Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit in December 2022

The best credit cards for fair credit include cards that come with no annual fees and ones that let you earn cash back.

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Advertising & Editorial DisclosureLast Updated: 12/2/2022
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Last Updated: 12/2/2022

When you're building your credit history, it makes sense to apply for credit cards designed to help grow your credit score. While the average FICO score is 711, people with fair credit are just below that, with scores ranging from 580 to 669.

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MoneyGeek’s Take: Top 10 Credit Cards for Fair Credit

Several of the top credit cards for fair credit we’ve selected do not charge any annual fees. Examples include the Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Card, the Navy Federal More Rewards American Express Card and the Discontinued. Some of the cards we’ve listed here let you earn cash back or rewards. Other aspects that require your attention when choosing a card include welcome offers, APRs and added perks.

The links in the table below will take you to one of our partner's sites where you can compare and apply for a selected credit card.

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Best Credit Card Offers for Fair Credit

Our experts at MoneyGeek studied all of the credit card offers for fair credit to find those that they consider the best. For each credit card, we'll share the pros and cons of the card and its offer so you can pick the one that best fits your goals.

Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit

The best credit cards for fair credit are ones that you may qualify for with a FICO score of 580 to 689. Using these cards responsibly helps you improve your credit score, so you can then look for cards with better perks. The best cards from this segment include options that let you earn rewards/cash back and ones that do away with annual fees. Some of these cards come with no foreign transaction fees as well.


  • Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum card

    A great no-annual-fee balance transfer card for people with average credit


    • Fair-ExcellentRecommended Credit
    • 8.99% – 18.00%APR
    • $0Annual Fee
    • 0% Intro APR on balance transfersBalance Transfer Offer
    • 0%Balance Transfer Fee

  • BankAmericard for Students

    A good no-annual-fee students’ credit card for earning cash back


    • Limited-FairRecommended Credit
    • $0Annual Fee
    • 21 monthsBalance Transfer Duration
    • 21 monthsAPR Offer Duration

    Terms, rates and fees apply

  • OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

    A good secured card for those who have poor credit


    • None-FairRecommended Credit
    • $35Annual Fee
    • $200Min. Security Deposit
    • 3# of Reporting Bureaus
    • 20.39% (variable)APR

  • GO REWARDS® Credit Card

    A great no-annual-fee rewards card for people with average credit


    • 8.99% - 18.00%APR
    • $0Annual Fee
    • 1-3 pointsRewards Rate
    • 3xRewards Rate on Dining
    • 2xRewards Rate on Gas

  • GO REWARDS® Credit Card

    A good no-annual-fee rewards card for earning points faster through its bonus categories


    • 11.99% – 18.00%APR
    • $0Annual Fee
    • 1-3 pointsRewards Rate
    • 3xRewards Rate on Dining
    • 2xRewards Rate on Gas

  • Navy Federal More Rewards American Express card

    A good no annual fee rewards card for people with average credit


    • 12.65% – 18.00%APR
    • $0Annual Fee
    • 1-3 pointsRewards Rate
    • 3xRewards Rate on Dining
    • 3xRewards Rate on Groceries

  • Discontinued

    A great cash back card for those who wish to build their credit histories


    • None-GoodRecommended Credit
    • $0Annual Fee
    • 15.49% - 24.99%APR
    • 1%-6% Cash BackRewards Rate

  • Navy Federal Credit Union Visa Signature cashRewards Card

    A great no annual fee cash back card for average to excellent credit


    • 12.65% – 18.00%APR
    • $0Annual Fee
    • 1.5%-1.75% Cash BackRewards Rate
    • 0%Balance Transfer Fee
    • Fair-ExcellentRecommended Credit

  • Navy Federal Credit Union cashRewards World Mastercard®

    A good no-annual fee cash back card for those with average credit


    • 12.65% – 18.00%APR
    • $0Annual Fee
    • 1.50% - 1.75% Cash BackRewards Rate
    • 0%Balance Transfer Fee
    • Fair-ExcellentRecommended Credit

  • Capital One Platinum Credit Card

    A great card for fair credit with no annual fees


    • Fair – GoodRecommended Credit
    • $0Annual Fee
    • 3# of Reporting Bureaus
    • 28.49% variableAPR

The Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit at a Glance
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Other Cards to Consider

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HOW WE RANK CREDIT CARDS FOR FAIR CREDIT

MoneyGeek experts collect 57 data points from issuer websites, our partners and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau to ensure you get access to the most accurate information possible. We then rely on our unique ranking methodology to arrive at and regularly update our list of the top 10 credit cards for fair credit. In doing so, we weigh parameters according to their level of importance. Some examples include:

  • Average APR: 10%
  • Rewards rate: 7%
  • Annual fee: 5%

5 Questions to Ask When Comparing Credit Cards for Fair Credit

When choosing among the best credit cards for consumers with fair credit scores, it helps to compare them side by side so that you can select the one that fits your lifestyle. Pay special attention to these features when comparing cards:

1

Fees

Does the card charge an annual fee? What fees are there for going over your credit limit, having a late payment or if your payment is returned?

2

Interest rates

Is there an APR promotion on purchases, balance transfers or both when your account is first opened? What is the interest rate on purchases if you carry a balance, and how long is the grace period before interest is charged? What rate is charged for balance transfers and cash advances?

3

Earning power

What rewards does it earn, and are there bonus categories that earn more? How easy is it to redeem your earnings, and do they expire?

4

Welcome bonus

Does the card offer a bonus for new cardholders? If so, how much do you have to spend over what period of time to earn it?

5

Benefits

Are there special benefits that you would use?

After you've answered these questions about the credit cards that you're considering, you can more easily compare the cards to determine which one works best for the way you use your cards.

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MONEYGEEK QUICK TIP:

When comparing credit cards with fair credit, be sure to look for any additional fees like annual fees, late fees, etc. Having a card without these additional payments is a great way to keep cash in your pocket.

MoneyGeek’s Guide to Improving Fair Credit Scores Efficiently

To improve your credit score quickly, it helps to know where you stand and what actions to take for the greatest impact. Understanding what moves your credit score immediately versus over the long term allows you to prioritize where to start first.

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MONEYGEEK QUICK TIP:

Depending on your financial situation or goals, a secured credit card may be another option to consider since you can only spend as much as your security deposit. This is helpful if you need a card for cash flow purposes but don’t want to spend above your credit limit or means. Learn more about secured credit cards and view our recommendations for the best secured cards.

Where Does Fair Credit Stack Against the Rest?

A fair credit score is one step above the lowest FICO score ratings. According to Experian, approximately 17% of credit scores fall into the range of 580 to 669. The ranges of credit scores for each grade are as follows:

  • Credit Score
    Score Range
  • Exceptional
    800 to 850
  • Very Good
    740 to 799
  • Good
    670 to 739
  • Fair
    580 to 669
  • Very Poor
    300 to 579

It’s possible that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, these numbers have risen since many Americans have suffered from job losses, reduced hours at work and family illnesses. These events beyond our control resulted in higher debt loads, missed or late payments, defaults, foreclosures and other negative impacts on credit scores. If your credit score has been affected, all is not lost. Credit scores improve over time with positive credit behaviors.

How Long Does It Take to Improve Credit Scores?

Credit scores change regularly as new data is reported to the credit bureaus from banks and other agencies. Depending on how much the details of each account change every month, the impact could be small or large. When trying to improve your credit score, you have to play both the short and the long game because each factor affects your credit score differently.

Factors That Impact Your Credit Score

There are five factors that impact your credit score. Some have an immediate impact, while others take time to see improvement.

1

Payment history (35% of your score)

It takes months to establish a track record of on-time payments that shows creditors that you can handle credit responsibly. However, missing one payment and being 30 days or more late can erase all of that positive history. Setting up an automatic payment of the minimum amount due can eliminate the risk of missing a payment.

2

Length of credit history (15%)

This factor takes time to build as well. Keeping your oldest accounts open is a good way to increase the average age of your accounts. Having a long history shows lenders that you can maintain a positive credit history with a creditor.

3

Amounts owed (30%)

By keeping the balances on your credit cards low, you show lenders that you can be trusted not to max out your credit. The lower your credit utilization is (balances versus credit limit), the better your score will be. A rule of thumb is to keep balances below 30% of your credit limit, but below 10% is best.

