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The Best Credit Cards for Fair and Average Credit | October 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.

Having an average or fair FICO score (670–699) doesn't mean you can't get your hands on some amazing credit cards. If your score has climbed to the upper 600s, you can get your first taste of credit cards with rewards rates of 1.5% to 2%, that is cards that will give you 1% to 2% back on your spending. Our guide below will help people with average credit find the best credit cards that suit their lifestyle and goals.

On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

On Capital One's Secure Website
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One and is not part of our independent analysis.

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app
Annual Fee
$39
Regular APR
26.46% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Average, Fair, Limited
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Miles

On Discover's Secure Website
Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Discover Match® details & other information.
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Discover Match® details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent/Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Chase's Secure Website

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

On Chase's Secure Website
  • Earn up to 60,000 points. Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months your account is open.
  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • All points earned count towards Companion Pass.
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions.
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events, and more.
  • Earn up to 60,000 points. Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months your account is open.
  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • All points earned count towards Companion Pass.
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions.
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events, and more.
Annual Fee
$69
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Student Cash Back

On Discover's Secure Website
Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.74% - 23.74%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.74% - 23.74%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.74% - 23.74% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Fair/New to Credit
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Citi's Secure Website

Citi Simplicity® Card

On Citi's Secure Website
  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.49% - 26.49%, based on your creditworthiness
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 16.49% - 26.49%, based on your creditworthiness
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balances, are paid in full
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • The same great rate for all balances, after the introductory period
  • Save time when you call with fast, personal help, 24 hours a day - just say "representative"
  • Enjoy the convenience of setting up your own bill payment schedule on any available due date throughout the month
  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.49% - 26.49%, based on your creditworthiness
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 16.49% - 26.49%, based on your creditworthiness
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balances, are paid in full
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • The same great rate for all balances, after the introductory period
  • Save time when you call with fast, personal help, 24 hours a day - just say "representative"
  • Enjoy the convenience of setting up your own bill payment schedule on any available due date throughout the month
Annual Fee
$0*
Regular APR
16.49% - 26.49%* (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent, Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

On Capital One's Secure Website
  • Enjoy no annual fee
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase
  • Build business credit with responsible use
  • Fraud coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Enjoy business benefits including Year-End Summaries, employee cards at no extra cost and experienced small business customer service

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One and is not part of our independent analysis.

  • Enjoy no annual fee
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase
  • Build business credit with responsible use
  • Fraud coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Enjoy business benefits including Year-End Summaries, employee cards at no extra cost and experienced small business customer service
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
24.74% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Average, Fair, Limited
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

Best For Cash Back: Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

If you have an average credit score and want cash-back rewards, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is the way to go. There's no sign-up bonus, but you'll get a strong 1.5% cash-back rate on all purchases. We strongly recommend you only get this card if you plan to charge at least $7,800 per year. If you spend less than that, it doesn't make sense to pay this card's $39 annual fee. Normally, a bonus would offset this cost for at least several years. However, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card doesn't offer one.

If you're actively working on improving your credit score, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card also comes with some great features. First, you can monitor your credit score with Capital One's CreditWise program. This way you can see how your spending and credit behavior influence your score. Secondly, Capital One may give you a higher credit line after you make five monthly payments on time. This can improve your credit utilization—a major factor in your credit score. Do not confuse this credit card with the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. The two have similar names, however, the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is intended for people with excellent credit.

Highlights

Best For Travel: Discover it® Miles

The Discover it® Miles is one of the best "no-annual-fee" credit cards. It awards 1.5 miles for every dollar you spend. That translates to a 1.5% rewards rate anywhere you shop. This kind of setup is ideal for most consumers who don't want to think about optimizing their rewards. Instead, this card simply gives you an above-average rate anywhere you shop. In lieu of a traditional bonus, the Discover it® Miles doubles all the rewards earned by new cardmembers at the end of their first cardmember year. That effectively gives this card a 3% rewards rate on all purchases during that time. What makes this card especially useful for travel is the lack of foreign transaction fees. When you use your card outside the U.S., most would charge you around 3% of every transaction. The Discover it® Miles waives that charge, which means you can use it anywhere you go.

Highlights

Best For Airline Miles: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Despite their high value, some co-branded airline credit cards—such as the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card—are within the reach of consumers with average credit scores. This card, in particular, also made our overall list of best airline miles credit cards. If you get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, this card will be a top-tier choice to keep in your wallet, even as time goes on and your credit score improves.

