Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit – 2017

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Editor's Best Card Picks

Apr 12, 2016 | Updated Jul 05, 2017

Although Credit Card Insider receives compensation from some credit card issuers as advertisers, this does not influence our choice of cards or the order that cards appear on the page. We have attempted to determine the best cards in this category, regardless of our advertising relationship with issuers.

Learn more about how we rate credit and charge cards.

If you have fair credit – a FICO® Credit Score of about 660–699 – you won’t be eligible for the very best credit cards on the market, but you can still get a good card with solid rewards to help you build your credit so you can get better cards in the future.

Your options are a bit more limited, but take a look at these three reward cards that provide points or cash back for every purchase you make. As long as you use them and other cards responsibly (along with good financial habits in general) you’ll eventually qualify for even more rewarding cards as you build your credit history.

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 major credit card issuers before applying.

Learn more about improving your credit in our Definitive Guide to Building Credit with Credit Cards, or take a look at more credit cards for fair credit. If you have trouble qualifying for these cards, you may want to start with a secured card to build your credit.

Our Pick’s for Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit

Best for Card
Rewards in rotating categories Discover it®
Flat rate rewards on all spending Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards
Travel rewards Discover it® Miles
Transferring a balance Chase Slate®
Small business owners Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business
Students or no credit Capital One® Journey® Student Credit Card

Best for Rewards in Rotating Categories

Discover it®

You may be surprised that the Discover it is available to people with only fair credit, but many people have reported being approved for this card with a FICO score of less than 700. That doesn’t mean that you’ll always be approved, because there are several other factors involved as well. Discover also offers a secured version of this card, so if you don’t qualify for the regular one they may offer you the secured card instead, or, if you get denied, you could call and ask to be considered for the secured version of the card instead.

Wondering if your credit scores are good enough for a particular card? Take a look at this reddit page, where the community keeps track of credit scores and approvals.

You’ll get:

  • 5% cash back in a variety of categories that change throughout the year
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Double your cash back at the end of your first year
  • Free access to a FICO Credit Score based on your TransUnion credit report at any time
  • No annual fee

These are the categories for 2017 listed on Discover’s website:

Quarter 5% Cash Back Category
January – March Gas Stations, Ground Transportation & Wholesale Clubs
April – June Home Improvement Stores & Wholesale Clubs
July – September Restaurants
October – December Amazon.com & More

This is probably one of the best offers you’ll find in your credit range, especially when you consider the fact that Discover will double the cash back you earn in the first year.

So you’ll eventually be earning 10% back on those category purchases for the first year, and 2% back on every other purchase (this makes it an excellent choice for everyday spending as well). This is actually one of the best reward card deals on the market today, even for people with great credit.

You’ll also have access to one of your FICO scores, which is a great feature if you’re working to improve your credit.

Read our full review of the Discover it here.

Discover it®
Apply Now

Discover it®

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 11.74%–23.74% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically - only for new cardmembers*
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and more - up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases & balance transfers for 12 months-then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 11.74%–23.74%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
  • New Freeze ItSM on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* And 100% U.S.-based service any time.
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms & other info by clicking “Apply.”

Best for Travel Rewards

Discover it® Miles

This card is one of Discover’s newer cards, and is the travel card is the Discover it family. Here are some of its highlights:

  • Earn 1.5 miles per dollar for all purchases (100 Miles = $1.00 value)
  • Double miles for your first year (Discover will add these extra miles at the end of the first year)
  • 0% Intro APR for 14 months on purchases
  • $30 statement credit each year that can be used to pay for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee

This card isn’t specifically designed for people with fair credit, but you may be able to get approved. If you don’t, you could always ask to be considered for the secured version of this card.

See our full review of the Discover it Miles here.

Discover it® Miles
Apply Now

Discover it® Miles

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 11.74%–23.74% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Exclusive Double Miles Offer: At the end of your first year-when other Miles cards charge an annual fee-Discover doubles all the Miles you’ve earned.*
  • No annual fee & unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar you spend on purchases. 0% intro APR on purchases for 14 months-then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 11.74%–23.74%.
  • 100 Miles = $1 value. Redeem Miles in any amount toward travel purchases on your statement. Or get cash as a direct deposit to your bank account.*
  • Discover pays you back for your in-flight Wi-Fi fees-up to $30 a year-with an automatic statement credit.*
  • New Freeze ItSM on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* And 100% U.S.-based service any time.
  • Free overnight shipping of replacement cards to any U.S. street address at your request. And you’re never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.*
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms and other info by clicking “Apply Now.” See complete Discover it® Miles details.

Best for Flat Rate Rewards on All Spending

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

This card is a bit different from the ones above, offering the same reward for every purchase you make, no matter what you’re buying, but it does have an annual fee unlike the Discover it.

You’ll get:

  • 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make
  • $39 annual fee
  • Free access to a VantageScore® and the CreditWise credit tracker/simulator
  • Potential for a credit limit increase after making the first 5 monthly payments on time

You can use this card anywhere for the 1.5% cash back, without needing to worry about spending categories. The $39 annual fee isn’t much to worry about for the chance to rebuild your credit, so this shouldn’t be a big reason to avoid this card. As long as you spend at least $2600 per year (or around $220 each month) on the card and pay off your balance in full every month, you’ll earn enough in cash back to cover the annual fee.

You’ll also be able to check your VantageScore whenever you’d like, but keep in mind that this isn’t the more popular FICO Credit Score (learn more about credit scores and the difference between them here). These are different scores, but it should still give you a pretty good idea of how your credit is doing.

