Best for no annual fee

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
26.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)

BEST FOR CREDIT-BUILDING WITH CASH BACK

Apply now
On Petal's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 1.5% Up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments.
  • 1% 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away.
Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
15.24% - 29.24% (Variable)
Recommended credit
No Credit History 
Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • 1.5% Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$39
Regular APR
26.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)

Best for entry-level fair credit

Apply now
On Mission Lane's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0 - $59
Regular APR
26.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Bad to Fair (300 - 670)

Best for up to 1.5 percent cash back

Apply now
On Mission Lane's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 1-1.5% Cash Back Unlimited 1-1.5% Cash Back on all Purchases
Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
26.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)

Best for rotating cash back bonus categories

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • 1% Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Intro offer
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.49% - 23.49% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best for low interest and low cost

Apply now
On Upgrade's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 1.5% Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment
Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
8.99% - 29.99% APR
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)

Best for no penalty APR

Apply now
On Avant's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$59
Regular APR
27.24%* Variable
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)

Best for bankruptcy forgiveness

Apply now
On Genesis FS Card Services's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0-$99
Regular APR
24.90%
Recommended credit
Bad to Fair (300 - 670)

Best for fraud protection

Apply now
On Genesis FS Card Services's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$35-$99
Regular APR
24.90%
Recommended credit
Bad to Fair (300 - 670)

Compare Bankrate’s best cards for fair credit

Card name Best for Annual fee Bankrate review score
Capital One Platinum Credit Card No annual fee $0 4.3 / 5
(Read full card review)
Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card Credit-building with cash back $0 4.5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Flat-rate cash back $39 4.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card Entry-level fair credit $0-$59 3.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Mission Lane Cash Back Visa Credit Card Up to 1.5 percent cash back $0 4.5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it Student Cash Back Rotating cash back bonus categories $0 4.3 / 5
(Read full card review)
Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® Low interest and low cost $0 3.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Avant Credit Card No penalty APR $59 2.7 / 5
(Read full card review)
Indigo Platinum Mastercard Bankruptcy forgiveness $0-$99 2.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
Milestone Gold Mastercard Fraud protection $35-$99 2.1 / 5
(Read full card review)

A closer look at Bankrate’s top credit cards for fair credit

Capital One Platinum Credit Card: Best for no annual fee

  • What we love about the Capital One Platinum card: This card doesn’t charge an annual fee, doesn’t require a security deposit and automatically considers you for a credit line increase in as little as six months.
  • Who this card is good for: People looking for a no-frills credit card that they plan to use on occasion and pay off in full each month to avoid interest charges as they build credit.
  • Alternatives: Compared to most credit cards for fair credit, the Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card makes it easier to focus on building credit. It doesn’t charge a security deposit or many of the fees found with credit cards. It also has an impressive amount of credit-building features, including an app packed with free credit score access, payment calculator and tools to help you budget and track your spending habits.

Read our full Capital One Platinum Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card: Best for credit-building with cash back

  • What we love about the Petal 2 card: This card’s issuer, WebBank, looks at more than just your credit report to help improve your chances of approval and a higher credit limit. The card also comes without fees that would get in the way of building good credit or even push some into credit card debt. Plus, it has more credit-building features meant to help people reach good credit compared to other cards marketed toward people with fair credit.
  • Who this card is good for: People with fair credit and no negative items in their credit report. If you have a recent history of missed payments or bankruptcy, you may have a harder time qualifying for this card.
  • Alternatives: The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® has a unique twist that treats your monthly balance like an installment loan that you can pay off in equal amounts for a set period of time. This can help you pay off large purchases while avoiding a number of fees typically found with credit cards. It also gives you access to your credit limit so you can send funds directly to your bank account if you need a personal loan. Plus, you earn 1.5 percent cash back once you pay your bill.

Read our full Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for flat-rate cash back

  • What we love about the QuicksilverOne Cash card: The card’s flat rate of 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases can help offset the card’s $39 annual fee as long as you spend over $2,600 each year. You can also earn unlimited 5 percent cash back on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply). These are decent benefits on a card that only requires fair credit, plus you’ll automatically be considered for a credit line increase in as little as six months.
  • Who this card is good for: People who want to earn rewards while building credit and who can pay their balances in full each month to avoid the high variable APR of 26.99 percent.
  • Alternatives: The Petal 2 card earns up to 1.5 percent cash back on eligible purchases, but only after making 12 on-time payments. It also earns 2 percent to 10 percent cash back at select merchants. The card isn’t as hassle-free as the QuicksilverOne, but cardholders won’t have to worry about an annual fee, late payment, returned payment or foreign transaction fees found with other credit cards.

