The Best Credit Cards for Fair and Average Credit | 2021

The Best Credit Cards for Fair and Average Credit | 2021

Cardholders searching for the best credit card for fair credit should look at the Citi Simplicity® Card. Aside from a generous 0% intro APR, it doesn't charge late fees or penalty fees.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

Citi is an advertising partner

Applying for a credit card can be a stressful decision. If you have a "fair" FICO score (580 to 669), you may worry about being declined or having limited credit card options. However, there are plenty of credit cards for consumers in this range, including some that give you 1% to 2% back on your spending.

Methodology

To make choosing the right card easier, we've looked at credit cards reviewed on ValuePenguin as well as cards on major issuer sites to compile a list of the best rewards credit cards available right now. Our recommendations are based on the additional value you can earn with the cards — including the rewards value, cost of ownership and value of benefits such as travel and purchase protections, lounge membership and airline companion passes. Our choices are not influenced by our advertisers. Learn more on how we calculate rewards.

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Best credit cards for fair credit 2021

Recommended cards
Best for
Annual fee
Citi Simplicity® Card
Citi Simplicity® CardBalance transfers$0
Apply Now
On Citibank's Secure Website
unavailable credit card
Capital One® Spark® Classic for BusinessBusiness owners$0Offer not available on this site

unavailable credit card
REDcardStore card$0Read Review

Continue reading for a detailed look at the benefits and features of each recommended credit card.

Tips for applying | FAQ

Best secured credit card for fair credit

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Our thoughts on this card

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card card is a great option for building or rebuilding your credit score. Unlike prepaid cards or debit cards, it gives you revolving credit to make purchases. Since this is a secured credit card, you will need to make an upfront deposit, which is refundable if you decide to cancel the card.

In addition, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card earns a high rate of cash back on purchases made with the card.

Benefits

  • At your eighth month of card membership, Discover will review your account and may upgrade you to an unsecured card if you manage your credit well.
  • The card offers great cashback earnings, including 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

Drawbacks

  • Your deposit is the credit limit you will be allocated — if you deposit $200, your credit limit will be $200.
  • Discover is difficult to use outside of the United States.

Best balance transfer credit card for fair credit

Citi Simplicity® Card

On Citibank's Secure Website

Our thoughts on this card

The Citi Simplicity® Card is a barebones card primarily designed for consumers interested in a credit card balance transfer or curbing their costs on penalties and fees. Its longer-than-average introductory rates make it a great solution for consolidating existing credit card debt or making a large purchase to pay over time.

Benefits

  • The card comes with a long intro APR of 0% for 21 months on Balance Transfers and 0% for 12 months on Purchases (then a 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable) APR applies).
  • It doesn't have late fees or a penalty APR in case you make a late payment.

Drawbacks

  • The Citi Simplicity® Card comes with no spending rewards, so making consistent purchases on this card is not ideal.
  • The regular APR — 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable) — is high, so you shouldn't carry a balance after the introductory period ends.

Best business credit card for fair credit

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Our thoughts on this card

If you're a business owner, the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business can be a great addition to your resources. It's a business credit card for applicants with Fair/Limited credit scores that happens to offer a solid set of benefits and a cashback rewards program:

Benefits

  • This card awards 1% Cash Back on every purchase. You can redeem your cash back at any time.
  • You can request cards for your employees free of cost. Their expenses will also earn cash back.
  • If traveling is part of your business, you'll enjoy good travel benefits, including rental car insurance, emergency assistance services and no foreign transaction fees.

Drawbacks

  • The card has high interest rates. If you plan on carrying a balance, this card may not be the best option.

Best fair credit card for students

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Our thoughts on this card

The Discover it® Student Cash Back card is a great option for those who are enrolled in school. The card offers the same cashback rewards program as the Discover it® Student Cash Back card — a card reserved for applicants with higher credit scores. It even rewards you for getting good grades.

Benefits

  • You can 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% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Discover pays you for good grades. For each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher, you will receive a $20 statement credit for up to five school years.

Drawbacks

  • To earn the 5% cash back through the revolving categories, you must log into your portal to activate them. It’s a simple one-click activation, but some may find it cumbersome.
  • Discover isn’t as widely accepted in the United States or abroad as Visa or Mastercard.

