14 Credit Cards for Fair Credit

Credit Cards For Fair Credit
GUIDE
Adam West
By: Adam West
Updated: June 23, 2020
Advertiser Disclosure

Fair isn’t always good. No one likes a fair-weather friend. Some foods purchased at a fair can leave you regretting your life decisions. But the best credit cards for fair credit listed below can give you a new lease on your financial life, and that’s no fairy tale.

Credit cards aren’t just for consumers who have sterling credit histories. Dozens of credit card issuers curate cards specifically for people who have had a few bumps in their fiscal past. These cards can offer you the opportunity to rebuild your credit history while also giving you access to a revolving credit line on a major payment network.

Unsecured | Cash Back | Travel | Students | Balance Transfer | Business | Retail

Best Unsecured Cards for Fair Credit

Unsecured credit cards don’t require a security deposit for approval. Because there’s nothing to back your account, card issuers sometimes make these cards a little harder to acquire.

But fear not — the banks that issue the cards below built these offerings for the needs of the fair credit consumer, so they won’t judge you for past mistakes.

  • Checking Account Required
  • Fast and easy application process; response provided in seconds
  • A genuine Visa credit card accepted by merchants nationwide across the USA and online
  • Manageable monthly payments
  • $300 credit limit (subject to available credit)
  • Reports monthly to all three major credit bureaus
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.5

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 Minutes See terms Yes 8.5/10

You can receive an application decision within minutes with the Total Visa® Card. If approved, you’ll receive an initial credit limit of up to $300. Your total available credit will depend on your credit score and overall creditworthiness.

  • Prequalify for a card today and it will not impact your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • 24/7 access to your account information, even on mobile
  • Card designs to fit your personality at no extra charge
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★

4.2

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 minutes 24.9% Yes 9.0/10

The Milestone® Mastercard® allows you to show your individuality with a host of card images to choose from. The bank claims that it accepts many applicants who have poor credit, which means a fair credit score shouldn’t have an issue with acceptance. Annual fees for this card vary based on your creditworthiness.

  • Checking Account Required
  • Reporting monthly to all three major credit reporting agencies
  • Perfect credit not required for approval; we may approve you when others won’t
  • Easy and secure online application
  • $300 credit limit (subject to available credit)
  • The First Access Visa Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★

4.3

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
10 Minutes See Terms Yes 8.0/10

New First Access Visa® cardmembers receive an initial $300 credit limit, but you likely won’t see that much available credit when you first receive your card. That’s because the issuing bank charges your first year’s annual fee to the card before you activate it. After your first year, you’ll also find monthly service fees charged directly to the card.

  • Easy pre-qualification process with fast response
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • Online servicing available 24/7 at no additional cost
  • Unsecured credit card, no security deposit required
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.6

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 Minutes 24.9% Yes 8.0/10

Highly qualified applicants for the Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card pay no annual fee. You’ll also find that this card has a lower-than-average APR that puts your cost of credit well below many other cards on this list. If you don’t qualify for an annual fee-free card, you may have to pay a yearly charge of up to $99.

Best Cash Back Cards for Fair Credit

The only thing better than having a credit card to make your everyday purchases is having a credit card that gives you cash back for every purchase you make. The cards below offer cash back rewards that give you a percentage of each purchase back in the form of a check, direct deposit, or statement credits.

5. Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

With the QuicksilverOne® from Capital One®, you can earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make.

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

This card also gives you access to CreditWise from Capital One®, which provides tools and tips to help you responsibly build credit without paying dearly for the privilege. Capital One will monitor your account and increase your credit line if you remain in good standing and make your first five monthly payments on time.

6. Discover it® Secured

You don’t find many cash back cards in the secured credit card space, but Discover isn’t the “typical” credit card issuer. Discover it® Secured cardholders earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Discover it® Secured

The total of your refundable security deposit determines your card’s overall credit limit. That means a $200 deposit will yield a $200 credit limit. Discover will refund your deposit when you close your account, as long as the account remains in good standing with no outstanding debts.

Best Travel Card for Fair Credit

The Platinum Credit Card from Capital One® can help pave your way to better vacations. That’s because this entry-level card doesn’t charge an annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

7. Platinum Credit Card from Capital One®

With responsible use, you can eventually upgrade your card to one of the bank’s popular Venture travel cards.

Capital One® Platinum

But even if you stick with this Platinum card for the long haul, you’ll find a trustworthy piece of plastic that offers no hidden fees, a competitive interest rate, and the chance to increase your credit line with regular on-time payments.