Read our full Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Mission Lane Visa Credit Card: Best for entry-level fair credit

  • What we love about the Mission Lane Visa card: The accessibility. If you’re new to fair credit, it may be difficult to qualify for some of the other cards on this list. Fortunately, the Mission Lane Visa is accessible even to people with bad credit, which increases your odds of approval.
  • Who this card is good for: People with no credit history or who have just risen out of bad credit.
  • Alternatives: Both the Petal 1 and Petal 2 cards look at income, spending and savings to help make their cards more accessible to people with fair credit. And you just need to go through one quick application process to see which card you are most likely to get approved for.

Read our full Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Mission Lane Cash Back Visa Credit Card: Best for up to 1.5 percent cash back

  • What we love about the Mission Lane Cash Back card: The Mission Lane Cash Back card can help you build credit through responsible use. Along the way, you can earn cash back for your purchases.
  • Who this card is good for: Credit builders who can pay their balances in full and avoid the numerous fees associated with the card.
  • Alternatives: Not everyone will qualify for the 1.5-percent rate with the Mission Lane Cash Back Visa. But the Capital One QuicksilverOne can be a great option because you’re guaranteed a 1.5 percent flat rate as well as 5 percent back on hotels and rental cars booked in the Capital One Travel portal.

Jump back to offer details.

Discover it Student Cash Back: Best for rotating cash back categories

  • What we love about the Discover it Student Cash Back: This is a no-annual-fee credit card that can help students develop good financial habits while earning rewards. It comes with a number of features people new to credit will appreciate. This includes access to credit monitoring tools and late-payment forgiveness the first time you miss making an on-time payment (up to $41 thereafter).
  • Who this card is good for: Students who want access to a starter rewards card loaded with an impressive number of features.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card is another solid pick for students. It’s a no-annual-fee card that lets students earn an unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases, which may be a better fit for people who don’t want to deal with enrolling in or tracking the rotating bonus categories found with Discover cards.

Read our full Discover it Student Cash Back review.
Jump back to offer details.

 

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®: Best for low interest and low cost

  • What we love about the Upgrade Cash Rewards: It offers an innovative way to improve credit by letting you make purchases like a credit card or send money to your bank account like a personal loan. Users then pay off their balances in equal monthly installments, from 12 to 60 months. That payoff schedule helps users pay off balances faster and with less interest charges and fees than you get with traditional credit cards.
  • Who this card is good for: People with fair credit who need help budgeting for and paying down their credit card debt.
  • Alternatives: If you’d like a traditional credit card with limited fees, the Petal 2 is probably the best alternative. You won’t get charged an annual fee, late payment fee, returned check fee or foreign transaction fees. And you can earn rewards, making it a versatile option for people with fair credit.

Read our full Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®.
Jump back to offer details.

Avant Credit Card: Best for no penalty APR

  • What we love about the Avant card: The Avant card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and has no penalty APR. When used responsibly, you can grow your credit score, which can open the door to credit cards for good credit.
  • Who this card is good for: People with fair credit who struggle to qualify for credit cards with less fees and lower interest rates.
  • Alternatives: The Mission Lane Visa is available to users with bad credit and cardholders may qualify for credit line increases after six months of on-time payments.

Read our full Avant Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Indigo Platinum Mastercard: Best for bankruptcy forgiveness

  • What we love about the Indigo Platinum card: Accessibility. This is one of the rare cards for people who have declared bankruptcy in the past.
  • Who this card is good for: People who have declared bankruptcy and struggle to get preapproved for a different credit card can use the Indigo Platinum card to show off good credit habits and work their way up to a card with more features and less fees.
  • Alternatives: If you’re struggling to get approved for a credit card, you may need more time to build your credit score. The Mission Lane Visa Credit Card can be a good option, but take a look at the best credit cards for bad credit to see if there is a secured or unsecured card that can help get you on your way to better credit.

Read our full Indigo Platinum Mastercard review.
Jump back to offer details.

