Best Credit Cards for Fair or Average Credit [May 2024]

CREDIT CARDS - CREDIT CARD BASICS
Even with fair credit, you can get a low-fee card that offers valuable rewards and benefits. Here’s our list of the best cards for you to consider.
Updated May 21, 2024
Fact checked
Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit

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The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, the Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card, and the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students are among the best credit cards for average credit or fair credit.

When your credit falls into the fair or average credit score range, finding good credit cards that don't charge expensive fees can be challenging. To make it easier for you, we compiled a list of credit cards for fair or average credit that we recommend. based on their fees, rewards, and benefits. 

In this article

Key takeaways

  • If you have fair or average credit, applying and potentially qualifying for a credit card could help you build up your credit history with responsible use and timely payments.
  • Credit cards for fair credit typically have less strict credit score requirements but often provide fewer perks and benefits than credit cards for excellent or good credit.
  • Many credit cards for fair credit don’t come with a welcome offer for new cardholders.

The best credit cards for fair or average credit for May 2024

Compare the best credit cards for fair or average credit

Card name Best for Why it’s special

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Cashback rewards Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase; plus 5% unlimited cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel

Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

No fees $0 annual fee, no late payment fee, and no foreign transaction fees

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Small security deposit Security deposit as low as $49

Credit One Bank American Express Card

Retail benefits Retail protection if your items are damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Students Earn 1% cash back on all purchases and get cell phone protection

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for cashback rewards

Pros
  • Simple rewards rate
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • $39 annual fee
  • No welcome offer

Why we like it: With the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, you can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase; plus 5% unlimited cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. You don’t have to pay foreign transaction fees on applicable purchases you make abroad.

You can also redeem your rewards in a variety of ways, including statement credits, gift cards, or paper checks. Plus, you’ll be automatically considered for a credit limit increase in as few as 6 months, which can improve your credit utilization ratio (the amount of available credit versus the amount you use), one of the factors that determine your credit score. You also get unlimited access to CreditWise: a free monitoring tool that won't damage your score

What we don’t like: The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card has no welcome offer and you have to pay a $39 annual fee.

Learn more in our full Capital One QuicksilverOne review.

Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card: Best no-fee option

Pros
  • $0 annual fee
  • Simple rewards rate
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • Higher rewards rates come with requirements
  • No welcome offer

Why we like it: The Petal 2 Visa Card1 has a $0 annual fee and charges no foreign transaction fees.

In addition, you can earn unlimited 1% cash back on eligible purchases; after 6 on-time payments, earn 1.25% cash back; after 12 on-time payments, earn 1.5% cash back.

The Petal 2 Visa has a mobile app you can use to manage your account, set a monthly budget, and track your credit score. The app is available on iOS (App Store) and Android (Google Play Store).

What we don’t like: You have to make a certain number of on-time payments to earn the highest possible cashback rate on the Petal 2 Visa. This card also doesn’t have a welcome offer.

Learn more in our full Petal 2 Visa Card review.

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: Best secured card

Pros
  • $0 annual fee
  • Security deposit is refundable
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • No rewards
  • No welcome offer
  • Requires a security deposit

Why we like it: The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card has a $0 annual fee and charges no foreign transaction fees.

With this secured card, you can find out if you're pre-approved with no risk to your credit score. Additionally, you can be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months and potentially upgrade to an unsecured Platinum card with responsible card use, such as making on-time payments.

And, unlike most secured cards, the Capital One Platinum Secured also offers other benefits, such as auto rental collision damage waiver protection, travel accident insurance, and extended warranty protection2.

What we don’t like: Secured credit cards could help you build your credit history, but you typically have to put down a security deposit, which often acts as your credit line. The Capital One Platinum Secured requires a $49, $99, or $200 minimum refundable security deposit.

The Platinum Secured also doesn’t provide any rewards on eligible purchases and doesn’t have a welcome offer.

Learn more in our full Capital One Platinum Secured review.

