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Borrowers with fair credit are often faced with difficult decisions when they need credit. If you fit this description and are looking to apply for a credit card, you may have a lot of questions. For example, you might be asking:
- How can I build credit with a credit card?
- What if I have no credit at all?
- What if I’m a student?
- Can I get a credit card without a credit check?
- How much of an annual fee is acceptable?
- Is the annual percentage rate (APR) really going to be that high?
- Is it possible to earn rewards on a credit card?
- Can I qualify for a card without a hard inquiry on my credit report?
We’re here to answer all your questions and recommend the best credit cards for borrowers with fair credit. At a glance, here are our top picks:
|Card||Best for||APR||Annual fees||Credit score|
No annual fee
No credit check
No penalty APR
Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Card
8.24% to 18% (variable)*
Excellent, Good, Fair
Our recommendations for the best credit card for fair credit
With fair credit, there are fewer options for credit cards. Be prepared to see higher fees, higher APRs, and fewer rewards. With that in mind, don’t settle for a rotten credit card. You still have options if you have a fair credit score.
Best for prequalification: Mission Lane Cash Back Visa® Credit Card
When you have a lower credit score, the last thing you want is for it to dip because of too many hard inquiries. The Mission Lane Cash Back Visa® Credit Card offers a pre-qualification inquiry that doesn’t impact your credit score. You’ll be able to see what terms you qualify for, including APR, annual fee, rewards rate, and credit limit. If you accept the terms, you’ll submit a full application for a hard credit check.
Best for rewards: card_name
The card_name has the ability to earn up to 5% cash back up to $500 each billing cycle in your top categories. You don’t have to activate the cash-back rewards, as the card automatically adjusts to your top category based on what you spend. Cash back is earned in the form of ThankYou Points, which is a competitive rewards program. New cardholders will bonus_miles_full.
Best for travel: card_name
The card_name earns 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 1.5% cash back on everything else. It has a annual_fees annual fee and a reg_apr,reg_apr_type APR, so be sure to pay off your balance each month to avoid high interest charges.
Best for no annual fee: card_name
The card_name doesn’t come with many frills, but it doesn’t charge an annual fee and can help you build your credit. Cardholders are automatically considered for a higher credit limit in six months and have access to Capital One’s credit monitoring program, CreditWise.
Best for students: card_name
Students can earn 3% cash back on categories where they may spend the most: dining, entertainment, groceries (except at retailers chains like Walmart or Target), and certain streaming services. There is no annual fee and students can bonus_miles_full. Borrowers with a limited credit history may be able to qualify for this card.
Best for no credit check:
The card_name has a number of benefits for borrowers looking to build their credit, including no credit check, annual fee, interest charged, and no minimum security deposit. It’s a secured card, which means borrowers need to deposit an amount of money that Chime uses as the credit limit. Chime reports on-time payments, but doesn’t report the credit utilization, so you can keep your credit score high.
Best for no penalty APR: Avant Credit Card
There’s no penalty APR with the card_name. Checking to see if you qualify does not affect your credit score, before officially applying for the card. The card does have a annual_fees annual fee and a reg_apr,reg_apr_type APR, which are both fairly high.
Best for cash back: card_name
The card_name earns 2% cash back on all purchases, making it one of the best credit cards for cash-back earnings for borrowers with fair credit. Cardholders can earn 1% cash back when making a purchase and 1% when paying it off. There is a balance_transfer_intro_apr,balance_transfer_intro_duration for borrowers who qualify. Just keep in mind balance transfers don’t earn cash back.
Best for low interest: Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Card
Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Card
Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Card
If you’re looking for a credit card with a low APR, you’ll want to take a look at the Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Card. The APR ranges from 8.24% to 18% (variable)*, which is about as low as it gets for a credit card that accepts some borrowers with fair credit. You do need to be a member of the Navy Federal Credit Union. You can join online if you meet the requirements.
We chose the best credit cards for fair credit from more than 40 cards. To be considered, credit issuers must have stated consideration of fair credit borrowers. However, it’s not a guarantee that borrowers will be approved for a card. APRs, rewards, annual fees, and other card features that help fair credit borrowers were also taken into account.
How to pick the best credit card for fair credit
Consumers with fair credit need to decide what their priorities are in picking the best credit card that works for their circumstances.
Decide what you value
Are you looking to earn cash back or other rewards while you build your credit score? Are you looking for a $0 annual fee card, low interest rates, or are you simply looking for a credit card that will approve you so you can begin building your credit?