Best store credit card for fair credit

REDcard

Our thoughts on this card

If you're a fan of Target, the REDcard is one of your best options among store cards. The card scores you an automatic 5% back on all purchases you make in Target stores or on Target.com.

Benefits

  • Get an immediate 5% back on all purchases you make in Target stores or on Target.com.
  • Get a 10% discount coupon each year on your card anniversary along with other discounts and promotions.
  • You get 30 extra days for returns, and you don't need to provide a receipt.
  • Get free shipping on purchases of any amount when you order from Target.com.

Drawbacks

  • The REDcard has high interest rates, so it is best to avoid carrying a balance.
  • The card can only be used on Target purchases. If you need a card for anything other than Target shopping, you may want to look at other cards.

What is fair credit?

Fair credit means that a consumer's credit score is between 580 and 669 on the FICO scale. Fair credit can qualify you for loans and credit cards, but the offers you qualify for will likely have higher interest rates and fewer benefits than offers for consumers with higher scores.

FICO score ranges

Credit score
Rating
300-579Very poor
580-669Fair
670-739Good
740-799Very good
800-850Exceptional

How to pick the right card

When you're selecting a credit card, you should search for a card that matches your needs and spending habits without overburdening you with fees. Here are a few key factors to consider:

Spending limits

Your spending limit is the amount of credit given to you by the credit card issuer. In general, you want a card with a higher spending limit, since this will give you a lower debt-to-credit ratio — a major factor in your credit score. With a secured credit card, your limit will likely match your deposit (and some issuers will let you increase your deposit to boost your spending limit). With an unsecured credit card, you probably won't know what your credit limit will be until you're approved for an offer.

If you're approved for an unsecured credit card and the spending limit is lower than you’d like, give the credit card company a call. They may be able to increase your spending limit.

Fees and APR

Unfortunately, many credit cards in the fair credit range come with a lot of hidden fees. You should take a close look at a card's terms and conditions to understand up front what you'd be paying. Here are a few examples of possible credit card fees:

Credit card fee
Annual feeThe card issuer charges this fee each year you hold that card. The fee is charged in the first statement of your billing cycle, unless otherwise noted.
Balance transfer feeThis is charged when consumers consolidate credit card debt from one card to another. Some cards offer promotions where the fee is waived, but it is standard for cards to charge 3% to 5% of the balance being transferred
Foreign transaction feeIf you make a purchase outside the United States, some card issuers will charge a foreign transaction fee. This is usually a percentage of the purchase made (around 2% to 3%).
Returned payment feeSome issuers charge a returned payment fee if they are unable to process your payment due to insufficient funds in your bank account.
Late feeMany issuers charge a $35 to $40 late fee for missing your payment due date. You will also owe interest for the balance you carried for that period, so missing a payment by even a day really adds up.
Servicing feeOn top of an annual fee, some card issuers charge a monthly servicing fee. Such fees can add $100 or more to the price of a card, making it very expensive to own.
Set-up feeSome issuers charge a fee simply for opening an account with them. These fees are not common, but can be substantial, so keep an eye out for them.

Rewards

Credit card rewards are an excellent way to earn valuable incentives for your spending — usually in the form of cash back or points.

Cash back is a designated percentage of your purchases that goes back to you. This is a great way to save money on purchases you were going to make anyway. Each credit card is unique in how they distribute rewards to cardholders, so be sure to figure out how they award cardmembers.

Credit card points are much different. Points are unique to each card issuer, and can be used for a multitude of different redemptions including travel, gift cards and merchandise — plus, each credit card issuer’s points are not worth the same amount. So before you sign up for a rewards credit card, look into the value of the points you will earn from each card. If you're interested in a travel credit card and have fair credit, start with the Capital One Platinum Credit Card to build up your credit score, then opt for one of our best travel credit cards.

Also, many cards offer bonus points or cash back on certain categories of purchases, such as groceries or gas. If possible, find a card with bonus categories that match your spending patterns.

Ability to upgrade

Some credit card issuers will allow you to upgrade your card after a period of good credit management. You may be able to change to a card with no annual fee or a better rewards program. If you're considering a card with less-than-optimal terms, look to see if there is an option to upgrade at a later time.