Best Student Cards for Fair Credit

Student life is hard enough. Aside from tests, homework, studying, and trying to maintain a social life, you also have to plan for your future after graduation.

With the student credit cards below, you can get a jump start on building a positive credit history — which checks off one very major item from your to-do list.

8. Discover it® Student Cash Back

While college or trade school can leave you with a lot of debt, the Discover it® Student Cash Back card can actually help you save money. With up to 5% cash back on qualifying purchases, you can lower the cost of your everyday purchases and save a little to the side for a rainy day.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover’s biggest perk might just be its Cashback Match program. Through this initiative, all new cardholders receive a complete match of the cash back they earn during their first year with the card. This bonus comes in one lump sum shortly after your card anniversary.

9. Discover it® Student chrome

The Discover it® Student chrome card is an entry-level card with anything but entry-level perks. With this card, you can earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter) and 1% back on all other purchases. You can redeem your cash back as a check, direct deposit, or statement credit at any time.

Discover it® Student chrome

And just like all the other Discover cards on this list, you can take advantage of the bank’s CashBack Match program to earn a complete match of the cash back you earn during your first year with the card.

10. Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

With the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®, you can earn 1% cash back on all of your purchases — and on-time payments can boost your earnings to 1.25%.

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

All cardholders also receive access to Eno®, your Capital One® virtual assistant that helps you manage your account remotely through the Capital One app or through text messages.

Best Balance Transfer Cards for Fair Credit

If you currently have a large balance on a high-interest credit card, you may find yourself making large monthly payments that go mostly to interest charges. With the cards below, you can transfer your balance to a new card and have an interest-free (or reduced fee) introductory period that helps you pay off your debt faster.

Balance transfer offers for fair credit are hard to find, however, and the options below have some limitations. The first card is only for students, and the second is a secured card, meaning you’ll need to put a deposit down to open the account.

11. Discover it® Student Cash Back

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is a rare cash back card for students — and it really heaps on the potential rewards. You’ll receive a reduced 10.99% interest rate on balance transfers for your first six months with the card.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Cardholders can earn up to 5% cash back with category-specific purchases that include restaurants, gas stations, ridesharing services, and online shopping. Discover will also match all of the cash back you earn during your first year. That makes certain purchases worth a mind-boggling 10% cash back.

12. Discover it® Secured

The Discover it® Secured card continues the bank’s trend of going against the grain. This card offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. That’s a very rare perk to find in a secured card. You’ll also receive a reduced 10.99% interest rate on balance transfers for your first six months with the card.

Discover it® Secured

You can choose the amount you’d like to submit as a security deposit upon opening the account. This allows you to essentially choose your credit limit as your limit typically matches the amount of your deposit.

Best Business Card for Fair Credit

Building a business credit history is difficult and getting a business credit card can seem impossible if your personal credit history isn’t sterling. But the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business bucks those trends.

13. Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

This card offers an unlimited 1% cash back on all of your purchases and charges no annual fee. It’s a rare business rewards card for those with less-than-perfect credit.

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

What’s even better? This card allows you to build your business credit history. That means you won’t have to rely on your personal credit lines to fund business operations. You can also obtain free employee cards that will accrue cash back rewards to help you earn while you grow.

Best Retail Card for Fair Credit

The Fingerhut Credit Account doesn’t act like a traditional credit card — mostly because it isn’t an actual credit card. Instead, the revolving credit account allows you to make purchases with Fingerhut online. You can use your available credit to purchase name brand items at discount prices.

  • Easy application! Get a credit decision in seconds.
  • Build your credit history – Fingerhut reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • Use your line of credit to shop thousands of items from great brands like Samsung, KitchenAid, and DeWalt
  • Not an access card
  • Click here for official site, terms, and details.
★★★★★

4.8

Overall Rating

Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
5 Minutes See issuer website Yes 9.0/10

Fingerhut reports your payment history to the three main credit reporting bureaus, which helps to improve your credit score with responsible behavior. And since this is an ongoing credit line, you can reuse any credit extended to you after you pay off previous balances.

What is the Easiest Credit Card to Get with Fair Credit?

There are so many different types of credit cards (and card issuers) available and each has its own standards for approval. Unfortunately, issuers rarely publish what they expect from an applicant.

But you can often break cards down into groups to see which is most likely to approve you based on the condition of your credit report. Here are some general approval conditions.

