BEST OF

Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit of June 2022

May 25, 2022

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Credit cards for fair or average credit are aimed at those in the 630-689 FICO score range. It's an underserved market, so the list of such products is fairly short, and those that do exist lack the big sign-up bonuses you'd get with a card requiring excellent credit. But they may still offer rewards.

These cards can help you if you're just starting out with credit or are working to get back on track. A hallmark of cards for fair credit is high interest rates. That's important to keep in mind as you work to build a positive credit history, especially if you carry a balance.

NerdWallet's Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit of June 2022

Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit From Our Partners

Our pick for

Bonus category cash back + intro APR period

Apply now

on Discover's website, or call 800-347-0264

Discover it® Cash Back

4.9

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Discover's website, or call 800-347-0264

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Regular APR

12.24%-23.24% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

People with fair credit can now apply for one of the most popular cash-back cards on the market. The Discover it® Cash Back pays bonus cash back in rotating categories, comes with a new cardholder bonus offer and even has a great intro APR period.

Pros

  • This isn't a watered-down version of a "regular" card. You earn 5% cash back in quarterly categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 spent per quarter, plus 1% on other purchases. And new cardholders are eligible for Discover's unique bonus, which it describes this way: "INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300."

Cons

  • Activating bonus categories each quarter can be a hassle. If you forget, you don't get 5%. You also have to wait a year for your bonus — but unlike with many other cards for fair credit, at least you get a bonus.

Read full review
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.

  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.

  • NEW Intro APR: Get a 0% intro APR‡ for 15 months on purchases. Then 12.24% to 23.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.

  • No annual fee.

  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

  • View Rates & Fees

Our pick for

Balance transfers

Apply now

on Discover's website

Discover it® Balance Transfer

4.9

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Discover's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Regular APR

12.24%-23.24% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

The Discover it® Balance Transfer is the rare balance-transfer credit card that considers applications from people with fair credit. And it's the rare balance-transfer card that offers substantial long-term value, thanks to its cash back rewards.

Pros

  • You get a 0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 12.24%-23.24% Variable APR. After the 0% period ends, keep it in your wallet for the spending rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter in categories that you activate, and 1% on other spending.

Cons

  • The 0% period for purchases is considerably shorter than for transfers. Activating bonus categories each quarter can be a hassle. If you forget, you don't get 5%.

Read full review
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.

  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.

  • No annual fee.

  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.

  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

  • View Rates & Fees

Our pick for

Simplicity

Apply now

on Capital One's website

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Capital One's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

26.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card doesn't offer rewards, as several other cards in the fair-credit category do, but for those looking to strengthen their credit, it's a simple, solid $0-annual-fee option with an incentive for responsible behavior.

Pros

  • The annual fee is $0. You can be automatically considered for a higher credit limit in as little as six months. You can choose your own due date, which lets you schedule payment for the time of the month that best suits your cash flow. If you do make a late payment, the card doesn't impose a penalty APR. And the card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.

Cons

  • There are no rewards. Plus, the ongoing APR is on the high end at 26.99% Variable APR. That's not an issue if you pay in full every month, but look elsewhere if you expect to carry debt from month to month.

Read full review
  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

  • Help build your credit through responsible use of a card like this

  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges

  • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone

  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with online banking from your desktop or smartphone, with our mobile app

  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set

  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you

Our pick for

Cash back + flexibility

Apply now

on Upgrade's website

Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards

4.7

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Upgrade's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

8.99%-29.99% APR

Recommended Credit Score

The $0-annual-fee Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards can be an ideal choice if you plan to carry a balance, want the convenience of equal monthly debt repayments and can pre-qualify for a favorable interest rate. It also earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

Pros

  • The Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards earns rewards on par with cards for good or excellent credit. And unlike many of those cards, any unpaid balance is automatically converted into an installment loan with a fixed monthly payment. You can also borrow against your credit limit, much like a personal loan. See what terms you'd qualify for without a hard credit inquiry.

Cons

  • You may qualify for better terms with a traditional personal loan, depending on your financial situation. As of this writing, the card is unavailable to residents of Iowa, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.

