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.
Some of the most highly-rated credit cards–especially those with excellent rewards–are only available to those with excellent credit. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a card with decent rewards even if you have average-to-fair credit. This list of the best credit cards for fair credit is a good place to start.
What Counts as Fair Credit?
You may be wondering what even counts as a “fair” credit score. That’s definitely a fair question. No pun intended. According to Experian, a fair score is a FICO score 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 score to a fair score if you go more than 30 days late on a payment to a creditor. Some people are in the fair score 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, if you actually have a good credit score in the high 600s or low 700s range, you might qualify for credit cards with better rewards systems.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get an approximation of your credit score completely free. Check out our list of these options here.
Best Credit Cards for Credit Score 580 – 669
Many of the credit cards for people with scores 580 – 669 are secured cards, which we’ll talk about in the next section. But here are the four best unsecured credit cards for those still building their credit. Some of them even offer rewards!
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
This card is available to those with average credit. So if you’re on the high end of fair, you may qualify. This is especially true if your credit score is low simply because you have a limited credit history.
This card, like many for those with fair credit, has an annual fee. But at $39, it’s a pretty affordable way to start building credit. It has a high APR of 26.96% variable, so you definitely don’t want to carry a balance. (But paying off your balance in full is one of the best ways to build your credit score quickly, anyway!)
This card offers a straight 1.5% cash back rewards system, which keeps things simple. You’ll start with a low credit limit, most likely. But when you make your first five monthly payments in a row on time, you’ll automatically get qualified for a higher credit line.
This card is also one that comes with access to your credit score through the CreditWise from Capital One® system. This is one that you can access whether you have a Capital One® card or not. But it’s still a good perk that can help you keep an eye out as you build your credit score.
In all, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards 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 $39 annual fee.
Capital One® Platinum Credit Card
Here’s another Capital One® card option for those with low to average credit, especially with a limited credit history. The Capital One® Platinum Credit Card has no annual fee, which is a great selling point. Like the QuicksilverOne®, though, it has a 26.96% APR, so you’ll definitely want to pay it off in full each month.
This card is a straight up credit card with no frills and no rewards. It could be a good fit it you don’t see yourself using a credit card often enough to out-earn the QuicksilverOne’s annual fee. But if you do plan to run some of your everyday expenses through a credit card, the other card would give you more bang for your buck.
Milestone® Gold Mastercard®
The Milestone® Gold Mastercard® is another no-rewards card that you might qualify for if you have fair credit. It doesn’t offer any rewards, but it comes with a tiered annual fee system. The standard APR is 23.90%, and the annual fee is either $35, $59, or $75 the first year and $99 after that. The lower your credit, the higher your annual fee.
Again, this card doesn’t have any bells and whistles. But it does give you access to an unsecured credit card that you can use as well, a milestone as you’re building your credit.
Credit One Bank Platinum Visa
The Credit One Bank Platinum Visa is a credit card specifically for rebuilding or building credit. If you’ve gone through bankruptcy or had other troubles that have kicked your credit down to the “fair” category, you might still qualify for this card. It offers 1% cash back on all eligible purchases, making it a way to earn rewards while you rebuild your credit. Your rewards are automatically posted to your account each month for ease of use.
This card also gives you access to an online program to track your credit score and monitor changes over time. And you can sign up for account alerts so that you never miss a payment while you’re rebuilding your score.
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa®
The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa® is marketed expressly for people with fair to bad credit. You don’t have to put down a deposit for this one, and it will automatically review your account for potential credit line increases as you make on-time payments. The card offers 1% cash back on all eligible purchases and access to a free Experian credit score each month.
Again, you don’t want to carry a balance here. It has a 19.74% to 25.74% APR, based on your creditworthiness when you open your account. The annual fee is $0 to $75 for the first year and $0 to $99 for every year after that. The annual fee depends on your creditworthiness and is taken out of your credit line when you open the account. So if your annual fee is $75 and you’re approved for a $300 credit line, you’ll really only have about $225 in available credit.
With the steep potential annual fees for this card, you’ll want to think through whether or not it’s the best option for your needs. However, an unsecured credit card can be a great way to take your fair credit score to the next level.
More About Secured Credit Cards
A secured credit card–not to be confused with a prepaid card–is a good way to build your credit if you don’t qualify for any of the options listed above. With this type of card, you give the card issuer a deposit. They hold that deposit for you and take money from it if you miss a payment. If you make your payments on time, the deposit just stays in an account for you.
The best secured credit cards will eventually convert to regular credit cards, which give you a higher limit 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, of course. That’s not the end of the world, though it will take a few more points off of your credit score.
But armed with this list of the best credit cards for fair credit, you should be able to find one that works for your needs.
The cards listed in this article have been shown to give applicants with fair credit the best opportunity for approval.
Fair credit scores include 580, 581, 582, 583, 584, 585, 586, 587, 588, 589, 590, 591, 592, 593, 594, 595, 596, 597, 598, 599, 600, 601, 602, 603, 604, 605, 606, 607, 608, 609, 610, 611, 612, 613, 614, 615, 616, 617, 618, 619, 620, 621, 622, 623, 624, 625, 626, 627, 628, 629, 630, 631, 632, 633, 634, 635, 636, 637, 638, 639, 640, 641, 642, 643, 644, 645, 646, 647, 648, 649, 650, 651, 652, 653, 654, 655, 656, 657, 658, 659, 660, 661, 662, 663, 664, 665, 666, 667, 668, 669.
Applicants with these scores are not guaranteed approval as other factors may also affect an applicant’s chance for approval.