Our team of experts uses a methodology to identify the credit cards most likely to fit your needs. We examine annual percentage rates, annual fees, issuer satisfaction ratings and other factors to determine what cards come out ahead. Learn more»
Best Cards Summary
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Why this is one of the best credit cards for fair credit: Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards card is a good product for people with fair credit. You’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all of your purchases: a solid perk that is above average for fair credit. The card charges a $39 annual fee, but with good credit behavior, you can eventually move into a no-fee card. See our full review.
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Why this is one of the best credit cards for fair credit: The Discover it Student Cash Back Card offers 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. The card offers unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned after your first year. There’s no annual fee and no late fee the first time you pay late. See our full review.
Discover it® Student chrome
Why this is one of the best credit cards for fair credit: This card is designed for individuals who primarily spend on gas and dining. Cardmembers earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. All other purchases earn unlimited 1% cash back. Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned after your first year. See our full review.
Capital One Platinum Credit Card
Why this is one of the best credit cards for fair credit: For consumers with fair credit, Capital One Platinum Credit Card is a good starter product. You won’t pay an annual card fee, and if you make on-time payments for six months, you will be automatically considered for a higher credit limit. See our full review.
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
Why this is one of the best credit cards for fair credit: The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is designed for students with fair credit and earns 1% cash back on everything. Students who pay on time will get extra credit – and earn 1.25% back for that month. See our full review.
What Are the Benefits of Credit Cards for Fair Credit?
Even though you might have room for improvement on your credit score, you can still qualify for credit cards with solid rewards and perks. Look for a card with some of these benefits:
- Charges no annual fee or only charges a nominal annual fee.
- Includes a cash back rewards program.
- Automatically considers borrowers for a higher credit limit.
- Charges no foreign transaction fee.
- Provides fraud coverage.
How Can You Establish Fair Credit?
The best way to establish fair credit is to start building your credit history. You do that by taking actions that get reported to the three major credit bureaus – things like taking out a loan and making regular payments, or opening a credit card and making regular payments.
Banks and card issuers might be reticent to do business with you if you have a low credit score or no score at all. In that case, you can open a secured credit card (where your deposit acts as your credit limit) or a credit-builder loan (where you make payments and receive the loan once you’ve paid it off, not before). These are low-risk products, so financial institutions will lend to borrowers with lower credit scores.
If you have no credit score at all, it will take at least six months to get one. FICO requires six months of credit history (documenting things like payments) before it issues a score.
If you are working on raising your score after an adverse event, the length of time depends on a bunch of different factors, like how severe the transgression was and how high your score was to begin with. The higher the score, the further the fall and the longer the time to bounce back.
The most important thing to do, no matter your situation, is to pay your bills on time. Payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score.
How Can You Get Instant Approval for Fair Credit Cards?
The fastest way to get fair credit card approval is to check what cards you are preapproved for. With preapproval the card issuer only asks for your basic information (typically name, address, date of birth and Social Security number) and does a soft credit check. You’ll quickly learn what cards are approved for you, so you can apply knowing that your application will be accepted. A large number of credit card issuers offer preapproval, and the process is fast. Best of all, a soft credit check won’t affect your credit score, so you can check preapproval status with multiple issuers.
How Can You Use Your Credit Card for Fair Credit to Build Credit?
Using your credit card for fair credit responsibly is the best way to build credit. What is responsible usage? Paying your bill on time and keeping the amount you spend on your card within certain limits. Your credit utilization rate measures the percentage of your credit limit that you use. Credit experts recommend using below 30% of your limit to get the best scores.
Payment history and amounts owed are the two categories that matter most when it comes to calculating your credit score. Making every payment and keeping your credit utilization low will do the most to build credit.
“Over time, a history of responsible borrowing and positive credit health can help consumers in the fair credit tier,” says Heather Battison, former vice president at TransUnion, one of the three major consumer credit bureaus. As a result, you may be able to “secure more favorable interest rates and loan terms, and access subsequent credit down the line.”
What Are Credit Cards for Fair Credit With High Limits?
The best credit cards for fair credit will raise your credit limit automatically after a few months of regular payments (typically six months). Before you apply for a credit card, check to see how frequently the issuer will raise your credit limit and what the process involves. Some issuers also disclose the credit limit maximum for the card. It’s always good to ask questions before applying.