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2020

Best Credit Cards for Fair or Average Credit

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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.

Best Credit Cards for Fair or Average Cr...
Brendan Harkness

By Brendan Harkness

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?
Best Credit Cards for Fair or Average Cr...
Brendan Harkness

By Brendan Harkness

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.

Our Selection Criteria
BEST PICK FOR

Cash Back

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Our rating
Min. credit level Limited Credit History
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 26.99% (Variable)

The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® (Review) is branded as a student credit card, but you don’t actually need to be a student to apply for this card. Anyone can apply, student or otherwise.

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.

Spending Rewards
  • 1% cash back for every purchase
    • 1.25% cash back if you pay on time

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).

  • Access a higher credit line: You may be automatically considered for a higher credit line after six months.
  • CreditWise: Use the CreditWise tool to monitor your TransUnion credit report, and your VantageScore 3.0 based on that report.
  • Shopping and travel protections: Extended Warranty, Travel Accident Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, and more
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 26.99% (Variable)
  • No foreign transaction fee

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • Access a higher credit line: You may be automatically considered for a higher credit line after six months.
  • Perks: CreditWise credit monitoring; shopping and travel protections
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 26.99% (Variable)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $39
View card details

The information related to Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

BEST PICK FOR

Students

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Our rating
Min. credit level Limited Credit History
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR See Terms

The Discover it® Student Cash Back (Review) is made for college students with limited or no established credit history. If you’re a young adult just getting into credit cards, this might be a good first card.

It’s actually quite rewarding for a student card, offering more potential cash back than any of the other cards on this page.

Spending Rewards
  • 5% cash back in categories that rotate every three months, up to $1,500 spent per quarter, then 1% (activation required)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • Cashback Match: Double all cash back rewards earned in the first year

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.

  • Good Grade Reward: Discover will give you a $20 statement credit reward for every year that you get a 3.0 GPA or higher, for up to five years.
  • Free credit score: Track your FICO Score 8 over time, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Social Security number alerts: Get notified if your SSN is found on any thousands of risky dark web sites.
  • New account and credit inquiry alerts: Get notified of any new accounts or credit inquiries on your Experian credit report.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: See Terms for See Terms, then See Terms
  • No foreign transaction fee

Bank of America Cash Rewards™ Credit Card for Students

  • 3% cash back in one category of your choice:
    • Gas
    • Online shopping
    • Dining
    • Travel
    • Drugstores
    • Home improvement/furnishings stores
  • 2% cash back at:
    • Grocery stores
    • Wholesale clubs
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Spending limit: 3% and 2% rewards only up to $2,500 per quarter, then 1% cash back
  • $200 cash rewards bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • Perks: Free credit score; shopping and travel protections
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 months, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Discover it® Student chrome

  • 2% cash back, up to $1,000 spent per quarter (then 1%), at:
    • Gas stations
    • Restaurants
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Cashback Match: Double all cash back rewards earned in the first year
  • Perks: Good Grade statement credit; SSN alerts; new account/inquiry alerts;  free credit score
  • Purchase APR: See Terms for See Terms, then See Terms
  • Balance Transfer APR: See Terms for See Terms, then See Terms
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Deserve Edu Mastercard

  • 1% cash back on all purchases
  • One year of Amazon Prime Student for spending $500 in the first 3 billing cycles
  • Perks: Potential Priority Pass Select membership offer; insurance and furniture rental rebates; shopping and travel protections
  • Purchase APR: 18.74% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

  • 1% cash back for every purchase
    • 1.25% cash back if you pay on time
  • Access a higher credit line: You may be automatically considered for a higher credit line after six months.
  • Perks: CreditWise credit monitoring; shopping and travel protections
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 26.99% (Variable)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details
1 4

The information related to Discover it® Student Cash Back has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

BEST PICK FOR

Secured Cards

Discover it® Secured

Our rating
Min. credit level Bad
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR See Terms

Secured credit cards typically don’t have the best features. They’re designed to help get your credit back in shape, rather than reward you with perks.

But the Discover it® Secured (Review) isn’t like the others — not only does it offer cash back for your purchases, it even doubles your rewards in the first year!

Spending Rewards
  • 2% cash back on up to $1,000 spent per quarter at:
    • Gas stations
    • Restaurants
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • Cashback Match: Double all cash back earned in the first year; awarded at the end of the first year

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.

  • Free credit score: Check your FICO Score 8 for free, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Social Security number alerts: Get notified if your SSN is found on any thousands of risky dark web sites.
  • New account and credit inquiry alerts: Get notified of any new accounts or credit inquiries on your Experian credit report.
  • Purchase APR: See Terms
  • Balance Transfer APR: See Terms for See Terms, then See Terms
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Security deposit: $200 to $2,500

Citi® Secured Mastercard®

  • Perks: Free credit score; shopping and travel protections
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 22.49% (Variable)
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Security deposit: $200–$2,500
View card details

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

  • Access a higher credit line: You may be automatically considered for a higher credit line after six months.
  • Perks: CreditWise credit monitoring; shopping and travel protections
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 26.99% (Variable)
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Security deposit: $49–$1,000
View card details

NFCU nRewards® Secured Credit Card

  • 1X point per dollar on all purchases
  • Perks: Member Deals shopping portal; free credit score; shopping and travel protections
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 18.00% Variable
  • No balance transfer fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Security deposit: $200 minimum
View card details
1 3

The information related to Discover it® Secured has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

BEST PICK FOR

Small Business Owners

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Our rating
Min. credit level Fair
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 24.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business (Review) is one of the only unsecured business credit cards you’ll find that’s designed for less-than-good credit. It’s not a bad card per se, but it’s not very rewarding either.