Credit One Bank American Express Card: Best for retail benefits

Pros
  • Simple rewards rate
  • Retail protection
Cons
  • $39 annual fee
  • No welcome offer
  • Has foreign transaction fees

Why we like it: The Credit One Bank American Express Card helps you earn 1% cash back on every purchase. In addition, eligible purchases receive retail benefits, including:

  • Retail protection: If eligible items are stolen or damaged within 90 days of their purchase, your card’s coverage may help pay for the item’s repair or replacement.
  • Extended warranty protection: Extended warranty protection extends the manufacturer’s warranty on eligible items by up to one additional year.
  • Return protection: If you attempt to return an undamaged item to a retailer and they don’t accept it, return protection may reimburse you for covered items.

You’ll also get $150,000 in travel accident insurance when you book your travel with your Credit One Bank American Express Card. And, as a cardmember, you can take advantage of Amex Offers, and purchase tickets before the general public to major events, such as games and concerts.

What we don’t like: You have to pay a $39 annual fee and foreign transaction fees on applicable purchases. The Credit One Bank American Express Card comes with no welcome offer.

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students: Best for students

Pros
  • $0 annual fee
  • Simple rewards rate
  • Has a welcome offer
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • Low earning potential
  • Limited redemption options

Why we like it: The Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students has a $0 annual fee and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

In addition, you can earn 1% cash back on all purchases and take advantage of the Deserve EDU Mastercard welcome offer. You can earn a free year of Amazon Prime Student after spending $500 in the first 3 months.

Keep in mind
The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is not currently accepting new applications while it gets redesigned. For college students looking to build credit and earn rewards, check our recommendations for the best credit cards for students.

What we don’t like: The rewards rate is low compared to other cashback credit cards and your only redemption option is receiving statement credits in $25 increments.

Learn more in our full Deserve EDU Mastercard review.

What is a fair credit score?

There are different credit scoring models, so your credit score depends on which model a lender or credit card issuer uses when they do a hard credit check. In that way, you actually have more than one credit score.

The FICO score is the most commonly used model. For FICO, a fair credit score ranges between 580 and 669. Approximately 17% of Americans fall within this range. VantageScore is another scoring model. With VantageScore, the fair credit range is between 601 and 660. Just 13% of Americans have a fair VantageScore.

If your credit score is fair, you are generally considered to be a subprime borrower, and you may struggle to get approved for certain loans or credit cards, or you may pay high interest rates compared to borrowers with higher credit scores. However, it's also important to remember that credit scores are guidelines and don't guarantee approval for specific cards.

Both the FICO and VantageScore models use information pulled from your Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion credit reports to determine your score. But although they consider the same data, the two scoring models weigh information differently. Factors that may be dragging down your credit scores include missed monthly payments, high credit utilization, and the length of your credit history.

What is the difference between a bad and a fair credit score?

Fair and average credit are terms that are often used interchangeably, but the difference between having fair credit and poor credit is dramatic.

According to FICO scoring, fair credit is a score between 580 and 669. Very poor or bad credit is a score between 300 and 579. If your credit profile is rated as being in the very poor or bad range, you likely won’t qualify for a loan or credit card at all, or you may have to pay fees or deposits.

How a credit card can help you improve your credit score

If you have fair credit, using a credit card can raise your credit score. The responsible use of a credit card can actually help you get a better credit score in the following ways:

  • Established payment history: Your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. As you make your credit card payments, the credit card company reports your activity to the three major credit bureaus. If you make on-time payments and never miss a due date, then your responsible habits can increase your credit score.
  • Improved credit utilization: When you’re approved for a new credit card, you get access to a new credit line. That means the overall credit available to you is now higher. Your credit utilization is how much of that credit you are using, and it determines 30% of your credit score. So if you keep your credit card balance low, having a credit card open can improve your credit score.
  • Credit mix: Creditors like to see that you can manage different forms of credit, which is why your credit mix makes up 10% of your credit score. If you don’t currently have a credit card, adding one can boost your credit even more.