Read full review
  • Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment.

  • Combine the flexibility of a card with the low cost and predictability of a loan.

  • $0 fees - $0 annual fee, $0 activation fees, $0 maintenance fees.

  • No touch payments with contactless technology built in.

  • See if you qualify in minutes without hurting your credit score.

  • Access to a virtual card while you wait for your card to arrive in the mail.

  • Great for large purchases with predictable payments you can budget for.

  • Mobile app to access your account anytime, anywhere.

  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud liability.

Our pick for

Flat-rate cash back

Apply now

on Capital One's website

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

4.7

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Capital One's website

Annual fee

$39

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

26.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card offers those with average credit a chance to both earn rewards and, potentially, gain access to a higher credit line.

Pros

  • The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a solid ongoing rewards rate: You earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on purchases. (The card also earns 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. Terms apply.) You can be automatically considered for a higher credit limit in as little as six months.

Cons

  • There's a $39 annual fee. You would need to spend $2,600 per year on the card to make that back (not including any 5% travel categories). And unlike some other cash-back cards, it doesn't allow you to boost your rewards earnings with bonus categories.

Read full review
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

  • No rotating categories or limits to how much you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account. It's that simple

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges

  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use

  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply

  • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone

  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set

Our pick for

Crypto rewards + flexibility

Apply now

on Upgrade's website

Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Visa® Credit Card

4.7

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Upgrade's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

8.99%-29.99% APR

Recommended Credit Score

If you're crypto-crazy, or just crypto-curious, the $0-annual-fee Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Visa® Credit Card might appeal to you. It earns 1.5% back in the form of Bitcoin when you pay your bill. Like Upgrade's other cards, it works like a combination of a credit card and a personal loan, allowing you to make purchases and then pay down your balance in equal monthly installments at a fixed interest rate.

Pros

  • The 1.5% rewards rate is on par with that offered by many cards for good or excellent credit. And unlike with those cards, any unpaid balance is automatically converted into an installment loan with a fixed monthly payment. You can also borrow against your credit limit, much like a personal loan. See what terms you'd qualify for without a hard credit inquiry.

Cons

  • There are some notable restrictions on the Bitcoin rewards you earn, including holding requirements and transaction fees when you sell. You may also qualify for better terms with a traditional personal loan, depending on your financial situation. As of this writing, the card is unavailable to residents of Iowa, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.

Read full review
  • Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back in bitcoin when you make payments.

  • The simple way to earn bitcoin: make purchases on your card, make payments, earn bitcoin.

  • No annual fees, no foreign transactions fees.

  • Get pre-approved in seconds with no impact to your credit score.

  • Pay with your phone or device by using Apple Pay™ or Google Pay™.

  • Mobile app to access your account anytime, anywhere.

  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud liability.

Our pick for

College students and young adults

Apply now

on Capital One's website

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

4.7

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Capital One's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

26.99% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One gives you 1% cash back on all your purchases, plus 0.25% back when you make your monthly payment on time, for a total of 1.25% cash back. That's pretty good for a student card.

Pros

  • The annual fee is $0. On top of the spending rewards, the card also offers up to $60 in credits for streaming media. With responsible use, you can be considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months. You don't have to be a student to apply for the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One, making it a good option for someone with average credit.

Cons

  • If you've already built good credit, you can probably score a card with higher rewards than this card offers. The ongoing APR is 26.99% Variable APR, which is steep if you plan on carrying a balance.

Read full review
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month

  • Earn $5 per month for 12 months on Select Streaming Subscriptions when you pay on time. *Exclusions Apply

  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees

  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen

  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply

  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you

Our pick for

Cash back earned with select merchants

Apply now

on Petal's website

Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Petal's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

20.24%-29.74% Variable APR

Recommended Credit Score

The Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card is a worthy contender for your wallet as you continue building credit. It’s lighter on the fees than some unsecured credit cards for less-than-perfect credit and it offers rewards.