Milestone Gold Mastercard: Best for fraud protection

  • What we love about the Milestone Gold card: If you’ve already picked up good financial habits and just need a credit card to report your on-time payments to the credit bureaus, the Milestone Gold may be a good pick. It’s open to people with fair or bad credit and doesn’t require a security deposit. And like most credit cards, it offers zero liability fraud protection for any unauthorized purchases on a lost or stolen card.
  • Who this card is good for: People who can pay their balances in full and don’t mind a credit card with an annual fee and limited features.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is a no-frills credit card for people with fair-to-good credit. Like the Milestone Gold, it comes with $0 fraud liability, but it doesn’t charge an annual fee. Since it comes with a slightly higher variable APR (26.99 percent) it’s a good idea to try and pay your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges.

Read our full Milestone Gold Mastercard review.
Jump back to offer details.


Credit cards for consumers with fair or average credit

You might have trouble qualifying for top-rated rewards credit cards and the most competitive interest rates if you have fair credit. The good news is that many issuers offer credit cards specifically designed for people who don’t have outstanding credit scores.

Used correctly, a credit card for fair or average credit could help you build your score and improve your chances at getting better cards, lower interest rates and more.

Lightbulb
The more you know…
The pandemic has resulted in financial challenges for many Americans. According to our study, 33 percent of cardholders did something that could hurt their credit score during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What does it mean to have fair or average credit?

When you have a fair credit score, it means that your credit is one level below good but one level above bad or very poor. Credit score typically refers to your FICO® Score, a three-digit number that ranges from 300 to 850 using a scoring model developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation. If your score is between 580 and 669, you land in the range considered fair.

FICO score ranges

  • 300–579 = Very Poor
  • 580–669 = Fair
  • 670–739 = Good
  • 740–799 = Very Good
  • 800–850 = Exceptional

Source: Experian

How your credit score is calculated

The three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—assign credit scores based on a combination of factors. Each one counts for a specific percentage of your credit score.

Your payment history: 35 percent

This record indicates how often you make your payments on time vs. how often you may have missed or skipped payments. In the eyes of credit card issuers and other lenders, paying on time helps establish you as a reliable person to do business with.

How much of your available credit you’re using: 30 percent

Your credit utilization ratio is a percentage that measures how much credit you’re currently using in relation to how much credit you have available to you. As a general rule, experts recommend using no more than 30 percent of your available credit.

Length of credit history: 15 percent

If you just opened your first credit card a month ago, your credit score won’t be as strong as someone who’s had a credit card for several years and has built up a solid history of paying their bills on time.

New credit: 10 percent

Applications for new lines of credit account for a small part of your credit scores. Just remember that any application involving a hard credit check can put a small, temporary dent in your credit score. Applying for multiple cards in a short period of time might even give potential lenders the impression that you’re trying to borrow more than you can afford to repay.

The types of credit you have: 10 percent

Part of your credit score is determined by your credit mix, which can include credit cards, car loans, student loans and mortgages. Credit mix counts for just 10 percent, so you’ll want to avoid aggressively opening new lines of credit just to expand it.

Five ways you can improve your credit score

If your credit is fair-to-average, your goal should be to improve your overall credit standing. A higher credit score makes it easier to qualify for better financial products like premium credit cards and auto loans with favorable terms. It can even impact your ability to secure housing and employment. With consistency, you can raise your credit score over time. Here are some good credit habits to help you raise your credit score.

  1. Pay your bills in full and on time. Any missed or late payments will hurt your score. If you do have unpaid balances from time to time, keep them as low as possible.
  2. Don’t use more than 30 percent of the total credit available to you. Use Bankrate’s credit utilization ratio calculator to quickly determine your current ratio.
  3. Look for pre-qualified offers on credit cards, loans and other types of credit. A pre-qualification check won’t affect your credit score like a hard inquiry.
  4. Check your credit report and be prepared to correct errors. Incorrect information on your credit report—even something as simple as a misspelling of your name—could be keeping your credit score lower than it should be. Check your report and find out how to dispute errors.
  5. Be careful about canceling older credit accounts. A credit card that you’ve had for a long time adds to your length of credit history. Even if you don’t regularly use the old card anymore, keeping your account open and occasionally active could benefit your score. Consider setting up autopay for a small recurring charge—like a streaming service—on your old card so you won’t worry about cluttering up your wallet.

Don’t expect your credit score to go from fair to good overnight. In fact, it could take months to see it improve significantly. Think of it as a long-term project that will pay off in the long run.

Why a higher credit score matters

A good credit score can make your life easier in many ways. Good credit means more opportunities and better interest rates. For instance, if you have a good credit score, you are more likely to be approved for a loan, credit card, car loan, mortgage, or another type of credit account—but if your credit is just average or fair, you’ll likely pay higher interest rates even if you’re approved. Plus, your credit score may also affect your insurance premiums or your ability to get a job.

