Credit Cards for Fair/Average Credit

Methodology Our methodology

Credit cards for fair credit include a variety of options including cards that offer rewards like cash back and bonus points. Finding the right card can help you continue to build your credit history and improve your credit score. Here are our best credit cards for fair credit.

Credit cards for fair credit include a variety of options including cards that offer rewards like cash back and bonus points. Finding the right card can help you continue to build your credit history and improve your credit score. Here are our best credit cards for fair credit.


Best credit cards for fair/average credit:

Fair to Good

Credit Recommended (580-740)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchase, terms apply

At A Glance

Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Intro APR
Regular APR
25.99% variable

No Credit History

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

This card doesn't offer cash back, miles, or points

At A Glance

Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Intro APR
Regular APR
See Issuer Website

Fair to Good

Credit Recommended (580-740)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

Receive 1% cash back on eligible purchases, terms apply

At A Glance

Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Intro APR
Regular APR
25.99% variable

See Terms

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

1% cash back on eligible purchases, terms apply

At A Glance

Annual Fee
See Terms
Balance Transfer Intro APR
See Terms
Regular APR
See Terms

Fair to Good

Credit Recommended (580-740)

Apply Now

Rewards Rate

Receive 1% cash back on eligible purchases and double cash back at the NASCAR Shop. Terms apply.

At A Glance

Annual Fee
$0 - $99
Balance Transfer Intro APR
Regular APR
19.99% - 25.99% variable
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Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.

Getting Smarter on Credit Cards for Fair Credit 

Updated: October 1, 2019

Fair credit may not be the best of credit, but there’s hope. And you're not alone: 61% of consumers have fair credit or better with VantageScore, and 38% have fair. With fair credit, you can build your score, earn some rewards and develop good financial habits.

We researched and analyzed over 160 credit cards designed for people in the fair credit range and evaluated them against several different criteria: rates and fees, rewards, customer service, ability to improve credit lines, and more. Below are our top picks and several tips to help you decide and improve your credit for the future. Here, we look at:

Not sure what to expect? We’ll share how to build credit and how to maximize your fair credit card.

best credit cards for fair credit

Best credit cards for fair credit

Best For:Average Credit CardAnnual Fee
No Annual FeeCapital One® Platinum Credit Card$0
Flat-Rate RewardsCapital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card$39
College StudentsDiscover it® Student Cash Back$0
Fraud ProtectionIndigo® Platinum Mastercard®$0 - $99
Building CreditCredit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit$0 - $99
Easy Pre-QualificationMilestone® Gold Mastercard®$35 - $99
No Deposit RequiredAvant Credit Card$29
No Hard Credit InquiryMilestone® Mastercard®See Terms
Cash backDiscover it® Secured$0
Everyday SpendingCredit One Bank® Platinum Visa® with Cash Back Rewards$39

Research methodology

Credit cards analyzed: 161

Criteria used: Credit needed, tools to track credit score, ability to improve credit line, rewards rate, rewards categories, sign-up bonuses, redemption options, promotional 0% APR periods, annual fee, other rates and fees, extra features and benefits, customer service, ease of application

What is fair/average credit?

Fair credit and average credit are largely synonymous, and refer to the FICO credit scores between 580 and 669. Alternatively, fair/average credit can refer to VantageScore between 601 and 660. FICO and VantageScore are the two major credit scores in the United States. FICO was the creator of the first credit score, and is still the most widely used score today. Both scores range from 300 to 850.

FICO score ranges

300-579Very poor
740-799Very good

VantageScore ranges

300-499Very poor

What impacts your credit score?

You may be surprised to learn that your marital status and age don't impact your credit score, and you're not alone if you thought that. VantageScore and the Consumer Federation of America found in a poll they commissioned in 2018 that about two-fifths of consumers wrongly believe that marital status and age affect their scores, and the misunderstanding is even higher with other events.

Consumers wrongly believe these events affect credit score...

As you can see, there are a number of events that don't affect your score. But what does? It's actually late payments, bankruptcies and high balances on credit cards that impact your score, we've found. According to FICO, credit scores are based on the following factors, along with the percentage of importance to your score:

Payment history: 35 percent – If you make a payment 30 days past the due date or later, it will most likely appear on your credit report. The later the payment, the worse the impact on your credit score.

Amounts owed: 30 percent – The less available credit you are using, the higher your credit score will be.