Pros

  • The Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card, issued by WebBank, is an excellent option for those with less-than-perfect credit. Petal’s algorithm looks beyond credit scores by analyzing your bank information to determine how you manage income, savings and spending. As a result, the card offers a potentially generous credit limit that ranges between $300 and $5,000, depending on eligibility. It also earns up to 10% cash back when you use the card to make purchases with select merchants. The card is well-suited to travel with no foreign transaction fees and the globally accepted Visa network. It can help you build credit since payments are reported to all three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. These companies collect the information used to calculate your credit scores.

Cons

  • It's possible to find some credit cards that offer decent ongoing rewards on common purchases instead of only with select merchants. Other credit cards may also allow you to change the minimum payment due date to one that better aligns with a direct deposit. The Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card doesn’t offer this option.

Read full review
  • $0 Annual Fee.

  • Variable APRs range from 20.24%-29.74%.

  • $300 - $5,000 credit limits.

  • Earn a credit limit increase in as little as 6 months. Terms and conditions apply.

  • No credit score? No problem. If eligible, we'll create your Cash Score instead.

  • 2% - 10% cash back at select merchants.

  • See if you're pre-approved within minutes without impacting your credit score.

  • No annual or foreign transaction fees.

  • Build credit alongside hundreds of thousands of Petal card members.

  • Petal's mobile app makes it easy to manage your money, track your spending, and automate payments.

  • Petal reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.

  • No deposits required.

  • Card issued by WebBank, Member FDIC.

Our pick for

International students

Apply now

on Deserve's website

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Deserve's website

Annual fee

$0

Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

19.49% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is a solid option for domestic and international students who can't qualify for a credit card due to less-than-perfect credit.

Pros

  • The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is an excellent starter card for students with less-than-ideal credit. Deserve uses its own underwriting process to evaluate applications based on alternative factors. International students can apply without a Social Security number. Deserve can look at a student visa, passport ID or other school documents. Cardholders get an unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases and the opportunity to snag some perks. After spending $500 in the first three billing cycles, the card offers a statement credit for a 12-month Amazon Prime Student subscription (up to $59). There's also a $30 statement credit every time you refer a friend who qualifies for the card. The annual fee is $0.

Cons

  • Rewards only redeem for statement credit, and you need to have earned $25 (equal to $2,500 in spending) to use them. Even though 1% cash back is decent when you're starting out, it's possible to find higher rewards rates on other student credit cards.

Read full review
  • Receive one year of Amazon Prime Student on Deserve after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles with your EDU card (Lifetime Value of $59).

  • Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases with your Deserve EDU Mastercard. Once approved, you'll automatically start earning cash back on all purchases.

  • Feel secure with cell phone protection up to $600.

  • No deposit required. No annual fees.

  • No international transaction fees on purchases abroad so you can travel with confidence.

  • No Social Security Number required for international students to apply.

  • Refer A Friend Program: Refer anyone to Deserve using your personal referral code. Upon approval, card activation and use, you'll receive $30 and so will your referral. Referral bonuses are unlimited!

  • Manage and track your spending, set automatic payments and securely freeze your card all through one easy to use app.

  • See if you prequalify with no impact to your credit score in minutes.

  • Deserve Mastercards are issued by Celtic Bank, Member FDIC.

  • Enjoy Mastercard Platinum Benefits intended to make your life easier like Mastercard ID Theft Prevention™ and Master Rental®.

FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS: BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR FAIR CREDIT

Click the card name to read our review. Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.

Our pick for: Bonus category cash back + intro APR period

The Discover it® Cash Back earns bonus cash back in quarterly categories that you activate. In past years, those categories have included common spending areas like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and Amazon.com. Category activation can be a hassle, but if your spending aligns with those categories (and for most households, it probably will), you can rake in serious rewards. You also get the issuer's signature "cash-back match" bonus in your first year. Read our review.

Our pick for: Balance transfers 

What makes the Discover it® Balance Transfer stand out from other balance-transfer cards is its ongoing cash-back rewards, which give you a great reason to keep using the card regularly even after its introductory 0% APR period ends. Read our review.