4

New credit (10%)

Every time you apply for a new loan or credit card, a hard inquiry is added to your credit report. This reduces your score a few points for 6 to 12 months, then falls off your report entirely after two years. Keep your applications to a minimum to avoid this impact.

5

Credit mix (10%)

Lenders want to see that borrowers can handle various types of debt, such as loans and credit cards. Loans show that you can handle repeat payments each month, while credit cards show that you can resist maxing out your available credit.

Of course, besides these five factors, you should avoid having a tax lien, judgment, foreclosure or another major negative item post to your credit report.

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PERKS TO HAVING BETTER CREDIT

When you have better credit, many doors of opportunity open up for you. In today's society, not only are credit applications affected by your credit score, but rental applications, insurance rates and job applications may also be impacted. Some utility companies and cell phone providers may even require a security deposit if you don't have a high enough credit score.

As your credit improves, you'll receive better terms, interest rates and benefits on applications for loans and credit cards. Many people take pride in their credit scores and use them to measure their progress towards financial success.

What Not to Do If You Have Fair Credit & Want to Improve

People who have fair credit have an opportunity to improve their credit score to Good or Very Good quickly by being smart with how they use credit. If you want to improve your credit score, avoid these behaviors:

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  1. Applying for multiple credit cards in a short period of time. Every time you apply for credit, your credit score drops a few points. Banks may see your multiple applications in a short time frame as a sign that you are in financial distress. That will make them hesitant to approve your application or offer favorable terms.
  2. Max out your credit cards. Maxing out your credit cards harms you in several ways. Your credit score will drop because your utilization is so high. The monthly minimum amount due on higher balances can be tough to pay if your budget is tight. Plus, you won't have the ability to use the card in case of an emergency since there is no credit available.
  3. Miss a payment. Missing payments on your obligations can be disastrous in many ways. The bank will charge a late fee and can report it to the credit bureaus. This will cause your credit score to fall, and the missed payment will be on your credit report for up to seven years. Although the late payment stays on your record for years, the impact lessens over time by making all of your other payments on time.

Many lenders watch your credit score and how you handle your other accounts. If your credit score falls and you aren't managing your other accounts responsibly, a bank can reduce your credit limit, increase your interest rate or even close your account.

How to Use Current Credit Cards or a New One to Improve Credit Scores

Whether you apply for a new credit card or use one of your existing cards, responsible usage can improve your credit score. A few simple steps are all you need to take to boost your credit score over time.

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  1. Set up an automatic payment of the minimum due. Ideally, you'll pay your card balance in full each month, but that isn't possible for everyone. You need to at least pay the minimum due to avoid late fees that increase your debt and put a negative mark on your credit report.
  2. Spread your purchases across multiple credit cards. By using multiple credit cards for your purchases, you'll keep the utilization ratio lower on each card. If you use one card for all purchases, the balance could go higher than 30% of your credit limit.
  3. Make multiple payments to your credit card throughout the month. When you make extra payments, it reduces your average daily balance, which lowers the interest the bank may charge you. Many people find making smaller payments easier on their budget versus one large payment.
  4. Pay extra before your statement closes. The balance that most banks report to the credit bureaus is the balance on your statement. By paying extra to reduce your balance, you can lower your utilization ratio and boost your score.
  5. Keep your oldest accounts open. You may have found a new favorite card. While it may be tempting to close an unused older card, don't do it. Your older card is helping increase the average age of your accounts, which improves your credit score.

Other Ways to Get Financial Assistance or Build Credit Without A Card

If you aren't ready to apply for a new credit card to build your credit, don't give up because there are other options available:

Alternative to Credit Cards

  • Become an authorized user. Someone with an existing credit card can add you to their account as an authorized user. That account's history and continued use will reflect on your credit report as if it is your account.
  • Pay bills on time. If you have existing accounts on your credit report, pay them on time to build a track record of responsible use of credit. Payment history makes up the largest percent (35%) of your credit score, so this is critical.
  • Use Experian Boost. This feature can raise your FICO score instantly by giving you credit for paying phone, utility and streaming service bills on time.
  • Get a credit builder loan. Credit builder loans build credit by reporting your payments to all three credit bureaus for a fee. The loan is actually a modified savings account where your "loan" payments are returned to you when the loan term is over.