Nailing down what you want can help you select a card that’s geared toward your particular circumstances.
Compare credit card offers
When you look at credit card offers side by side, it’s clear that some may offer what you’re looking for more than others. Check out the APR, annual fees, rewards structure, sign-up bonus, and other features that help fair credit borrowers.
See what you qualify for
With some cards, it’s possible to see if you qualify for a card before a hard credit check. It’s called either a “soft check” or “prequalification” and can be very useful in helping you make a decision about a card without impacting your credit score.
What to know before applying for a credit card
Credit card debt will drag down your finances further than you can imagine, even if you have experience managing debt and even if you consider yourself a responsible borrower. Before you get a credit card, make sure you have a plan in place for how you’re going to use it. That plan should consider how your credit card usage is going to build, rather than hurt, your credit score.
How applying for a credit card affects your credit score
You’ve probably heard that applying for a credit card can negatively affect your credit score. There is some truth to this, but the credit application is a small part of your credit score. Using credit responsibly—meaning, you keep your credit utilization low and pay on time every month—has a greater impact on your credit score than a single credit card application.
High credit card interest
With fair credit, you may only be approved for a small credit limit. It may not meet your needs, but this is your time to prove that you’re capable of handling credit responsibly. Be sure you’re paying off the charges you make on the card every month. Paying credit card interest around 30% will sink your finances.
Set up autopay to build your credit score
At some point, you’ll want to move on from your credit card to one with better rewards and better terms. To get your credit score looking pretty, do yourself a favor and set up autopay. This will help your credit history become squeaky clean and boost your credit score.
What to avoid with credit cards for fair credit
Not all cards are created equal, and this is especially true of credit cards geared towards those with fair credit. Here’s what to avoid:
High fees and APRs
Some fees may be necessary, but there are cards that charge excessive fees without offering much in return. You can find cards that offer either a competitive APR or a minimal annual fee.
Rewards cards that don’t have good redemptions
You may see card offers that claim to have a travel rewards program, but when you look at the fine print and the details, the redemptions are limited.
Carrying a balance
Pay off the card in full each month. This is worth saying multiple times because it is so important. Carrying credit card debt is expensive and prevents you from reaching your financial goals. Don’t buy it if you can’t pay off your statement in full.
Applying for any card
Be purposeful in choosing the card(s) you apply for. Too many credit applications might pull down your credit score far enough that your odds of approval will decrease further. Read up on what cards are best for your credit score and work within that framework.
Alternatives to credit cards for fair credit
If you’re looking for financing, a credit card isn’t the only vehicle to get you there.
- Personal loans: A personal loan is an installment loan issued through a lender. They will conduct a credit check, and approve or deny the amount you request. Some lenders offer soft credit checks that don’t affect your score.
- Payday loans: A payday loan is short-term financing that advances money to you that you promise to repay when your next paycheck comes in. Due to their very high APRs, payday loans should only be used as a last resort, and are often considered predatory lending.
- Home equity loan: If you own a home and have a significant amount of equity in it, you may be able to get the funds you need from a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). Rates are much lower than those of a credit card because you are putting up your home as collateral.
- Title loans: If you own your vehicle outright, it may be possible to get a loan against the value of it. These loans are also very high cost.
- Private lending: It’s not just the bank of mom and dad you can turn to for money. There are also private lenders you may be able to find.
TIME Stamp: Fair credit shouldn’t hold you back
Fair credit consumers may not find a credit card they love straight out of the gate. It might take time to build up your credit before you can apply for premium cards that offer the best rewards or the best interest rates. But you also don’t have to settle for a truly awful card that doesn’t help you. There are credit cards designed for people with fair credit to meet their needs, set up autopay so your payments are reported on time, and start building credit for a better tomorrow.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What's the easiest credit card to get with fair credit?
Secured cards may be the easiest to qualify for because they allow you to put down a deposit that acts like your credit limit. Some cards to consider include the OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card and the Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa Credit Card.
Which credit cards can I get with fair credit?
Fair credit borrowers can apply for a variety of credit cards. We recommend the cards featured above.
Which credit card is best for a 620 credit score?
The credit card that works with your spending habits and helps build your credit is the best credit card when you have a 620 score.
What credit cards can I get with a 600 credit score?
If you’re looking for credit cards with a 600 credit score, you may want to look into secured cards, credit-building cards, or student cards. Check with online lenders and credit unions to see if these types of cards are a fit for your needs.
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