The Best Credit Cards for Fair and Average Credit | April 2020

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 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.

Citi® Double Cash Card

  • On Citi's Secure Website

$0

13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)

Excellent, Good

  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
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Citi Simplicity® Card

Citi Simplicity® Card

$0

14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)

Excellent, Good

  • 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 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, 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 standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • Stay protected with Citi® Quick Lock and $0 liability on unauthorized charges
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Best For Cash Back: Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
This product is not available through ValuePenguin.
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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 on it. 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 score by reducing your credit utilization, which is the amount you charge on the card compared to your credit limit—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 awards 1.5 miles for every dollar you spend. That translates to a 1.5% rewards rate anywhere you shop. This kind of set up is ideal for most consumers who don't want to spend a lot of energy thinking 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., some cards 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

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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 can qualify for 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. You can Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Welcome offers this rewarding usually have spending requirements that are thousands of dollars higher.

Highlights

Best For Students: Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back
This product is not available through ValuePenguin.
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Many people with a thin credit profile tend to turn to student credit cards as an option, since they tend to have smaller credit limits, but higher approval rates for new cardholders. 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 2020, the categories are:

January-MarchApril-JuneJuly-SeptemberOctober-December
Grocery stores, Walgreens, CVSGas stations, Uber, Lyft, Wholesale ClubsRestaurants and PayPalAmazon.com, Target.com and 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 and 10% on the higher bonus category purchases.

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 - No Late Fees Ever

Citi Simplicity® Card
This product is not available through ValuePenguin.
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If you're dealing with existing high-interest credit card debt, it may be worthwhile to get a balance transfer credit card like the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever. That's because this card offers a 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 16.24% - 26.24% (Variable), based on your creditworthiness. It should be noted that a balance transfer fee applies (5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum). Even with the fee,this card could help save you a ton of money on interest charges, depending on the amount transferred.

Highlights

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

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business
This product is not available through ValuePenguin.
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If you're a business owner with an average FICO credit score, the pool of available credit cards for which you can be approved can be 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 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

  • Additional 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 or recovering from past mistakes. 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 qualify for better credit cards that can help you 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.

What goes into your FICO score

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 your score from climbing above 700. If you're making all the right moves, 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
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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.

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).