After you've developed a longer credit history and improved your score, you can always apply again for potential approval.

Questions About Credit Cards for Fair Credit

After reading about credit cards for fair credit and how to build your credit history, you may have additional questions. Learning how to manage your credit history is something that takes time. Getting one question answered often leads to more questions on the topic.

Next Steps

Now that you know what the best credit cards for fair credit have to offer, look for one based on your individual preferences and factors such as annual fees and rewards. Once you settle on the right card for you, using your card responsibly will help improve your creditworthiness.

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Expert Advice on Finding the Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit

  1. When might it be worth getting a credit card for fair credit with an annual fee?
  2. Might getting a secured card work better than a card for fair credit in any situation?
  3. Should one close a credit card account after seeing an improvement in their credit score?
Emily Lucero, CFP
Emily Lucero, CFP

Client Service Manager, Analyst at Harbor Wealth Management

Claire Thornton
Claire Thornton

Lead Financial Planner at Inspired Financial

Jamie Lima
Jamie Lima

Founder and President at Woodson Wealth Management

Brett Sifling
Brett Sifling

Director of Get Invested at Gerber Kawasaki Wealth & Investment Management

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman

Writer, Editor, Individual and Corporate Coaching at Write A Blog People Will Read

Erik Jefferson, CFA, CAIA, CWS
Erik Jefferson, CFA, CAIA, CWS

Chief Investment Officer at Flagship Harbor Advisors

Shane Witt
Shane Witt

Financial Advisor

Danielle Miura, CFP®
Danielle Miura, CFP®

Founder of Spark Financials

Mike Alves
Mike Alves

Managing Director, Founder

Kalvin Sid
Kalvin Sid

CFP® MBA, CKA®

Kevin Gotts
Kevin Gotts

Certified Financial Planner

Christina Collins
Christina Collins

Private Wealth Advisor at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company

Adam Wright, CFA, CFP®
Adam Wright, CFA, CFP®

Managing Partner at Wright Associates Investment Advisers

Kirk Barth, CFP, ChSNC, CLU, ChFC
Kirk Barth, CFP, ChSNC, CLU, ChFC

Financial Advisor at Smart Assets of Hawaii

Elliott Appel
Elliott Appel

CFP®, CLU®, RLP® at Kindness Financial Planning

Bobbi Olson
Bobbi Olson

Financial Coach & Host of the "CentsAble Chat" Podcast

Jeff Kikel
Jeff Kikel

President of Freedom Day Wealth Management LLC

John Garner
John Garner

Founder & CEO at Odynn

Carma Peters
Carma Peters

President & CEO of Michigan Legacy Credit Union

Nicolas Jankuhn
Nicolas Jankuhn

Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Southern Indiana

Dr. Hrishikesh (Hrish) Desai
Dr. Hrishikesh (Hrish) Desai

Assistant Professor of Accounting at Arkansas State University

Kurt Jackson, CFP®, C(K)P®, AIF®, CRPS®
Kurt Jackson, CFP®, C(K)P®, AIF®, CRPS®

CEO/Founder at Central Coast Wealth Management

Sean Lovison, CPA
Sean Lovison, CPA

Principal at WJL Financial Advisors, LLC

About the Author


Lee Huffman spent 18 years as a financial planner and corporate finance manager before quitting his corporate job to write full-time in 2018. Lee has been writing about early retirement, credit cards, travel, insurance, and other personal finance topics since 2012. He enjoys showing people how to travel more, spend less, and live better through the power of travel rewards. When Lee is not getting his passport stamped around the world, he's researching methods to earn more miles and points towards his next vacation.

Lee's writing can be found on many popular travel and credit card websites such as The Points Guy, Investopedia and NerdWallet. You can follow Lee's travels at BaldThoughts.com or listen to his weekly travel podcast at WeTravelThere.com.


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*Rates, fees or bonuses may vary or include specific stipulations. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting/last updated date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. We recommend visiting the card issuer’s website for the most up-to-date information available.
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