Having a credit card offers a wide range of benefits. Hit with an unexpected expense like a flat tire or broken water pipe? You can take care of it right away and pay off the bill over time. You can also keep an itemized list of payments, apply for loans and even earn rewards like airline points.
Having a less-than-perfect credit score is no obstacle to obtaining a credit card. There are many cards tailored to people with fair credit scores, and owning one is a great way to start building a solid credit history.
What Is Fair Credit?
There are different metrics for measuring a credit score, but many banks and lenders use the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) model to calculate it:
- Poor: 300-579
- Fair: 580-669
- Good: 670-739
- Very good: 740-799
- Exceptional: 800-850
A fair credit score is below average, but it’s an excellent springboard for having better credit in the future. Many people start off with a fair score when they first get a credit card. One of the best ways to raise your score is by making on-time credit card payments, even if you’re only paying the minimum amount each month. Of course, you’ll need a credit card to get started.
The Best Cards for People With Fair Credit
Applying for one of these cards is a great idea if you need to bolster your credit score.
Capital One Platinum Credit Card
This card is one of the best options if you have a fair credit score. It offers no annual or hidden fees. You can choose when your payment is due each month, and six months after opening your account and making regular payments, Capital One will consider you for a higher credit limit.
The downside is that the variable APR is 29.74%, putting it on the higher end. The card doesn’t offer a rewards program, either. However, it does come with a $0 fraud liability and unlimited account access from your desktop or phone. You can also check out using contactless payment by hovering the card over a payment terminal.
Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa Credit Card
The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa Card is a hybrid between a credit card and personal loan card. It offers an APR as low as 14.99% for people who qualify, although the APR can go as high as 29.99%, which is steep. You also don’t get a sign-up bonus with this card.
However, the Upgrade Cash Rewards card gives you 1.5% cash back on any purchases you make with it. This rate is similar to what you’d earn from cards that require good to excellent credit. Plus, any remaining balance that carries over converts to an installment loan with a fixed monthly payment.
Credit One Bank Wander Card
Do you travel a lot? Credit One Bank’s Wander Card provides high travel reward rates. It has an impressive program that gives you 5% back on hotels, dining, flights and even gas, making it good for everyday use and more adventurous excursions. Plus, it offers 1% back on other purchases and has an intro offer of 10,000 bonus points. It’s an unsecured credit card that doesn’t require a security deposit.
The Wander Card is one of the only travel cards available for people with fair credit. However, if you don’t travel frequently, it may not be worth it — the card’s main benefit is the rewards program. With a fairly high APR of 28.24% and a $95 annual fee, there are cheaper routes to take if you just want to build credit.
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Although the name is a mouthful, this card is an excellent option for people with fair credit. It only has a $39 annual fee and gives you at least 1.5% cash back on every purchase. You can also redeem rewards as a statement credit. Within six months of making regular payments, Capital One will automatically consider you for a higher credit line.
This card offers contactless payment. It comes with a free Uber One membership for six months and has a 5% cash-back reward if you book hotels and rental cars via Capital One Travel.
As with most credit cards offered to people with fair credit, the regular APR is high at 29.74%, and you can’t boost your rewards earnings via bonus categories. Plus, if you don’t travel frequently or make many large purchases, you may end up paying more in annual fees than you earn back through the rewards program. However, it’s still a great option to start building your credit.
OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card
Visa’s OpenSky card requires a minimum $200 security deposit, but it has a modest annual fee of only $35. There’s no credit check when you apply. In fact, Capital Bank may even approve your application for this card with no credit history at all, making it a great first credit card.
Although it doesn’t offer a rewards program, the OpenSky card has a low ongoing variable APR of only 21.64% and a simple application process. After six months of timely payments, Capital Bank will consider you for a credit line increase with no additional deposit required. This card also has a limit of up to $3,000, which makes it easy to keep your credit utilization ratio on the low side.
Petal 2 Visa Credit Card
The Petal 2 has a credit limit ranging from $300 to $10,000, no annual membership fee and no security deposit. It offers 1% cash back on everyday expenditures and 1.5% cash back after a year of making payments on time. There are no fees for making a late payment, going over the credit limit or making a foreign transaction.
The variable APR can be as low as 17.49% if you qualify, but can also be a staggering 31.49%, which is higher than most fair-credit options. While this card doesn’t offer cash advances or balance transfers, nor does it come with an intro APR offer, it’s a good option if you’re trying to repair a fair credit score.
Milestone Gold Mastercard
There’s no security deposit for the Milestone Gold Mastercard. However, it offers excellent security measures — it gives you zero-liability fraud protection if someone steals your card or you happen to lose it, and it also features identity monitoring to protect your personal info.
This card has an annual fee of $35 to $99 and a high APR of 24.90%. It doesn’t have a rewards program or an intro offer to help offset the fees. However, one benefit of having a Mastercard is that it’s a reputable brand, so virtually every vendor will accept it.
Discover It Student Cash Back Card
Are you a college student? If so, you can apply for the Discover It Student Cash Back Card. You don’t even need a credit history to qualify, making it great for people with a less-than-stellar credit score.
U.S. students owed almost $1.5 trillion in student loans as of 2019, but don’t let that scare you away from getting a credit card. Developing a good credit score is critical if you ever need to make a large purchase like a house or car.
This card helps you build better credit while earning 5% cash-back rewards on many everyday purchases from select locations. For all other purchases, you’ll automatically get 1% cash back. This card has no annual fee and offers a cash-back matching program, meaning Discover automatically matches all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of the year.
The regular APR ranges from 17.24% to 26.24%, but there’s a 0% APR on anything you buy for the first six months after opening your account.
Mission Lane Visa Credit Card
Although this card’s regular APR is steep at 26.99% to 29.99%, it has several positive features for people with fair credit. You can access your account at any time through the mobile app. There’s no interest as long as you pay on time and in full each month. There’s also no required security deposit, and Visa will consider you for a higher credit line in as little as seven months of regular payments.
The annual fee can be as low as $0 to as much as $59, depending on how you qualify. Unfortunately, this card doesn’t provide intro APR offers on balance transfers or purchases.
This card allows you to pre-qualify even if you’ve experienced bankruptcy. It has a low credit limit of only $300, and the annual fee ranges from free to $99 depending on your credit score. However, as long as you make timely payments, it can bolster your credit score and give your monthly budget some wiggle room.
You can use the Indigo Mastercard online, in apps and in stores that accept Mastercard. It also features a $0 liability for unauthorized charges and doesn’t require a security deposit.
Climbing the Credit Ladder
It’s common to have a fair credit score. When you first acquire a credit card, for example, you might have a fair score because you don’t have a credit history yet. You might also fall into the “fair” category if you’ve applied for multiple credit cards.
Banks and credit unions typically reserve the best cards for people with higher scores. However, you can work your way toward an upgrade by starting with a simple credit card that offers fewer benefits. If you make your payments on time and watch your spending, you should have a good credit score in no time.