How to apply and get approved

Here are a few suggestions for boosting your approval odds:

Apply for a card that fits your range

Before shopping for a credit card, check your credit score and credit history. Search for cards that match your current range — this will significantly improve your odds of approval.

Don’t apply for too many cards at once

When you apply for a credit card, you will have a hard credit inquiry posted on your credit report. This means that financial institutions will see you applied for a line of credit. If you do this multiple times in a short period of time, it can decrease your score and cause creditors to question why you’re applying for so many lines of credit. These inquiries stay on your credit report for two years, so avoid making this mistake.

Ask for reconsideration if you’re rejected

If you apply and receive a rejection letter or notice, it’s not the end of the road. Call the credit card issuer's customer service line to clarify why you were rejected. You may be able to resolve the issue and get approved for the card.

See if you’re preapproved

Some credit card issuers also have portals where you can check to see if you're preapproved for any of their offers. While there's no guarantee an issuer will approve you if you apply, preapproval gives you a much higher chance of approval.

Build your credit before applying

Before applying for a credit card, you may need to try other methods to build your credit score:

  • Become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.
  • Use a cosigner on a personal loan
  • If you pay rent, use rent-reporting services such as Rental Kharma to boost your credit score
  • Monitor your credit score closely. Correct any errors to ensure your credit isn’t affected in the long term.

Tips for using your credit card

Having a credit card is a large responsibility. Credit cards can be a great financial tool, but can also have large repercussions if they’re not used responsibly. Here are a few tips to using your credit card:

Pay off your balance on time

Paying your credit card statement late can result in late fees, interest and negative marks on your credit report. You should set your cards to autopay, just in case you forget your payment one month.

Keep credit utilization low

Part of your credit score is credit utilization — a ratio of how much credit you're using against how much credit you're allocated. It’s best practice to remain under 30% credit utilization.

What goes into your FICO score

Start with one credit card, and work your way up

Once you're comfortable with one credit card, it can be beneficial to sign up for additional cards. Many consumers utilize multiple credit cards in order to maximize rewards on different types of purchases. However, juggling multiple cards takes time and planning to maximize each purchase and ensure each card is paid on time.

If you don’t feel comfortable with more than one card, that’s perfectly fine — you can earn great rewards from using just one credit card responsibly.

FAQs about credit cards for fair credit

Browse the section below if you have unanswered questions about credit cards for fair credit.

What is the easiest credit card to get approved for?

There isn’t just one credit card that’s the easiest to get approved for. However, there are many secured credit cards with high approval odds:

What's the best credit card for fair credit with instant approval?

Many credit cards will instantly approve applications for at least some applicants. While no credit card can guarantee immediate approval for everyone who applies, certain secured credit cards like the OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card don’t require a credit check, which allows for a much faster approval process.

Can I get a credit card with a 650 credit score?

Yes, you can get a credit card with a 650 credit score — the cards mentioned above all fall into this range.

What credit card can I get without a deposit?

Secured credit cards require a deposit to secure the credit. Unsecured credit cards are available without a deposit.

Before you apply for a credit card, be sure to check your credit score. Credit cards for fair credit will require your credit score to be at least 580.

What are the best credit cards for a 650 credit score?

Everyone has a different financial situation, so there isn’t one best credit card for a 650 credit score. When selecting a credit card, it’s important to evaluate your financial needs and select a card that closely matches your needs.

Is there a Chase credit card for fair credit?

Unfortunately, Chase doesn't offer a credit card for fair credit. Chase credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, require a good credit score.

Is there an American Express card for fair credit?

Unfortunately, there are no American Express cards for fair credit. American Express credit cards are for consumers with excellent credit.

ValuePenguin’s verdict

Having fair to average credit means you’ll still qualify for a number of credit cards. Any of these cards can help you build your credit score to the ideal range, where you can then apply for cards with better rewards rate. For now, these credit cards are excellent options to consider.

The information related to the Discover it® Secured Credit Card, Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business, Discover it® Student Cash Back, and REDcard have been collected by ValuePenguin and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).