The sign-up bonus on this card makes it a great choice. Cardholders can earn 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Welcome offers this rewarding usually have spending requirements that are thousands of dollars higher. Plus, cardholders can earn 20,000 points after spending $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months.

Highlights

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months.
  • Get 3,000 bonus miles every account anniversary.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card Review

Best For Students: Discover it® Student Cash Back

Many people with a thin credit profile tend to turn to student credit cards as an option. One of our favorites in this category is the Discover it® Student Cash Back. Cardholders earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter when they activate set bonus categories. These categories include gas, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more. Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. For 2019, the categories are:

January-MarchApril-JuneJuly-SeptemberOctober-December
Grocery storesGas stations, Uber & LyftRestaurants and PayPalAmazon.com, Target & Walmart.com

For new cardmembers, Discover will also double all the cash back you earn during your first year—uncapped. This means that in the first year, the Discover it® Student Cash Back will essentially earn you at least a 2% rewards rate on all spending.

Highlights

  • Get a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to five years.
  • New cardmembers get their cash back doubled at the end of their first year.
  • Free credit tracking capabilities to monitor your credit score.
  • Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

Best for Balance Transfers: Citi Simplicity® Card

If you're dealing with existing credit card debt that seems out of control, it may be worthwhile to get a balance transfer credit card like the Citi Simplicity® Card. That's because this card offers 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from the date of the first transfer. All transfers must be completed within the first four months. After the intro period the APR will be 16.49% - 26.49%* (Variable), based on your creditworthiness. It should be noted that a balance transfer fee applies ($5 or 5% of the transfer, whichever is greater). Even with the fee, if your existing balance is large enough this card could help save you a ton of money on interest charges.

Highlights

Best For Business: Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

If you're a business owner with an average FICO credit score, the pool of available credit cards is limited. Fortunately, the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business is a good option for people who fit this profile. You'll get a modest 1% cash back on all purchases, but as your credit score improves, you may upgrade this card to one of its more lucrative counterparts. The Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business or Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business can double the rewards rate you'll have on the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business.

The Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business comes with some added features that can help manage your business's finances. You can add employee cards at no extra cost. And for budgeting and accounting purposes, you can download purchase records to software programs such as Quicken, QuickBooks or Excel. Capital One will also send quarterly and year-end spending reports that can help you plan your budget or organize expenses for tax time.

Highlights

  • Issue employee cards at no additional cost.
  • Access purchase and spending data to help with accounting.
  • Get 1% cash back on all purchases.

Summary of the best credit cards for fair credit

Strategy: What to Do When You Have Average or Fair Credit?

Most individuals with a FICO score below 700 are likely in the middle of their credit building journey. While getting one of the above credit cards will surely earn the best value for the time being, you'll want to continue to build your credit history in order to get even better credit cards and maximize your savings. There are many ways to earn a good or excellent credit score, but the most important one is making on-time payments. Pay your credit card bills in full and on time every month, and your FICO score is bound to climb. One way to help remind you to make the payment is to set up alerts or reminders on your cell phone or through your email.

Once you have that step down, you can look at all the different factors that affect your credit score. Try to identify the bottlenecks that are preventing you from hitting those 700s. If you're taking all the right steps, the best thing you can do now is to wait. You may have heard that building credit is a marathon, not a sprint—and it's true. Be patient, and eventually your score will rise.

Comparison Tool

If you are still left unsure as to which credit card is best for your individual needs, you can use our interactive tool below. By inputting your spending, we will calculate which of these credit cards will yield you the highest net rewards.

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Assumptions based on $1,430 monthly spend
Monthly spending:
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{"cardCategory":"rewards","cardIds":"45,257,204,66,58,1008","initialResultsLimit":0,"endpoint":"https:\/\/creditcards.valuepenguin.com\/api\/creditcards\/models\/rewards","onCurrent":"true"}
Joe Resendiz

Joe Resendiz is a former investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, where he covered public sector and infrastructure financing. During his time on Wall Street, Joe worked closely with the debt capital markets team, which allowed him to gain unique insights into the credit market. Joe is currently a research analyst who covers credit cards and the payments industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in finance.

Comments and Questions

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).