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If you have fair or average credit, you may not qualify for the best credit cards; but you don't have to scrape the bottom of the barrel either. There are plenty of cards designed for your credit level, from rewards to balance transfers to business.
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The information related to Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®, Discover it® Student Cash Back, Discover it® Secured, Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business, Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Discover it® Student chrome, Citi® Secured Mastercard®, Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, Walmart Rewards Mastercard®, and My Best Buy® Visa® have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.
Our Selection Criteria
No annual fee: Just because you don’t have great credit, that doesn’t mean you need to pay a fee to use credit cards. None of our recommended cards on this page have an annual fee. But annual fees aren’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as you get enough value out of the rewards and benefits of a card.
Won’t need to cancel: If your card doesn’t have an annual fee, you won’t need to close your card out once you’ve moved on to bigger and better cards. This is better for your credit scores, particularly your credit utilization and the average age of your accounts.
Rewards: Many credit cards for average credit offer cash back or points, although they aren’t as rewarding as cards for good or excellent credit.
Benefits and protections: You won’t usually get great benefits on cards like these, but you’ll typically have a few basic perks like Purchase Protection and Auto Rental Collision Damage Waivers.
Good customer support: Credit card companies aren’t always known for their excellent customer support, but you should be able to get help when you need it.
Is a Credit Card for Fair or Average Credit Right for You?
Fair or average credit typically refers to a FICO Score 8 in the 580–669 range. It’s a step above poor/bad credit.
If you have fair or average credit scores, you’ll have access to a fairly diverse spread of credit cards. In many cases, people with fair credit scores may qualify for cards that seem like they’re for better credit, depending on other factors like income.
Aside from our best picks, store credit cards typically have low approval requirements, meaning people with fair or average credit can often qualify. But there are some reasons why you should be careful when applying for and using store cards, as explained below.
Credit builder loans are another helpful tool for building credit, along with or instead of credit cards. These installment loans require you to pay them back before you can actually use them, creating a record of on-time payments.
If you’re not sure if you’ll be approved for a credit card or not, you can check to see if you’re pre-qualified for any cards from the major credit card issuers before applying. You might find that you’re pre-approved for some cards that you thought were out of reach. Some people with fair credit report having good luck with Discover credit cards, for example, even though they’re generally considered to be made for good credit.
This makes it a good choice for people without the best credit, even those with limited credit histories, who still want to get some cash back. You can earn a decent flat rate on every purchase, though you won’t have access to more rewarding bonus categories. And there’s no welcome bonus.
The Journey Student provides a bit of a bonus for paying on time — and since you should always be paying by the monthly due date, you should expect to get 1.25% back with this card consistently.
Late payments are awful for your credit, and it’s even more important to avoid them when trying to improve your credit scores. Not to mention the late fees that come with missed payments, which will cancel out the cash back you earn with the card.
Capital One will automatically consider you for a credit line increase after your first six months with the card. This is a nice feature to have on a card for fair or average credit, because it probably won’t come with a very large initial credit line. Capital One may also provide occasional credit line increases if you show responsible card use (which many card issuers do).
The Cashback Match of the Discover it Student Cash Back means you’ll effectively be earning 10% cash back in the bonus categories during the first year, and 2% cash back for every other purchase. That’s a great deal, even compared to rewards credit cards for good credit.
This is actually the same rewards program you get with the regular, non-student Discover it® Cash Back (Review). The rewards and benefits are mostly the same for both cards, with some differences in the terms and fees.
In addition to all that, you’ll get a $20 statement credit for each school year in which your GPA is 3.0 or higher, for up to five years. Knowledge is money with this cash rewards credit card.
Discover’s secured card is top notch. With no annual fee and a solid rewards program, it’s one of the best cards to help build or rebuild your credit.
A security deposit of $200 to $2,500 is required, depending on your creditworthiness. Your credit limit will be determined by the amount you deposit.
Nobody wants to lose a security deposit forever, though. That’s why Discover will check your credit periodically, every eight months (including how you’re using this card). If they like what they see, they may return your security deposit and allow you to continue using the card.
This is handy because, unlike some other issuers, you don’t need to close the card to get your deposit back, a move that could damage your credit scores.
There’s also an intro APR for balance transfers, but it’s not at a 0% interest rate so we usually don’t recommend using it.
Need a simple card for business expenses? The Spark Classic can fit the bill.
Use this card to earn a bit of cash back on your business expenses, improving your credit until you can qualify for a more rewarding business card. If you can’t get approved for the Spark Classic, there are some secured business credit cards you can try. They’ll require refundable security deposits, however.
Capital One will report your positive card activity to three business credit bureaus: Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Small Business Financial Exchange, along with the three major credit bureaus for consumers. That’s a good thing because it can help build your business credit with all three of these bureaus.
Store credit cards are typically regarded as being easier to qualify for than most other cards. Merchants want you to apply and spend money at their stores, so they make it relatively easy to get their branded credit cards.
Target has one of the best with its Target REDcard™ Credit Card (Review), a simple but valuable offer for frequent customers. With this card you don’t need to bother redeeming rewards — your 5% discount is automatically applied at checkout.
Who doesn’t stop by Target from time to time? If you find yourself at this mega-merchant often, whether it’s for groceries, home goods, or random splurges, you may want to consider the REDcard.
Along with the 5% discount you’ll also get:
Free two-day shipping on eligible purchases from Target.com
30-day extended returns
Anniversary bonus savings
Early access offers and exclusive extras
We typically only recommend a store credit card if you already shop at that store with some regularity. If you’ll use the card enough, and it’ll be more valuable to you than a general-use reward card, it might be a good idea to apply.
The Target REDcard is a step above many other store cards because it’s issued by Capital One, a major issuer with a pretty good reputation. If you like Target but you’re not interested in a new credit card, check out the debit card version: the Target REDcard™ Debit Card (Review).
Are There Instant Approval Cards for Fair or Average Credit?
Yes — but what does “instant approval credit card” actually mean? Most credit cards will provide an instant decision when you apply, which means you’ll get a response right away: either approved or denied.
Some cards are marketed as “guaranteed approval credit cards.” These are sub-prime cards designed for people with the lowest credit scores, so they typically have high fees; they also tend to come with poor customer support and slow payment processing, so we recommend avoiding them if possible.
If your credit is in bad shape, see our top card picks for people in your situation:
Terms like “fair credit” are often thrown around without a second thought, and if you’re not versed in the world of credit, it’s easy to assume they’re just vague indicators of one’s creditworthiness.
The fact is that credit score ranges depend in some part on who you ask. They vary between scoring models (FICO, VantageScore, etc.), but even so, these ranges tend to be similar across brands. Knowing where your credit stands can make it a lot easier to pick a credit card that’s right for you.
“Fair or average credit” typically indicates the following score ranges:
FICO Credit Score: 580–669
VantageScore Credit Score: 650–699
We’ve included base FICO and VantageScore credit score ranges below to give you a good idea of what terms like “good credit” and “poor credit” really mean. Just remember that your scores alone will never guarantee approval for a given card — other factors, like your income, are also considered.