Best for no annual fee

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
28.49% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)
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
28.49% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)

Best for entry-level fair credit

Mission Lane Visa® Credit Card

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

Mission Lane Cash Back Visa® Credit Card

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

Discover it® Student Cash Back

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
15.24% - 24.24% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best for low interest and low cost

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®

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
14.99% - 29.99% APR
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)

Best for no penalty APR

Avant Credit Card

Apply now
On Avant's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$59
Regular APR
27.99%* Variable
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)
Apply now
On Credit One Bank's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 10X Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • 5X Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • 1X Earn 1x points on all other purchases
Intro offer
10,000 Bonus Points  
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
25.49% Variable
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)

Best for bankruptcy forgiveness

Indigo® Mastercard®

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

Milestone® Mastercard®

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)
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)
Credit One Bank Wander Card Travel $95 3.2 / 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: Many credit cards for fair credit offer instant approval, but this card goes further. It 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 unsecured 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.

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 28.49 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 fast approval process makes this a good choice for anyone looking for a credit card for fair credit with instant approval. Plus, it 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.

Credit One Bank Wander Card: Best for travel

  • What we love about the Credit One Bank Wander Card: This card carries some of the highest travel rewards rates you can get on an unsecured card available with fair credit and its rewards program covers an impressive range of travel categories. Along with expected categories like eligible flights and hotels, you’ll earn points on gas and dining, making it a good option for vacations and everyday travel alike.
  • Who this card is good for: Credit-builders who want to earn rewards on travel and would rather pay an annual fee than tie up money in a security deposit.
  • Alternatives: If you’re looking for a lower-cost way to build credit without putting down a deposit or giving up rewards completely, consider the Capital One QuicksilverOne card. You’ll earn a still-impressive 5 percent back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel as well as 1.5 percent back on all other purchases, all for an annual fee of just $39 per year. Plus, after you’ve improved your score with responsible card use, you may be able to upgrade to a more lucrative Capital One rewards card, such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Read our full Credit One Wander 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 (28.49 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.


What does it mean to have fair or average credit?

When you have fair or average credit, your FICO® Score sits somewhere between 580 and 669. This is far better than someone with bad credit or anyone who is credit invisible, but lenders still consider you to be a subprime borrower. That means there’s something in your credit report that suggests you’re at a higher risk to default on a credit card compared to someone with good or excellent credit. When you’re a subprime borrower, it costs more to borrow money since lenders will typically offer you loans and credit cards with higher interest rates to help offset the risk.

Why a higher credit score matters

Your credit score doesn’t just have an impact on how much interest you pay on loans. It plays a much bigger role in your life:

  • Renting an apartment. When you rent an apartment or condo, your landlord may run a credit check to determine how likely you are to be a good tenant. The same factors that impact your credit score the most (your repayment history and the amount of debt you carry) could affect your application.
  • Buying a home. With a lower credit score, you may not qualify for a conventional mortgage. This can make it harder to buy the home you want, as many sellers prefer conventional loans over government-backed loans.
  • Insurance costs. In most states, insurance companies use your credit history to help determine how much you pay for insurance. A good credit score could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars when it’s time to buy auto or homeowners insurance.
  • Utilities and phone plans. Utility companies and phone carriers also run credit checks to determine how well you manage your finances. A lower score could mean having to put down a deposit for service or phone plans.
  • Credit limits. Not all credit cards for fair credit have high limits. Depending on your credit score, you could end up with a credit limit as low as $200 to $300, which can make it difficult to build credit, especially if you use too much of your available credit.

How to choose a credit card for fair credit

There are a lot of credit cards out there, and not all of them will be a good fit for you. To find the best credit card for fair credit, you’ll have to consider a number of factors, including your spending habits, goals and the type of card you’re likely to qualify for. To help you narrow down your options, here are some questions to ask when choosing a credit card.

  • What’s my credit 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.
  • Secured or unsecured? Depending on your credit score, it could be difficult to qualify for the top unsecured credit cards for fair credit. If you can afford to put down a security deposit, a secured credit card with minimal fees and a low interest rate can help you boost your credit score while helping you avoid cards that offer no perks but plenty of fees.
  • How will I pay my balance? If you can pay off your credit card balance in full each month, you can avoid the high interest charges and many of the other fees that can lead to credit card debt. But if you tend to carry a balance, make it a priority to find a low-interest credit card. These cards have a lower annual percentage rate (APR), which could help you save a lot of money.
  • Does the card have credit-building tools? If your main goal is to build credit, check to see if your card comes with features that can make it easier for you to grow your credit score or improve your financial literacy skills. Some credit cards for fair credit offer free access to your credit score and help you monitor your credit. Others come with helpful advice and tips that can empower you to make the best possible financial decisions.
  • What are the fees? Watch out for common credit card fees. You won’t be able to avoid them all, but some credit cards can help you avoid certain costs like annual fees, foreign transaction fees and penalty APRs.
  • Am I prequalified? Keep an eye out for pre-qualification. Online tools like CardMatch™ help you compare pre-qualified offers without hurting your credit score.

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.

How to improve your credit score and approval odds for a rewards credit card

There are many benefits to having a higher credit score, including access to top-of-the-line rewards credit cards, which come with features not typically found with credit cards for fair credit. Credit card perks you’re likely to come across when you have good or excellent credit include large sign-up bonuses, long intro APR offers, higher credit limits and even travel credits. If you’re looking for ways to raise your credit score so you can get approved for a better credit card, here are some good credit habits to maintain.

  1. Pay your bills on time. Late payments hurt your score and can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. The longer you are late with a payment, the worse it is for your credit score.
  2. Don’t carry too much debt. Using more than 30 percent of your available credit can lead to a high credit utilization ratio, which drops your score. Use Bankrate’s credit utilization ratio calculator to quickly determine your current ratio.
  3. Check your credit report. Incorrect information on your credit report — even something as simple as a misspelling of your name — could keep your credit score lower than it should be. Check your report and find out how to dispute errors.
  4. Avoid opening new accounts too quickly. 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 between credit card applications.
  5. Consider keeping older credit accounts open. 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.

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.

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.