Length of credit history: 15 percent – This refers to the average account age of your accounts and the age of your newest account, which gets younger each time you open a new account.

New credit: 10 percent – Each time you apply for a new credit card or loan, a hard inquiry will hit your credit.

Credit mix: 10 percent – Having several types of loans – such as a car loan, a mortgage and a credit card – can help your credit.

As this shows, the most important things you can do to improve your credit are making payments on time and making payments in full. To view your current credit score for free and without impacting your score, check out our app.

Is a fair credit score good?

Simply put: No. In the FICO score, it is a below-average score. Since credit offers are based on creditworthiness, people with fair credit get below-average offers.

But if you have fair credit, all hope is not lost. While lenders typically prefer credit scores to fall in the good to excellent range, people with fair credit scores are still considered viable applicants for many loans. Additionally, with some work, persistence and responsible credit usage, you can improve your credit score.

Common ways that consumers improve their credit ratings are by contacting the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) and asking them to remove reporting errors, paying down credit card balances and paying off accounts that have been placed in collections. Another tactic is to ask for an increased credit limit on your credit cards. For people who carry credit card balances, an increased credit limit lowers the credit-to-debt ratio, a key factor in credit scoring.

Although credit scores can be improved in a few weeks, most improvements take months and some take years. It may take some time before you qualify for the very best credit card offers, but there are plenty of good options for fair credit in the meantime.

By increasing your credit score, you will have access to better financial opportunities, such as lower interest rates and better credit card offers. To see what credit card offers are available to you, check out our CardMatch tool or review our list of fair credit cards and cards for those with no credit history.

Check for and report errors on your credit reports

Breaches are a top reason for checking those credit reports, and for good reason. We found in our recent data breach poll that Americans are more worried about identity theft than home burglaries. Some 46% said having their identity stolen would be worse, while 27% said a home break-in would be worse. And as consumers age, the spread is greater, with a 6-point difference for millennials and a 32-point difference for Baby Boomers.

But for all that fear, consumers are not protecting their data: Some 92% of U.S. adults have been guilty of at least one risky data security behavior within the past year.

What should you do? Besides varying your passwords (which 82% of consumers fail to do, it turns out), regularly check your credit files for mistakes. Notify the credit bureaus of any errors you find, no matter how small, because even a little one can be a sign that you're a victim of fraud, and that can ultimately impact your score.

What do I do if I'm rejected for a credit card?

If your hopes of landing a credit card of your dreams have been dashed, we can help. By taking the right steps, you can recover and get the card you want and need.

1. Get the explanation from the issuer

Issuers are required to explain to you why you were rejected. You might find out online, by phone or by mail – no matter which way, read the issuer's feedback, then rectify the situation.

2. Check your credit score and credit reports

In general, it's a good idea to check your credit reports several times a year. You can check them for free once a year at If you've been rejected by a card issuer, make a point of checking your credit files to make sure there are no errors or omissions.

3. Look at a credit-builder loan with your credit union

If your credit files are too weak for even a basic secured card, talk to your local credit union about getting a credit-builder loan. These loans are designed for improving your credit rather than getting money for a home improvement or car.

4. Catch up on your bills

Payment history has the biggest impact on your credit score. If you are behind on any bills, you should call the creditor and arrange to pay the past due amounts. After making your payments, you can request that the creditor rescind any reported delinquencies so they will no longer show up on your credit report. While this may be the slowest step, it is essential to improving your credit score. Finally, your more recent activity weighs more heavily, so those on-time payments are priceless.

5. Don't close accounts

If you already have cards, don't close them. Instead pay them down and keep using them. Why? Because your payment history remains on your credit files for several years, good or bad, so you aren't protecting your credit just by closing the account. In fact, the available credit on your cards helps your file, as does continuing to pay on time.

6. Wait several months

Wait several months before applying for a card again. Too many card applications too close together can mean desperation to a lender. Also, this gives your score a chance to improve.

7. Apply for a card you are reasonably sure you will get

In this case, don't reach for the stars. Instead, choose a card to apply for that you are pretty sure you can get. If you are unable to qualify for an unsecured card, try a secured card to help build your credit.

Typical lines of credit

You may have dreams of getting a nice fat credit line with that new credit card, but if your credit isn't its best, you might be unpleasantly surprised.

