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Credit Cards for Fair Credit

Credit Cards for Fair Credit

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Jul 21, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

A fair score is one between 580 and 669, and is one step above a poor or bad credit score. If you have fair credit, however, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a credit card with high fees and few perks. And with responsible behavior, you can move your credit score from fair to good or excellent.

Through a review of cards available on CompareCards as well as from top issuers, we’ve selected five of the best cards for fair or average credit. We’ll review what each card offers, who they’re best for, along with any rewards, discounts and annual fees, and what to watch out for.

Read: Where and how to check your credit score

Compare the best credit cards for fair credit

 Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit CardCapital One® Platinum Credit CardDiscover it® Student Cash BackTarget RedCard Credit CardCapital One® Spark® Classic for Business
Best forConsumers with fair/limited credit who want to earn cash back.Those with fair/limited credit needing a no-annual-fee card.College students with fair/limited credit.Consumers who shop frequently at Target and want a store card to build credit.Business owners with fair/limited credit.
Annual fee$39$0$0$0$0
Rewards1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.No rewards.Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.5% discount on Target and Target.com purchases.1% cash back on every purchase.
Sign-up bonusNo bonus.No bonus. Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match. Get $40 off a future qualifying purchase over $40 when approved for a RedCard. (Offer may have changed or no longer be valid.)No bonus.
Regular purchase APR26.99% (variable)26.99% (variable)12.99% - 21.99% variable22.90% variable24.49% (variable)

Best cashback card: Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why we like this card: The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a decent card for consumers with fair/limited credit who want to earn cashback rewards. You can earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.

You can redeem your cash back for any amount, anytime. Rewards don’t expire for the life of the account, and can be redeemed in the following ways:

  • Statement credits
  • Checks
  • Covering a purchase
  • Gift cards

And finally, after using the card wisely and paying on time, Capital One may raise your credit limit in as little as six months.

Additional benefits:

  • Extended warranty
  • Check your credit score with CreditWise
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Foreign transaction fee of none

What to watch out for: The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card charges a $39 annual fee. It will take $2,600 spent on purchases that earn rewards to recoup the fee before you start earning net cash back. And once your credit score improves, there are cards available with no annual fee that earn 1.5% or even 5% cash back. Finally, there’s a high APR of 26.99% (variable).

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

Best card for no annual fee: Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Why we like this card: The Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is a basic, no-frills card. You won’t earn rewards with it — but if you have fair/limited credit and want a $0 annual fee card that will furnish the credit bureaus with positive payment information, the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card will do the trick.

You can check if you prequalify for it, which won’t hurt your credit score. Prequalification doesn’t guarantee approval, but it does mean you have a good chance.

Plus, when you demonstrate responsible usage with this card, you may be considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months. And finally, in time, you may be able to request a product change to a Capital One card with rewards, such as the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

Additional benefits:

  • Extended warranty
  • Check your credit score with CreditWise
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Foreign transaction fee of none

What to watch out for: The interest rate is a high 26.99% (variable) APR, so this isn’t a card you’ll want to carry a balance on.

Read our review of the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card.

Best student card: Discover it® Student Cash Back

  • 0% intro for 6 Months*

  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum, when you activate*

  • 12.99% - 21.99% Variable*

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 12.99% - 21.99% applies.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Discover it® Student Cash Back

More Info

Why we like this card: If you’re a college student with fair/limited credit, this card can help you build a good credit score while also earning generous cash back. Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

Plus, there’s a Good Grade Reward every school year (for up to five consecutive years) that you keep a 3.0 GPA or better in the form of a $20 statement credit.

Lastly, there’s a sign-up bonus for new cardmembers. Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

The annual fee is $0.

Additional benefits: 

  • Foreign transaction fee of none
  • Free access to your FICO Score
  • Dark web monitoring for your Social Security number (when you opt in
  • Ability to freeze and unfreeze your card online

What to watch out for: If you don’t activate the quarterly 5% categories, you’ll earn just 1% back on every purchase. Also, there’s a $1,500 spending cap on each quarterly category. If you max out that cap each quarter, you’ll earn $75 in cash back before your rate drops to 1% after the first year.

Read our review of the Discover it® Student Cash Back.

Best store card: Target RedCard Credit Card

Why we like this card: It’s typically easier for applicants with fair credit to be approved for a store card than for a general use credit card as they tend to come with lower credit limits and higher APRs. And though some store cards have complicated rewards structures and limited redemption value, the Target RedCard Credit Card is straightforward — get a 5% discount on Target and Target.com purchases when you check out.

The annual fee is $0.

Additional benefits: 

  • Free two-day shipping on most Target.com shopping
  • Extended returns on most purchases
  • Get an exclusive offer on your account anniversary

What to watch out for: This is a store card, meaning you can only use it at Target and Target.com. Also, at 22.90% variable APR, the interest rate is high.

Read our review of the Target RedCard Credit Card.