Spending Rewards
  • 1% cash back on all purchases

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.

  • Free employee cards
  • Business perks: Purchase records, year-end summaries, recurring transaction lists, account managers, business customer support
  • Shopping and travel protections: Including Purchase Security, Extended Warranties, Travel and Emergency Assistance Services, and more
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 24.49% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fee

Sam’s Club Business Mastercard

  • 5% cash back for Gas in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, including gas at Sam’s Club (up to $6,000 spent per year)
  • 3% cash back on:
    • Dining
    • Travel
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Rewards limit: Cap of $5,000 in cash back rewards per year
  • Purchase APR: 17.15% – 25.15% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Wells Fargo® Business Secured Credit Card

  • Choose one:
    • Cash Back Option: 1.5% cash back for every purchase
    • Reward Points Option: 1X point per dollar for every purchase, and 1,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in a monthly billing period
  • Perks: Earn More Mall shopping portal; shopping and travel protections
  • Purchase APR: Prime + 11.90% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $25
  • Security deposit: $500–$25,000
View card details

BBVA Compass Business Secured Visa Credit Card

  • 3X points per dollar spent at Office supply stores
  • 2X points per dollar spent at:
    • Gas stations
    • Restaurants
  • 1X point per dollar spent on everything else
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 16.24% Variable
  • Annual fee: $40, $0 first year
  • Security deposit: $500 minimum

This card is only available in certain states.

View card details
1 3

The information related to Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

BEST PICK FOR

Store Cards

Target REDcard™ Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit level Fair
Details
Annual Fee $0
Regular APR 24.40% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

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.

Spending Discount
  • 5% discount at Target and Target.com

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).

  • 10% off coupon: Every year on your cardmember anniversary
  • Free two-day shipping: For eligible items at Target.com (and free standard shipping for everything else)
  • 30 extra days for returns
  • Early access: To special events, products, and promotions
  • Exclusive offers: Cardholders get access to exclusive deals and special items.
  • Stack discounts: The 5% cash back can be combined with other Cartwheel and Target Subscription discounts.
  • Purchase APR: 24.40% Variable

Amazon.com Store Card

  • 5% back at Amazon (Amazon Prime cardholders only)
  • $10 Amazon.com gift card upon approval
  • Special financing offers for eligible purchases
  • Purchase APR: 28.24% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Walmart Rewards Mastercard®

  • 5% cash back at:
    • Walmart.com
  • 2% cash back for:
    • Walmart stores
    • Restaurants
    • Travel
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • 5% cash back for using Walmart Pay in stores for the first 12 months; $50 cash back for spending $300 in the first 3 months
  • Perks: Mastercard Concierge, shopping and travel protections
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 17.99%–26.99% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

My Best Buy® Visa®

  • 5% back in rewards at Best Buy and BestBuy.com OR deferred financing for eligible purchases
  • 3% back in rewards at:
    • Gas Stations
    • Grocery Stores (through December 2018)
    • Home Furnishing Stores (through December 2018)
  • 2% back in rewards at Restaurants
  • 1% back in rewards for all other purchases
  • 10% back in rewards on your first day of purchases, within 14 days of opening the account
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 26.74% Variable (11.90% Fixed for select purchases)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0 or $59 (depending on creditworthiness)
View card details

Gap Visa

  • 5X points per dollar spent at the Gap and affiliated brands, both in-store and online
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Free shipping and 20% off your first purchase
  • Perks: 10% off eligible purchases; special events and exclusive discounts; bonus point shopping days; receipt-free returns; birthday gift
  • Purchase APR: 27.49% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

TJX Rewards® Credit Card

  • 5X points per dollar spent at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and Sierra Trading Post
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • 10% off the first in-store purchase
  • Invites to exclusive events
  • Purchase APR: 29.24% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details

Lowe’s Advantage Credit Card

  • 5% off or special financing for purchases of $299 or more
  • 10% off on the first day of account approval
  • Purchase APR: 26.99% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0
View card details
1 6
  • 5% off every day at Target & Target.com.*
  • Free 2 day shipping on hundreds of thousands of items at Target.com.*
  • Early Access to products and promotions*
  • Exclusive Extras including special items and offers*
  • Starbucks discount on in-store locations – get everyday 5% savings when you pay with your REDcard*
  • Cartwheel – save 5-50% on hundreds of items in store & get everyday 5% savings when you pay with your REDcard*
  • Target Subscriptions – save 5% on everyday essentials delivered on your schedule when you subscribe, plus get everyday 5% savings when you pay with your REDcard*
  • Get everyday 5% savings on specialty gift cards when you pay with your REDcard*
  • Target Wallet, easy and fast checkout. Use Wallet in the Target app to save with Cartwheel and pay with REDcard by scanning your phone at check out in store.
  • *Some restrictions apply. See Target.com/redcard for benefits and program rules

What’s the Best Credit Card for Fair or Average Credit?

If your credit is in the fair/average range, you’ll typically have access to a decent variety of cards. We suggest starting your search with the following:

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:

What Does Fair or Average Credit Mean?

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.

Base FICO Score Ranges
Rating Range Percentage of People*
Exceptional 800–850 19.9%
Very Good 740–799 18.2%
Good 670–739 21.5%
Fair 580–669 20.2%
Poor 300–579 17%
VantageScore Ranges
Rating Range Percentage of People*
Excellent 750–850 16.7%
Good 700–749 34.1%
Fair 650–699 18.3%
Poor 550–649 12.6%
Very Poor 300–549 16.7%

*These data are from Experian.

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

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.

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