The best credit cards for fair credit charge very low annual fees (often $0) and are available to people with credit scores from 620 to 659. Many also offer modest rewards or a 0% introductory APR, with the former being best for people who always pay their monthly bills in full.
With these guidelines in mind, our editors compared hundreds of offers for each of the most common consumer needs. And without further ado, here are their picks for the year’s best credit cards for people with fair credit.
2017's Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit
|Best For...||Card Name||Editors' Rating||Annual Fee|
|Cash Back||Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card||4.7 Stars||$39|
|Amazon Rewards||Amazon.com Store Card||5 Stars||$0 for Prime members|
|International Purchases||Capital One® Platinum Credit Card||5 Stars||$0|
|Carrying A Balance*||USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa®||2.0 Stars||$0|
|College Students||Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®||5 Stars||$0|
|Business Owners||Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business||2.1 Stars||$0|
*We recommend paying your monthly credit card bills in full when you have fair credit, as you’re unlikely to qualify for a 0% introductory interest rate (if you’re not a student) and even the lowest regular APRs available to you will be quite costly. Furthermore, the USAA Rate Advantage Platinum Visa® is only available to applicants who meet USAA’s eligibility requirements, including current and former military personnel as well as certain family members.
If you prefer not to simply pick from our editors’ recommended cards, you can use the following pointers to find the best fair-credit credit card for your needs.
How To Find The Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit
- Double-check your credit score. There is a fine line between “fair” credit and “good” credit. In fact, only 40 credit-score points separates the two tiers (fair credit means a credit score of 620 to 659, while good credit is 660 to 719). So if you haven’t checked your credit score in a while, make sure to do so before applying. You might be able to get a better card than you think.
- Decide between rewards and 0% rates. Making this decision early will help make your search more manageable, by cutting your options in half, in addition to helping you get better terms. No single credit card has the best rewards and the best rates, which means you shouldn’t try to use one for both everyday purchases and carrying a balance. Instead, get a rewards card for everyday expenses that you can pay in full within a billing period, a card offering 0% on purchases for big-ticket spending or a 0% balance transfer card for reducing the cost of existing debt. And if you have more than one need, you can get multiple cards and use the Island Approach.
- Avoid fees. Annual fees are the most prominent type of fee to watch out for, but they’re not alone. For example, you might need to consider one-time fees for application processing or transferring a balance, depending on what type of card you’re looking for and how you plan to use it. Your goal should be to minimize the fees that are likely to apply to your usage habits and ignore those that aren’t.
- Crunch the numbers. Try to put everything into dollar terms. For rewards cards, that means applying each card’s earnings rates to your actual spending habits in order to determine how much you’re likely to earn over your expected usage timeframe. For 0% cards, it means seeing what monthly debt payments you can comfortably afford to make, how large of a balance you will therefore have remaining at the end of each card’s 0% intro term, and what interest charges you would incur thereafter.
- Prepare for an upgrade. Credit scores can fluctuate by 100 points in a single month, so graduating to a higher credit level doesn’t have to take too long. And that’s great news, considering the best credit card deals require good or excellent credit for approval. So pay your bill on time every month, don’t max out your spending limit and track your credit score’s progress over time to see when you’re ready for an upgrade.