The averages for new lines of credit are typically lower than all lines, with super prime (VantageScore's excellent range) new accounts at $10,165, prime (good) at $5,733 and subprime (poor) at $2,709. These figures are from the American Bankers Association's Q1 2019 Credit Card Market Monitor. The averages for credit lines for all credit cards have risen somewhat for consumers with super prime, prime and subprime credit. Here are the figures for lines of credit for all credit cards.

Card lines of credit by credit band...

  • $11,790
  • Super prime
  • $7,652
  • Prime
  • $3,859
  • Sub prime

Source: ABA Q1 2019 Credit Card Market Monitor

Typical interest rate for fair credit

If you have fair credit, you will typically pay higher interest rates on your credit card debt than if you have good to excellent credit, although you may find that the interest rate at the higher end of your card's scale is actually lower than that of cards that require good to excellent credit.

In a May survey of 20 cards in the fair credit category, we found that the average low interest rate was 22.83%, while the average higher rate was 25.48%. When we looked at our 10 leading cards that require good to excellent credit, we found the average low interest rate to be considerably lower, at 15.94%, although the high average was actually higher at 26.04%.

Bottom line, the average for fair is 24.15%, while the average for good to excellent is 20.99%. The national average is currently 17.72%.

How fast can credit improve?

The length of time it takes to improve your credit depends on the details of your financial situation. Along with your credit behavior, your starting score is a major factor.

For example, if you have no credit history, it will take a minimum of six months to establish a credit score. Credit score formulas require an active credit account to be present for at least six months before a score is generated.

If you are repairing damaged credit, however, it can take much longer to up your score. A person who only qualifies for a secured card, for example, can generally improve to fair credit within 12 to 18 months – with responsible card usage, of course.

While some people need to repair minor infractions, others have major issues to recover from. According to VantageScore, here are the approximate lengths of time it takes to repair credit based on your actions:

ActionAvg. Recovery TimeCredit Score Impact
Applying for Credit3 monthsMinor
Closing an Account3 monthsMinor
Maxing Out a Credit Card3 monthsModerate
Missing Payment / Default18 monthsSignificant
Bankruptcy6+ yearsSignificant

What affects your credit?

There are a number of factors affecting your credit, and VantageScore has identified which ones are more important than others. What makes one factor more important than another and what can you do about it? It has to do with how lenders see the behavior. Here are behaviors, how lenders view them and how much impact they have on your credit:

BehaviorHow lenders view thisImpact on your score
Pay bills on timeWisely handling debtImprovement
Not use all available creditSufficient access to credit, unlikely to need additional fundsImprovement
Hold accounts for long periodsExperienced credit userImprovement
Use different types of loan productsExperience with different types of repayment requirementsImprovement
Inquire about or take out new loansAre you just expanding access or taking on too much?Slight drop
Max out credit cards or make first late paymentPotential signal of increasing riskDrop
Pay multiple loans late; miss 3 or more paymentsAll credit at riskLarger drop
Stop paying loan; foreclosureDefaultMajor drop
BankruptcyDefaultMaximum drop over extended time period

How consumers with fair credit should use a credit card

When applying for a fair or average credit card, it is important to keep the goal of improving your credit in mind. Here are a few tips on how to properly use a fair credit card:

  • Use your card to build credit. The most important aspect of using a card that requires fair or average credit is that you can build your credit with it, which will grant you access to better lending products.
  • Keep your utilization ratio low. People with fair credit tend to have cards with low credit limits. To keep your balances low and avoid increasing your credit utilization ratio, making small, multiple payments throughout the month.
  • Look for a card without an annual fee. By taking out a card with no annual fee, you minimize the costs incurred with card membership.
  • Practice with rewards. Cards for fair or average cards will sometimes have rewards, such as 1% back on all purchases. This is a good way to practice for getting a rewards card down the road. Make sure you don’t carry a balance, because interest charges will negate your rewards.
  • Don’t close your old card. Once your credit score has risen to the point that you can apply for a better card, don’t close or stop using your card for fair credit. By continuing to use it, as least for small charges, you keep the account active, continuing to build credit with it, and you increase your available credit.

Robin Ratcliff is the managing editor for reviews on Before, she worked as an analyst and editor, and still brings that same analytical rigor to her card recommendations today. You can reach Robin at Tracy Brackman is a credit card news editor at, writing breaking news stories on card updates and new card launches. You can reach Tracy at

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