Secured cards are easier to get than unsecured cards. Banks don’t like to take a lot of risk. If you have a poor credit history — and a track record of defaults or late payments — you may not look like the best candidate for a new card.

Credit Scores and Risk

But a secured card can help you get back on track without the hassle of rejected applications. These cards require a security deposit to open your account. The amount of your deposit often matches your overall credit limit.

Since you have a deposit backing your account, you won’t have to meet demanding approval criteria. Some secured credit card issuers don’t even require a credit check to approve your application.

Prequalifying eases a lot of burdens. Many credit card issuers provide prequalifying forms on their websites to help you get a better idea of your approval chances before you officially apply.

These forms give the bank access to a very limited version of your credit file, otherwise known as a soft credit inquiry — but it’s typically enough for the bank to get an idea of your creditworthiness and doesn’t affect your credit score. Prequalification doesn’t guarantee approval, but most applicants who receive prequalification are approved for the card they apply for.

More applications can mean lower approval odds. Every time you apply for a credit card, the issuing bank places a hard inquiry on your credit report, unlike a soft inquiry with prequalification. This is the only way the bank can access your credit file — and you must give the bank permission to do so.
Hard vs Soft Credit Inquiries

These inquiries live on your credit report for two years. Banks expect to see at least a couple of inquiries on most credit files. After all, you get one each time you apply for any kind of loan — credit card, personal loan, mortgage, auto loan, etc..

But banks see an applicant as desperate if they find several inquiries on a credit report. More than six is generally considered to be a red flag, and each inquiry takes about five points off your credit score, but they have less impact over time.

Instead of jumping into a new application shortly after a rejection, take some time to figure out why you received the rejection — and how you can fix the problem so you won’t be declined again.

Which Credit Cards Give You Instant Approval?

The internet allows just about any credit card company to provide an instant approval decision. You’ll typically only have to wait about 30 seconds before the bank returns with a credit decision after you submit your application.

This process is far more convenient than it was a few decades ago when some consumers had to mail in a paper application and wait days (and sometimes weeks) for a decision. But there’s a big difference between instant approval and guaranteed approval. While any card you apply for can give you instant approval (or denial), no credit card can offer guaranteed approval.

Every credit card has basic minimum requirements for approval. This is proprietary information that’s very rarely published as public information. Since you don’t know exactly what a bank looks for in an applicant, there’s no way to guarantee you’ll meet its standards.

Even people with good or excellent credit receive rejections. Credit decisions aren’t always about credit scores.

For example, the Chase 5/24 rule says that if you have five or more new bank card accounts (credit or charge cards) opened within the last 24 months, you’ll most likely receive a rejection for a new Chase credit card even if you otherwise qualify.

Capital One, another popular card issuer, limits the number of its cards to two per customer. Even if you have excellent credit, you can’t have more than two Capital One cards at a time.

With so many intricate rules set by each issuing bank, there’s no way to guarantee your application will pass the test. But you can get an instant approval decision with just about every bank that offers an online application.

What is the Minimum Credit Score for a Credit Card?

Credit scores have a pretty broad range of between 300 and 850. The higher your score, the better your credit. But that doesn’t mean that a low score will completely disqualify you from obtaining a credit card.

FICO & VantageScore Ranges

The graph shows the credit score ranges for the two main scoring models used by credit bureaus.

In recent years, increased competition between the dozens of credit card issuers in the market has led to the creation of new cards with lenient approval criteria. Some cards even approve applicants who have very bad credit scores, as well as recent bankruptcies and defaults.

These cards often come with higher fees to offset the risk the bank takes in extending credit to you, but it’s better than nothing. You’ll also likely find lower initial credit limits with these cards, though you can slowly increase your available credit over time with on-time payments and other responsible behaviors.

Instead of focusing on the lowest credit score you need for approval — because there essentially is no such magic number — you should find which category your credit score falls into. Once you have that figured out, you can research the available cards in that category.

Look for cards that offer prequalifying forms since these only result in a soft inquiry on your credit score. Once you find the card that fits your needs, you can apply with confidence, knowing that you’ve done your due diligence and are ready to take on the responsibility of card ownership.

Work Toward Better Credit Health

If you have fair credit, you likely understand the limitations that come with the label. While you aren’t qualified for cards meant for people who have excellent credit, you’re also above the standards of cards created for consumers who have bad credit.

But don’t stress your position in the middle. With the best credit cards for fair credit listed above, you can put in the work necessary to get out of credit purgatory and into the next credit tier.

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