How to choose the best credit card if you have average credit

Checking your credit at least once a year is a good idea. If you have average credit and are about to start the application process for a new credit card, it’s important to consider the following factors before applying for the card and placing a hard inquiry on your file:

  • APR: The annual percentage rate (APR) on cards for people with average credit tends to be higher than for people with good or excellent credit. That means if you don’t pay off your balance in full each month, you could end up being on the hook for high interest charges due to your balance transfer or purchase APR. Some cards may offer a lower introductory APR or even a 0% intro APR for a specific amount of time after account opening. But you’ll want to consider potential balance transfer fees or other chargers and make sure your balance is paid off by then or potentially face high interest charges based on your variable APR.
  • Rewards: Not all credit cards for average credit offer a welcome offer, a sign-up bonus, or cashback or travel rewards, but some do. If you spend a lot of money in certain categories, like on gas or groceries, look for a cash back card that allows you to earn on everyday purchases at grocery stores, gas stations, or other bonus categories.
  • Credit monitoring: Many credit card companies will allow you to monitor your credit report and get free credit score updates. This perk is great for those with average credit, as it can help you improve your score.
  • Credit line increases: Increasing your credit limit can give you more spending power and boost your credit score. Some cards offer automatic credit limit increases if you make a certain amount of payments on time, helping you improve your credit profile.

There’s no one perfect card for everyone, so review the options below carefully. When evaluating the different credit cards, consider your spending habits and financial goals to determine which is best for you.

FAQ

What is the easiest card to get with fair credit?

The easiest credit cards to get with fair credit typically include student credit cards, secured credit cards, and certain cards with annual fees. These types of cards, like the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, could be an ideal solution if you want to build your credit score while still getting valuable card benefits.

Which credit cards can you get with fair credit?

Here are a few of our recommendations for credit cards to consider if you have fair credit:

  • Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
  • Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card
  • Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card
  • Deserve Edu Mastercard
  • Capital One Platinum Secured
  • Credit One Bank American Express Card
  • Capital One Platinum Credit Card

What are the best ways to build credit?

If you want perfect credit, you have a variety of ways to get there. Here are some of the best ways to build credit:

  • Responsibly use credit cards
  • Take out a credit-builder loan
  • Make on-time payments for other types of loans
  • Pay all your monthly bills on time
  • Use a service like Experian Boost™
  • Become an authorized user on a credit card
  • Keep your credit utilization low
  • Have a long credit history
  • Consider reporting rent payments to credit bureaus

Best credit cards for fair or average credit: bottom line

If your credit falls within the fair to average credit score range, you may feel like you’re excluded from the top credit card offers. But there are several useful options available for consumers with less-than-perfect credit, including reward cards and balance transfer cards. By exploring your options, you can compare credit cards for fair credit, find the right card for your needs, and learn how to improve your credit score over time.

If you put some time into improving your creditworthiness, then you may be able to move from a secured to an unsecured credit card, be given a higher credit limit, or even improve your credit enough to qualify for an auto loan or home loan in the future. No matter your personal finance goals, putting the effort into building a positive credit history could literally pay off.

Methodology

To choose the best credit cards for fair credit, we looked at 15 top credit cards designed for consumers with fair or average credit scores. When deciding what cards to include, we looked at the cards’ fees, rewards, and benefits. Cards with high annual fees, monthly maintenance fees, and setup fees were eliminated, and priority was given to cards that combined low fees with strong reward programs.

Great Starter Card for Those With No Credit

Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card
4.9

Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

Current Offer

Reports to all three major credit bureaus

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

Unlimited 1% cash back on eligible purchases; after 6 on-time payments, earn 1.25% cash back; after 12 on-time payments, earn 1.5% cash back

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Kat Tretina Kat Tretina is a personal finance expert focusing on practical financial matters, including student loans, debt repayment, side hustles, insurance, and healthcare. Drawing from her personal experience, she aims to simplify complex financial topics and provide individuals with the information they need to make informed decisions.

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