A great feature of this card is the promise of a credit limit increase after the first 5 on-time payments. Many cards will automatically increase your credit limit at certain intervals, but it’s largely unknown when this is might happen without asking. So it’s nice to see this is as a stated feature of this card.

If you’re looking for other similar cards, you might also want to take a look at the Chase Freedom Unlimited. That card doesn’t have an annual fee and also provides 1.5% cash back. It’s actually designed for people with good credit, but some people with fair credit have reported they’ve been approved. The only way you’ll know for sure if you’d be approved is to apply.

To learn more about about the QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Card, read our full review.

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Apply Now

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

For People with
Fair Credit

  • Annual Fee: $39
  • Interest Rate: 13.99%, 18.99%, or 23.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen

Best for Balance Transfers

Chase Slate®

This is one of the most popular cards designed for balance transfers. It features:

  • No fee for balance transfers when made within the first 60 days (5% fee after that, $5 min)
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers and purchases
  • No annual fee
  • Free FICO® Score

This card’s balance transfer offer stands out because of the opportunity it provides to transfer a balance without paying a balance transfer fee.

If you’re considering a balance transfer, see our review of the best balance transfer cards here, or learn more about balance transfers here.

If you’re not looking to transfer a balance, you might want to consider other cards instead, since this card doesn’t earn any rewards on spending.

Want to learn more about this card? Check out our Review of the Chase Slate Credit Card.

Chase Slate®
Apply Now

Chase Slate®

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 15.74%, 21.49% or 24.49% *Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Chase Slate named "Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers" two years in a row by Money Magazine
  • $0 Introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • New Free Monthly FICO® Score and Credit Dashboard
  • No Penalty APR - Paying late won't raise your interest rate (APR). All other account pricing and terms apply
  • $0 Annual Fee

The information for Chase Slate® has been collected independently by Credit Card Insider. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Best for Small Business Owners

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

There are not many small business credit cards designed for people who don’t have excellent credit, but the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business is one of them. It features:

  • Earn 1% cash back rewards for every $1 spent on all purchases (with no cap on how much you can earn)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee

If you’re looking for a way to earn some rewards on business expenses, pay your card off in full every month, and you have fair credit, this may be a good card for you.

See our full review of the Spark business cards here.

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business
Apply Now

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

For People with
Fair Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 23.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Enjoy no annual fee
  • Build business credit with responsible use with eligibility for an automatic credit line increase
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Separate business expenses from personal expenses
  • $0 Fraud Liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Enjoy business benefits including Year-End Summaries, employee cards at no additional cost, and experienced small business customer service

Best for Students or People with No Credit History

Capital One® Journey® Student Credit Card

Many student credit cards require information about school enrollment, so they’re not usually available to people who are not students. The Capital One Journey is an exception, allowing non-students to apply. If you have little credit history established or if you’re a student, this card may be a good place to start. It features:

  • Earn 1% on all purchases, or 1.25% if you pay on time that month
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
  • Free access to a VantageScore® and the CreditWise credit tracker/simulator
  • Potential for a credit limit increase after making the first 5 monthly payments on time
Capital One® Journey® Student Credit Card
Apply Now

Capital One® Journey® Student Credit Card

For People with
No Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 24.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Earn 1% cash back for every $1 spent on all purchases. Pay on time and that goes up to 1.25% cash back.

Tips for Building Credit with Your Card

  1. Pay your bill on time, in full, each month. That means pay the full amount you owe by the due date. Not the minimum payment or some other amount. You can usually set up automatic payments from your bank account for the full amount due, which is what I recommend. This will keep you out of credit card debt and prevent late payments.
  2. Use less than 10% of your credit limit. For example, if you have a $500 credit limit, make sure the balance below $50 by the last day of the statement period. You could do this by not spending more than $50 in that whole statement period, or by paying off some of your balance before the statement is generated.
  3. Use your card for at least one purchase every single month. When there are purchases and on-time payments on your account your issuer will have positive information to report to credit bureaus.
  4. Watch your credit improve. There are many free ways to monitor your credit history and credit scores. If you use cards responsibly you should see improvements, especially after 12 months. Once your credit has improved you may be able to qualify for other, better credit cards with higher credit limits.

Browse Credit Cards for Fair Credit

Browse rewards credit cards on our partner’s site below.

Credit Cards for Fair Credit

  • Find the credit card that best fits your needs as you work to build your credit.
  • Cards for fair credit can help you build your credit profile with responsible use.
  • Transfer your existing balances and take advantage of low intro APR rates.
  • Don’t let your credit score get you down. Applicants with fair credit may be eligible to earn up to 1.5% cash back or other rewards on every day purchases.
  • Terms vary by partner offer. Please see each bank’s application for terms and conditions.
  • Clicking Apply Now will take you to CreditCards.com to compare Fair Credit cards from participating partners.

Apply Now

 

Was this helpful?

The Insider

Brendan Harkness
Platinum Card® from American Express Review: Is it worth the $550 annual fee?
Brendan Harkness | Sep 20, 2017

The Platinum Card from American Express provides a wide range of benefits and rewards, but is it worth the $550 annual fee?

Read More
John Ganotis
Is my credit card account open if I didn’t activate the card yet?
John Ganotis | Sep 18, 2017

Read More
Brendan Harkness
Review of the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card
Brendan Harkness | Sep 04, 2017

The Premier Rewards Gold and Gold Card from American Express are travel-focused charge cards, offering points and benefits. Is one right for you?

Read More