For example, if you have an average credit score of 660 and you apply for a credit card with a variable APR ranging from 15 percent to 24 percent, you may be approved for a card with 22 percent APR. But a person with a credit score of 700, however, might be approved for the same card with a lower APR rate of 18 percent.

How to choose the best credit card for fair credit

Choosing the right credit card isn’t always an easy task. The best credit card for fair credit is one that will help you reach your financial goals. When searching for a new credit card, it’s important to keep in mind that the card will be a tool to help you improve your credit score. Here are some of the things you should consider when choosing a card for fair credit:

  • Does the card have tools that help you improve your credit score? Monitoring your credit is an important first step to improving it. Does the card you’re after offer tools to help you with keeping track of your credit score? For example, some credit card issuers, like Citi and Discover, offer free access to a cardholder’s FICO score.
  • Does the card offer value? Most credit cards for fair credit come with simple, straightforward rewards programs. But simple doesn’t have to mean less valuable. There are credit cards for fair credit that earn cardholders as much as 5 percent cash back on select purchases.
  • Does the card fit into your budget? Can you afford any costs associated with the card? Be sure to consider factors like the annual fee, interest rate, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees.

Still unsure if a fair credit credit card is right for you? Check out our Credit Card Spender Type Tool where you can get personalized credit card recommendations based on your credit score, spending habits and daily needs.

Four things to consider before you apply

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you shop around for a credit card.

  1. Know the score. It’s important to have a general idea of which cards you might qualify for based on credit score. Check your credit score before you go card shopping and look for recommended credit scores in each card’s marketing details.
  2. Look for lower APR. Annual percentage rate (APR) represents the total cost, including interest, charged by credit card issuers and other lenders. If you typically carry a balance on your credit card, APR will come into play. The lower the APR, the less interest you’ll have to pay if you don’t pay off your balance each month.
  3. Get a sense of the fees. With every card you’re interested in, check for annual fee, late fee, foreign transaction fee and other charges. A card that’s less expensive to own could provide more value.
  4. Keep an eye out for pre-qualification. Online tools like CardMatch™ help you compare pre-qualified offers without hurting your credit score.

Three things to avoid with credit cards for fair credit

Having a fair credit score can be tricky, as you may have to take extra precautions when applying for a credit card or loan. If you want to improve your credit score over time, you should avoid the following issues when using a credit card for fair credit:

  • Avoid opening new accounts too quickly. It’s tempting to open up as many accounts as possible in order to lower your credit utilization ratio and get higher scores, but this might not always be the best idea. Opening too many new accounts at once can actually hurt your score because it looks like you’re desperate for more money or in financial trouble. Instead, be patient and wait until you have paid off some of your existing accounts before applying for another one.
  • Avoid closing multiple accounts at once. Each time you open a new account, it lowers your average age of accounts by one year. That means that if you open five new accounts within six months and then close them all after one year, it will look like you have only one account open for two years instead of five years—which could hurt your score significantly.
  • Avoid getting a card that has a high interest rate and a balance transfer fee. The APR on this type of card can be higher than other cards, so it’s important to pay off the balance each month. Balance transfer fees can also be expensive, and they only apply when you transfer existing debt onto your new card.

How we evaluate credit cards for fair credit

As someone with fair credit, you should focus on maximum value and potential to build your credit score. While Bankrate uses a 5-star scoring system to rate a card's overall quality, cards in the fair credit category receive particular attention in the areas of:

APR

An affordable APR could save you money if you ever have to carry an unpaid balance from one month to another.

Annual fee

Continuing the focus on affordability, our top-rated cards for fair credit often charge no annual fee or have an annual fee in the $29-$99 range.

Credit-building

Our top recommendations include cards that increase your credit line if you make the required number of on-time payments.

Pre-qualification

Many of the cards on our list offer pre-qualification, which means you can get an idea of how likely you are to get approval without a hard credit inquiry that takes a small bite out of your credit score.

More information on credit cards and credit scores

If you’re looking for options with fair credit or ways to build your credit score, check out some Bankrate resources:


Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.

Frequently asked questions about credit cards for fair credit

about the author
Former Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and other personal finance products since 2017. Before joining Bankrate, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina.
about the editor
Mariah Ackary is a personal finance editor who joined the Bankrate team in 2019, excited by the opportunity to help people make good financial decisions. Send your questions to mackary@bankrate.com

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.