Our pick for: Flat-rate cash back

This card for people with fair or "average" credit pays the same cash-back rate as the regular Quicksilver card, which targets people with excellent credit. The key difference is that this version charges an annual fee while the regular one does not. Read our review.

Our pick for: Cash back + flexibility

The $0-annual-fee Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards is a cross between a credit card and a personal loan, and it can offer the best of both worlds: flexibility, but with predictable terms from month to month. The card also lets you see what terms you'd qualify for before officially applying. And on top of all that, it earns cash back, too. Read our review.

Our pick for: Crypto rewards + flexibility 

This card earns rewards in the form of Bitcoin when you pay your bill (although you are subject to holding requirements and transaction fees when you sell your crypto). It works like a combination of a credit card and a personal loan, allowing you to make purchases and then pay down your balance in equal monthly installments at a fixed interest rate. Read our review. 

Our pick for: Simplicity

You don't get rewards with the Capital One Platinum Credit Card, or a sign-up bonus or a 0% period. But if you've got fair credit and you need a card you can use to build credit without paying an annual fee, it's definitely worth a look. Read our review.

Our pick for: Cash back with select merchants

The issuer of the Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card doesn’t only rely on credit scores to determine eligibility. Instead, it assesses your creditworthiness based on your income, expenses, savings and debts. The card earns a decent rate of up to 10% cash back when you use the card to shop with select merchants. And there's no annual fee, late fees or foreign transaction fees. Read our review.

Our pick for: College students and young adults

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One gives newcomers to credit a powerful incentive to develop responsible habits. You earn cash back on every purchase, but when you pay your bill on time, the cash-back rate for that month gets a boost. Read our review.

Our pick for: International students

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students doesn’t require applicants to have a co-signer or security deposit, and international students don't need a Social Security number. That makes it a little easier to get approved — even for students with limited credit histories. Plus, it comes with a solid 1% back on all purchases. Read our review.

Our pick for: Small business

The rewards rate on the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business isn't going to wow anyone; there's no sign-up bonus and the APR is high. What makes this card valuable is that it's available to business operators with fair credit (a FICO score between 630-689), who don't have a lot of options in business credit cards — and it has no annual fee. Read our review.

• • •

OTHER RESOURCES

By Kenley Young, NerdWallet

What is considered fair credit?

Fair credit, sometimes called "average" credit, is a step up from bad credit but a notch below good credit. It typically means your credit scores fall somewhere between 630 to 689, on a range of 300 to 850.

Credit scores indicate your level of risk to potential lenders and are based on several factors, including your payment history, the amount of available credit that you’re using, how long you’ve had credit, and more.

There are good credit cards designed for people with fair credit, but you're unlikely to get approved for the best credit cards until you can improve your credit.

Get your credit score for free

You can see and track your credit score for free through NerdWallet. Get started with your free credit score.

How a credit card helps you improve fair credit

Credit cards for fair credit can help you move up to good or excellent credit when you use them responsibly. The card issuer reports details about your account to the major credit bureaus, which compile the credit reports that form the basis of your credit scores. This reporting affects key elements of your scores:

  • Payment history. Payment history is the single biggest factor in your credit score, so it's essential to pay your bill on time every month. Doing so also avoids costly late fees. If possible, pay off your balance in full each month. When you pay in full, you don't get charged interest — and cards for fair credit tend to have high interest rates.

  • Credit utilization. The second-largest factor in your scores, credit utilization is the amount you owe as a percentage of your available credit. (For example, if you have a $500 credit limit and a $200 balance, then your credit utilization is 40%.) The lower your utilization, the better; 30% or below is a good benchmark. Paying in full every month also helps keep utilization in check.

  • Credit mix. Credit scoring formulas tend to reward people who show that they can handle different kinds of credit. Ideally, you’ll have both installment loans (loans that require a specific number of equal payments, like a mortgage or auto loan), as well as revolving accounts (where the balance goes up and down, like with credit cards).

  • Length of credit history. Credit scores also take into account how long you've been using credit, so the sooner you can find the right card, the better. And if you already have a long-serving credit account, keep it open and active.

