BEST CREDIT CARDSBEST CREDIT CARDSBEST CREDIT CARDS FOR FAIR OR AVERAGE CREDIT OF JUNE 2024
BEST OF

Best Credit Cards for Fair or Average Credit of June 2024

Updated: Jun 21, 2024
Paul Soucy
Written by
Lead Assigning Editor
Caitlin Mims
Reviewed by
Content Management Specialist
Kenley Young
Edited by
Fact Checked
Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
Paul Soucy
Written by
Lead Assigning Editor
Caitlin Mims
Reviewed by
Content Management Specialist
Kenley Young
Edited by
Fact Checked
Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
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NerdWallet's Best Credit Cards for Fair or Average Credit of June 2024

Best Credit Cards for Fair or Average Credit From Our Partners

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Find the right credit card for you.

Whether you want to pay less interest or earn more rewards, the right card's out there. Just answer a few questions and we'll narrow the search for you.

Find the right credit card for you.

Whether you want to pay less interest or earn more rewards, the right card's out there. Just answer a few questions and we'll narrow the search for you.

Our pick for

Rewards for college students

Our pick for

Prequalification + up to 1.5% cash back

Our pick for

Simplicity

Our pick for

Cash back + flexibility

Our pick for

Flat-rate cash back

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

Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

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 (see rates and fees). Read our review.

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®

Our pick for: Cash back + flexibility

The $0-annual-fee Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® 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.

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

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 (see rates and fees). 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.

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

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. (The card is issued by WebBank, Member FDIC.) Read our review.

Mission Lane Cash Back Visa® Credit Card

Our pick for: Prequalification + up to 1.5% cash back

The Mission Lane Cash Back Visa® Credit Card is a great option for people who aren't sure whether their credit is good enough to qualify for a rewards card. The issuer's prequalification process lets you see the offer you're eligible for — which could be up to 1.5% cash back — before you actually apply.

Prosper® Card

Our pick for: Help for 'less than perfect credit'

The Prosper® Card doesn't offer rewards, and it charges an annual fee, but the issuer goes out of its way to encourage people with "less than perfect credit" to apply. If you're looking to beef up your credit, it's a decent place to start. Read our review.

Discover it® Student Chrome

Our pick for: Rewards for college students

Simplicity makes the Discover it® Student Chrome a standout for students searching for their first credit card. You'll earn bonus cash back at restaurants and gas stations with no activation required and no rotating categories to keep track of. Read our review.

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

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, who don't have a lot of options in business credit cards.

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OTHER RESOURCES

What is considered fair or average credit?

Fair credit, also referred to as "average" credit, is a step up from bad credit but a notch below good credit. It typically means your credit scores fall in the range of 630-689 on a scale that runs from 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 or average 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.

  • Recent credit applications. When you apply for new credit, it's not uncommon to see your scores dip, at least temporarily.

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.) An average 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 or average 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 (see rates and fees). 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 credit cards for fair credit, 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 from average credit 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. 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 average 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.

• • •

NerdWallet's Kenley Young contributed to this article.

Last updated on June 21, 2024

Methodology

NerdWallet's Credit Cards team selects the best credit cards for fair or average 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.

Frequently asked questions

While there are no universal dividing lines between credit score bands, you can generally think of "fair credit" — aka "average credit" — as having credit scores in the range of 630 to 689. (The typical credit score scale runs from 300 at the low end to a maximum of 850.)

The terms "fair credit" and "average credit" are used more or less interchangeably within the credit cards industry to describe scores in the middle ground between good credit and bad credit. It's important to note that definitions of credit score ranges can differ from one card issuer to the next. What one issuer might see as a score on the low end of the fair credit range, another might consider bad credit. Conversely, a higher score that one issuer still sees as fair credit might qualify as good credit to a different issuer. Keep in mind, also, that credit scores are not the only thing that credit card issuers and other lenders look at when evaluating a credit application.

The average FICO credit score in the United States in 2022 was 716, according to the company that manages the FICO scoring model. One the VantageScore scale developed by the credit bureaus, the average score in 2022 was 698.

Both of those numbers are actually a bit higher than the 630-689 range typically used to define "average" credit. That's a big reason why the term "fair credit" is often used to describe scores in the middle ground between bad and good.

About the author

Portrait of author

Paul Soucy

Paul has been the lead editor for NerdWallet's credit cards team since 2015 and for the travel rewards team since 2023. Previously, he worked at USA Today and the Des Moines Register, then built a freelance writing and editing business focused on personal finance topics. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA. Read more
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