Best business card: Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Why we like this card: Most small business credit cards require good-to-excellent credit to qualify. However, the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business is available to applicants with fair/limited credit. Plus, it earns 1% cash back on every purchase, and the annual fee is $0.

Additional benefits:

  • Free employee credit cards
  • Auto rental damage waiver
  • Purchase security and extended protection

What to watch out for: There are numerous business cards with better cashback rates than 1%. However, keep in mind that such cards will require better than fair credit.

There’s also a high 24.49% (variable) APR.

Read our review of the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business.

Alternative cards worth considering for fair credit

Discover it® Secured

  • 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically

  • Credit line will equal your security deposit of $200 or more*

  • No annual fee, no late fee on your first late payment. No penalty APR*

Highlights
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Discover it® Secured

More Info

Why we like this card: The Discover it® Secured is a secured credit card, meaning cardholders must submit a deposit in the amount of their credit limit to the issuer. The deposit provides security for Discover if you don’t pay back what you charge to the card. Secured cards are typically easier to get if you have less-than-stellar credit than unsecured cards that don’t require a deposit. The Discover it® Secured is meant for applicants with limited/bad/poor credit.

With most secured cards, cardholders can get their deposit refunded by paying off the card in full and closing the account. Some issuers also offer the opportunity to graduate to an unsecured card after demonstrating responsible usage with the secured one. Where the Discover it® Secured stands out is that Discover begins conducting monthly reviews after you’ve had the card for eight months. If it’s determined you’re eligible, you’ll get your deposit back.

Finally, cardholders earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically. For new cardmembers, there’s an Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

The annual fee is $0 and the minimum deposit is $200.

Additional benefits:

  • Foreign transaction fee of none
  • Free access to your FICO Score
  • Dark web monitoring for your SSN (when you sign up)
  • Ability to freeze and unfreeze your card online

What to watch out for: Other than the high APR of 22.99% variable, and the fact that you have to submit a security deposit, this card doesn’t have much in the way of drawbacks.

Read our review of the Discover it® Secured.

AvantCard Credit Card

  • Fast and easy application process

  • No deposit required and no penalty APR

  • 25.99% Variable

Highlights
  • Fast and easy application process
  • No deposit required
  • No hidden fees
  • No penalty APR
  • Report to all three major credit bureaus
  • Zero fraud liability for unauthorized charges
  • Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC
  • Disclosure: If you are charged interest, the charge will be no less than $1.00

See additional details for AvantCard Credit Card

More Info

Why we like this card: If you think you’ll have trouble getting approved for other cards on this list, consider the AvantCard CreditCard. It’s a straightforward, no-frills card for applicants with fair/limited/bad/poor credit. Unlike some unsecured cards for those with imperfect credit, it won’t hit you with expensive fees like monthly maintenance fees or credit limit increase fees.

Additional benefits:

  • Foreign transaction fee of none.
  • Check if you prequalify without hurting your credit score

What to watch out for: The AvantCard Credit Card charges a $39 annual fee. Also, it’s not available to residents of Colorado, Iowa, Vermont, West Virginia or Wisconsin. Finally, the APR is a high 25.99% variable .

Read our review of the AvantCard Credit Card.

FAQs about credit cards for fair credit

What is a fair credit score? The most commonly used scoring method for your credit score, the FICO Score, categorizes credit scores into the following five tiers:

  • Exceptional: 800 to 850
  • Very good: 740 to 799
  • Good: 670 to 739
  • Fair: 580 to 669
  • Poor: 300 to 579

How can you improve your credit score? Once you have a credit card, improve your credit score by following these best practices:

  • Pay on time and in full. Your payment history is the most important factor affecting your credit score, so you should always pay on time. Paying in full isn’t required for a good score, but will help you to avoid building up a balance and incurring interest charges.
  • Don’t max out your card. Utilization, or how much of your credit limit you’re using, is the second-most important factor weighing on your credit score. Personal finance experts recommend spending no more than 30% of your credit limit. For example, on a card with a $500 credit limit, don’t carry more than a $150 balance at any point.
  • Apply for new credit sparingly. When you apply for new credit, it generates a hard inquiry and lowers your average age of accounts, both of which hurt your score. However, with responsible usage, your score should recover over time and continue to move up.

What are the easiest credit cards to get with fair credit? All the cards on this list are worth considering if you have fair or average credit. However, speaking generally, store cards are good for people with fair credit. Just be careful not to carry a balance because they often have sky-high interest rates. And don’t be tempted to overspend by promotions you may receive.

Can you get a balance transfer card with fair credit? Probably not. Typically, balance transfer credit cards require at least a good credit score (670 or higher) to qualify.

Are there travel credit cards for fair credit? Cards that earn travel rewards and provide travel benefits are usually aimed at applicants with good or excellent credit. However, it is possible for applicants with fair credit to find cards that earn cash back or offer discounts on purchases.


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