit line ranging from $500 to $25,000. Your monthly payments will be based on a fixed term, ranging from 24 to 60 months. That will ensure you get out of debt on the card in a specific amount rather than carrying a balance forever.

The card is available for fair credit and above; perhaps best of all, there are no fees for this card whatsoever. That means no annual fee, balance transfer fees, cash advance fees, late fees, return payment fees, or foreign transaction fees.

In fact, the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® Card doesn’t even have a penalty APR. You can also earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back reward on all purchases when you pay them. The credit card also has a $200 bonus after opening a Rewards Checking account and making 3 debit card transactions*

*To qualify for the welcome bonus, you must open and fund a new Rewards Checking account and make 3 qualifying debit card transactions from your Rewards Checking account within 60 days of the date the Upgrade Card account is opened. To qualify, debit card transactions must have settled and exclude ATM transactions. Please refer to the applicable Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information. Your Upgrade Card and Rewards Checking account must be open and in good standing to receive a bonus. If you have previously opened a Rewards Checking account or do not open one as part of this application process, you are not eligible for this welcome bonus offer. Welcome bonus offers cannot be combined, substituted, or applied retroactively. The bonus will be applied to your Rewards Checking account as a one-time payout credit within 60 days after the 3rd qualifying card purchase.

Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card

Petal believes that credit scores don’t tell the whole story when it comes to your creditworthiness. The Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card comes with no annual fee and a credit limit ranging from $300 to $5,000, depending on your eligibility.

The APR ranges from 24.74% - 34.24% Variable. You can earn anywhere from 2% to 10% cash back at select merchants.

How Do You Find The Best Credit Card For Fair Credit?

If you’re looking for the best credit card for fair credit, you must follow these crucial steps to ensure that you’re on the right track:

  • Know your credit score - There’s a massive difference between good and fair credit scores. Before you start applying for credit cards, it’s crucial that you know where you stand so that you can apply for the right cards to maximize your situation. You want to know what your credit score is considered.
  • Try to avoid annual fees - If your credit score has taken a hit due to financial mistakes, you’ll want to take things back to basics. This will include saving money anywhere you can, starting with the annual fee.
  • Decide between credit card rewards and interest rates - Some credit cards are known for their cash back rewards, while others offer lower interest rates. Depending on your goals, you have to decide which will be a priority for your situation.
  • Look for credit cards that won’t hurt your credit score - You want to ensure that you can apply to see if you pre-qualify without hurting your credit score because the last thing you need when you have a fair credit score is anything else bringing it down.

While seeing if you pre-qualify for a credit card could feel like a hassle, the benefit of this screening process is that it’s just a “soft” credit inquiry. That would prevent you from making your situation worse if you were to apply for a credit card that you wouldn’t get approved for.

You’re going to go through many credit card options, so it’s crucial that you weigh out your options. Remember that even though you’re looking for the best credit cards for fair credit, it doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck at this level forever. You can easily improve your credit situation by applying for one of the aforementioned credit cards and then making your payments on time.

What Is Considered Fair Credit?

Since we’re on the topic of the best credit cards for fair credit, you may be wondering what even counts as a fair credit score, which is definitely a fair question (pun intended). According to Experian, a fair score is a FICO score of around 580 to 669. To fall into this category, you’ll need to have some credit history, at least some of which is good.

You might have a fair score if you make payments on time but have a high debt-to-credit ratio, for instance. Or you might go from a good to a fair score if you go more than 30 days late on a payment to a creditor. Some people are also in that category if they’ve managed their credit well but only have a short credit history.

Not sure what your credit score is? It’s a good idea to check before you apply for a credit card. Knowing your score can help you apply for cards you’re more likely to be approved for. And that keeps you from applying for too many credit cards, which can cause your score to dip more.

Plus, you might qualify for credit cards with better rewards systems if you have a good credit score in the high 600s or low 700s. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get an approximation of your credit score completely free. Check out our list of these options.

What You Need To Know About the Best Secured Credit Cards for Fair Credit

While we listed unsecured credit cards for fair credit, we have to address the importance of secured credit cards when building up your credit. Not everyone who applies for the best credit cards for fair credit will get approved.

A secured credit card is different from a prepaid card, and it’s a good way to build your credit if you don’t have much of a credit history or if you’re looking to fix your credit after some previous mistakes. With secured credit, you make a financial deposit with the credit card company. The credit card company then holds this amount and uses the money if you miss a payment. If you make your payments on time, your deposited amount stays in your account.

The best secured credit cards will eventually convert to regular credit cards, which give you a higher limit, better credit card rewards, and more flexibility. You’ll want to look at a few different credit card options in this category.

Overall, applying for a credit card with fair credit means you should do your research. It’s best to only apply for a card if you are fairly sure you qualify. There’s always a chance that you’ll get turned down, and it’s important that you don’t get discouraged during the process.

Related: The Best Secured Credit Cards of 2022

How Do You Improve Your Fair Credit Score?

If you’re looking to improve your fair credit score, here are the tips that we recommend:

  • Make your payments on time - The goal is to make your payments on time so that you can build up your credit history, which would prove to lenders that your creditworthiness has improved.
  • Focus on the basics of personal finance - When it comes to money management, you must use this new credit card as a tool. Your goal is to build your credit history by making your payments on time. You want to ensure that you’re budgeting and improving your finances so that you don’t have to worry about having poor credit ever again by being in a situation where you accumulate debt that you can’t pay off promptly.
  • Prepare yourself for the next step - Once you start using your new credit card to build up your fair credit, you’ll notice that your situation is improving. You want to ensure you’re ready for the next step and can handle a higher credit limit.

Looking for a way to get a higher credit score faster? We recommend Experian Boost. It’s free and can see when you pay your utility and mobile phone bills. Every payment you make on time can boost your credit score. Want to learn more?

The Final Word on the Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit

While we did our best to research the best cards for fair credit to help you improve your credit score, it’s essential that you remain patient and optimistic throughout this process. There are many credit card options out there, and you can always take steps toward increasing your credit score if you’re not happy with where it is now.

Related: Experian Boost Review Improve Your Credit Score for Free

Note: The cards listed in this article have been shown to give applicants with fair credit the best opportunity for approval. Applicants with these scores are not guaranteed approval as other factors may also affect an applicant’s chance for approval.

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Abby Hayes

Abby Hayes

Abby is a freelance journalist who writes on everything from personal finance to health and wellness. She spends her spare time bargain hunting and meal planning for her family of three. She has a B.A. in English Literature from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, and lives with her husband and children in Indianapolis.

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