What to know before applying for a credit card

Apply for the right card for your score

Before applying for a credit card, it’s important to know your credit score. You increase your odds of approval when you apply for a card tailored for your score range. (You can see and track your score for free through NerdWallet.) A fair credit score won’t be enough to qualify for some cards, and a rejection letter can hurt more than just your feelings.

A credit card application usually triggers a hard inquiry on your credit report. A single "hard pull" can cause a temporary dip in your scores, but if you're continually applying for the wrong cards and being rejected, the damage can be much worse. You want your scores to go up, not down.

Rejection stings, but you can learn from it

If you’re rejected for a credit card, the first thing to do is determine why. Banks are required to notify you if you were denied because of information in your credit report. Review that notice, then review your credit report to make sure there are no inaccuracies, and then do the same for the card application you submitted. At that point, you’ll probably have a good sense of why you were rejected.

If you feel you have a case, you can contact the issuer and ask for reconsideration. If you still aren’t approved, it may be a sign you need to work on your credit scores before applying again. Six months is a good rule of thumb.

Once you’ve zeroed in on a credit card for fair credit, make sure you understand any fees it might charge: annual fees, balance transfer fees, foreign transaction fees, late-payment fees, etc. Many fees are avoidable, especially if you use the card responsibly.

How to choose a credit card for fair credit

When comparing credit cards for fair credit, look for some or all of these features:

  • Reports to the major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion are the three major bureaus that compile the credit reports that inform your credit scores. Make sure the card you’re considering reports to at least one but ideally all three of these companies. This ensures that your on-time payments and other responsible credit habits will be recorded.

  • Low or no fees: An annual fee can make sense if the card offers enough rewards and benefits to outstrip the cost of carrying it. The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, for example, charges an annual fee of $39. But it also earns rewards, gives you a tool to monitor your credit profile, and offers the possibility of a higher credit line after making your first five monthly on-time payments. If your credit is at least fair, you can find cards that charge no annual fee at all.

  • Free credit score: As you work to push your scores into the good-to-excellent range, it’s important that you’re able to track how you’re doing. Many major issuers offer free access to your scores, available once you sign in to your account, along with other budgeting and education tools.

  • Rewards: Rewards aren’t necessarily a must for fair credit credit cards, but they are within reach at this range. Some rewards-earning options are listed above. If you can find a card that pays rewards while also providing a steppingstone to good or excellent credit, it’s a win-win.

  • An eventual upgrade path: Ideally, you won’t be stuck in the “fair credit score” range forever, so look for a card that offers a route to improved terms. With the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, you’ll have the potential to gain access to a higher credit line. The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students card offers the possibility of an upgrade to the Deserve® Pro Mastercard, which offers better rewards. Or you can plan to request a product change from your issuer on your own eventually. With a product change, you’re not applying for a new account; you’re seeking an upgrade to the one you’ve already got. Therefore, you typically don’t have to worry about a hard pull on your credit report. You’ll also usually keep the same account, often with the same card number, so there’s no loss of credit history length.

What to avoid with credit cards for fair credit

  • Try not to carry a balance: Interest rates on credit cards for fair credit tend to be on the high side. You’ll want pay your bill in full each month to avoid paying interest, which can get expensive and will eat into any rewards your card might earn. Making only the minimum payment keeps you in debt longer and could ultimately drag down your credit scores.

  • Don’t pay late: Make at least the minimum payment, and do so on time each month. If you’re a few days late, you’ll likely owe a late fee. If you’re more than 30 days late, it can start to affect your credit scores.

  • Don’t settle: With fair credit, you won’t be eligible for the highest-end credit cards — but good cards are still available at this level. Some offer rewards, perks, upgrade paths and even 0% introductory APR periods.

Last updated on May 25, 2022

Methodology

NerdWallet's Credit Cards team selects the best credit cards for fair credit based on overall value, as evidenced by star ratings, as well as suitability for specific kinds of consumers. Factors in our evaluation include annual and other fees, interest rates, whether a card offers upgrade options, the availability of free credit scores and other credit education and tools, reporting to credit bureaus, and other noteworthy features such as a rewards program. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.