Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit in 2021

The best credit cards for fair credit offer competitive fees and interest rates while including attractive benefits that reward you for being a customer.

By  
  |  

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. While you may not qualify for the best credit card offers, there are many attractive credit cards for fair credit that have no annual fees, earn rewards, offer 0% APR promotions and more. Responsible use of your credit cards and other debts over time will improve your credit score so you can be approved for the best interest rates, benefits and terms on any loan or card.

tip icon
READY TO LEARN MORE?

Use the links below to find the information you’re looking for quicker:

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 in 2021.

tip icon
WHICH CARDS STAND OUT IN 2021?

Find Out Today

Sponsored by CardRatings

 

Learn More >

MoneyGeek’s Take: Top Credit Cards for Average Credit

The best credit cards for fair credit vary depending on the goals that you have. Some people want a 0% APR offer or a low interest rate, while others want to earn rewards and receive benefits. While many of these credit cards have attractive offers, do not apply for multiple cards all at once. Doing so could harm your credit rather than help it.

1

Good Credit Cards for Fair Credit with Rewards

  • Capital One QuicksilverOne Rewards: Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase and have your account automatically considered for a higher credit limit in as little as six months.
  • Credit One Bank Platinum Rewards Visa: Receive 5% cash back on the first $5,000 of eligible purchases each year and 1% on all other transactions, all with no annual fee and a competitive APR on purchases.
2

Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit without Deposits or Annual Fees

  • Indigo Platinum Mastercard: This unsecured credit card does not require a security deposit, and it reports to all three credit bureaus so you can build your credit history.
  • Capital One Platinum Credit Card: With responsible use of this no-annual-fee card, you'll be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months.
tip icon
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. We discuss the fees and other questions to ask yourself when comparing credit cards in the section below - 5 Questions to Ask When Comparing Credit Cards for Fair Credit.

Best Credit Card Offers for Fair Credit as of September 2021

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.

Good Credit Cards for Fair Credit With Rewards

People who are building their credit can also earn rewards for their spending with these credit cards. Many of our readers use the cash back they earn from their credit card purchases to pay down credit card debt or other debt they may have or build an emergency fund to accelerate their path to financial freedom.


  • creditApproved icon

    FEATURED

    Capital One QuicksilverOne Rewards
    Best card for earning cash back across categories

    • Limited-FairCredit Needed
    • 1.5% Cash BackRewards Rate
    • $39Annual Fee
    • 26.99% VariableReg APR

  • Credit One Bank Platinum Rewards Visa
    A great card to maximize cash back rewards

    • FairCredit Needed
    • 1%–10%* Cash BackRewards Rate
    • $95Annual Fee
    • 23.99% VariableReg APR

Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit Without Annual Fees or Deposits

Avoiding annual fees and security deposits is a good way to keep cash in your pocket and stay out of debt. These credit cards help you build your credit without paying an annual fee or requiring a security deposit to open your account.


  • creditApproved icon

    FEATURED

    Indigo Platinum Mastercard
    A great card with global access to rebuild your credit

    • Fair-GoodCredit Needed
    • $75-99*Annual Fee
    • 24.90%Reg APR

  • Capital One Platinum Credit Card
    A great card for fair credit with no annual fees

    • Limited-FairCredit Needed
    • $0Annual Fee
    • 26.99% VariableReg APR

How We Rank Credit Cards Approved for Fair Credit Scores

We compile and rank our lists of suggested credit cards based on publicly available data from card issuers and other reputable sources like the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. We analyze and compare over 55 data points — such as annual fees, interest rates, rewards, benefits, and more — for approximately 2,500 cards to assign a rating for each card feature.

The ratings are then stack ranked and weighted based on the most relevant features for each card category (cash back, business, etc.). These determine the top suggestions for each type of user or card category. Because card details and welcome offers change regularly, we revisit this list at least once a month to update our ratings and recommendations as needed. Learn more about our data collection and ranking process.

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

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

What are the 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

What's the card's 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

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

Are there additional benefits?

Are there special benefits that you would use? For instance, loyalty programs, access to events or fraud protection.

Scroll for more

swipe icon
  • Card Name
    Credit Needed
    Rewards Rate
    Annual Fee
    Reg APR
  • Capital One QuicksilverOne Rewards
    Fair
    1.50%
    $39
    26.99% Variable
  • Credit One Bank Platinum Rewards Visa
    Fair
    1%–10% *
    $95
    23.99% Variable
  • Indigo Platinum Mastercard
    Fair-Good
    $75-99*
    24.90%
  • Capital One Platinum Credit Card
    Limited-Fair
    $0
    26.99% Variable
Other Cards to Consider

securePayment

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.

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.

tip icon
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:

tip icon
DONT'S FOR IMPROVING CREDIT
  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.

tip icon
DO'S FOR IMPROVING CREDIT
  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. 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.

Common Questions About Credit Cards for Average Credit Scores

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

About the Author


expert-profile

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.


sources
*Rates or fees may vary or include specific stipulations. We recommend visiting the card issuer’s website for the most up-to-date information available.
Advertiser Disclosure: MoneyGeek has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. MoneyGeek and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. To ensure thorough comparisons and reviews, MoneyGeek features products from both paid partners and unaffiliated card issuers that are not paid partners.