If your credit score reaches the 600s, that’s an indicator that your credit-building journey is on the right track. A 600 on the FICO scales means your credit has entered the fair range and could reach the good range soon, if you keep up the good work. The higher your score, the better access you have to the best credit cards. But even if you’re not in the upper echelon yet, there are plenty of competitive options to help you keep up your credit-building efforts.
Credit cards you can get with a 600 credit score
Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®: Fair to good (580–740)
The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® provides a reward incentive for the most important factor in building your credit score: your payment history. You’ll earn unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on purchases, but only when you make a payment on your card. Tying cash back rewards and payment history together is a great way to make sure to keep your score on an upward trend, as long as you keep up with regular payments and other key credit habits like a low credit utilization ratio.
Your ongoing APR with this card is based on your creditworthiness, so it could either be rock bottom or sky high, ranging from 8.99 percent to 29.99 percent variable APR. A higher APR means you’ll accrue more in interest charges if you carry a balance from month to month. Having a score in the fair range may put you in the middle of the pack for ongoing APR with this card, so be sure to avoid carrying a balance to skip the added interest altogether.
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Fair to good (580-740)
As you build a better score, you’ll get access to better cards with more competitive rewards rates, like the Capital One QuicksilverOne. You get unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases with this card, as well as a lucrative 5 percent cash back rate on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply).
There’s a small catch. You’ll have to pay a $39 annual fee for this card and the ongoing APR is steep at 26.99 percent variable. However, this annual fee one of the lowest you’ll find, and the ongoing APR is a non-factor if you pay your balance in full each month. This card also isn’t secured, so you won’t have to pay both an annual fee and a security deposit.
Mission Lane Cash Back Visa Credit Card: Fair to good (580-740)
The Mission Lane Cash Back Visa® Credit Card is a great representation of the difference between a bad and a fair credit score, and what perks a card for each can get you. The Mission Lane Cash Back Visa is a step up from its sister card, the Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card, because it offers cash back. You still won’t have to pay an annual fee and there’s still no security deposit requirement. You’ll earn at least 1 percent unlimited cash back on your purchases, with the opportunity to earn up to 1.5 percent cash back depending on your individual program terms.
One major drawback of the card is that your official rewards rate, which differs based on your assigned program terms after application, is unknown until you’re approved for the card. The starting credit limit is fairly low at $300, but you will have the chance to get this limit increased after making six on-time payments. As per usual with cards for lower credit scores, the ongoing APR is high at 26.99 percent to 29.99 percent variable, so try not to carry a balance each month.
Capital One Platinum Credit Card: Fair to good (580-740)
The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is virtually identical to the Capital One Platinum Secured credit card. The main difference is the credit score recommendation for approval and the security deposit requirement. Since the Capital One Platinum card doesn’t require a security deposit, it’s another example of the benefits of a better credit score: less added costs.
There’s still no rewards structure on this card, but this may be to your advantage when it comes to focusing on continued credit building. You could be eligible for a credit limit increase after six months and the CreditWise app is a handy tool to help you track your score progression.
Citi Secured Mastercard: No credit history
Another card that keeps a square focus on credit building is the Citi® Secured Mastercard®. You won’t get rewards with this card and it is secured, so a security deposit is required. This card may be ideal for someone whose score is on the lower side of the fair credit score range, and who may not qualify for the better ongoing APRs on some other credit cards for fair credit. There is no annual fee and your ongoing APR is 24.74 percent variable, which lands in the middle range for these kinds of credit cards.
You could get your deposit refunded after 18 months with this card along with a potential upgrade from Citi, though these terms for upgrade aren’t explicit. As a perk for holding a Citi card, you’ll get access to Citi Entertainment, which features deals on exclusive travel, dining and entertainment events.
How to choose a credit card when you have fair credit
- Keep up with building credit. Continue to search for cards that incentivize you to keep up with your credit-building habits. There are many cards that offer online banking apps and other tools that can also help you keep track of your efforts.
- See where you can cut costs. As your score gets better, some extra maintenance fees start to fall off the credit cards available to you. Start looking at cards that don’t charge an annual fee or a security deposit. If you know you tend to carry balances, look for cards with lower ongoing APRs.
- Start shopping for more value. Now that some of your card options may feature rewards, dig into your spending habits to determine what types of rewards will best suit your financial needs. For example, if you spend broadly across categories, you might opt for a flat-rate cash back card that covers all purchases you make. If you spend more on select categories like dining or travel, start looking for tiered rewards cards that compensate those purchases highly.
How to go from fair to good credit
- Seek out pre-qualified offers. One way to get a better sense of what cards you could be approved for is to use online tools like CardMatch™ to determine your options without causing a hard pull on your credit.
- Don’t open too many new accounts at once. Opening too many accounts will have a detrimental effect on your credit, which you’ll want to avoid. Learn the importance of waiting to open a new credit account and how credit inquiries affect your score overall.
- Don’t close your old credit card right away. Your credit history is another major factor of your credit score, and the longer it is, the better. Even if you don’t use your starter credit card anymore, keeping it open could add vital length to your credit history and boost your score over time.
- Keep paying on time and in full. This credit habit is arguably the most important to maintaining and building your credit score. As long as you’re making consistent, on-time payments, you should be able to maintain or increase your score.
- Follow the golden rule for credit utilization. By keeping your credit utilization ratio at or below 30 percent, you’ll signal to credit lenders that you have a good handle on your credit, which could lead to a boost in your score over time.
Maximizing credit card rewards
When your score improves, you’ll get access to more credit cards that offer rewards. Learning how to maximize your credit card rewards is a great way to benefit from your credit-building efforts two-fold.
- First, you’ll want to take a close look at your spending habits and determine what purchases you use your credit card for the most. Your spending often best fits into flat-rate and bonus category rewards cards, and knowing how you spend will be a big determinate of which will offer the most value.
- Besides helping your credit score, paying your balance in full will help you avoid interest charges that can eat into your reward earnings. Keeping your credit utilization low means you’ll have smaller balances, which are easier to pay off quickly.
- If your card issuer has a rewards portal, be sure to use it. Leveraging portals can either earn you a higher rewards rate on certain purchases or increase the value of your redemption significantly.
The bottom line
Reaching the fair credit range gives you more breathing room when it comes to letting go of extra fees and brings the potential for earning rewards. Try not to let these extra freedoms distract you from your goals. Continue paying your balances on time and in full whenever possible to avoid added interest that can reduce your new reward earnings. Use the money you used to save up for security deposits as a way to keep your credit utilization below 30 percent. Keep up with your responsible credit habits and you’ll be able to get your hands on the most lucrative credit cards in no time.