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NerdWallet’s Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit of 2017

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NerdWallet's Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit, 2016

If you have fair or average credit, you can still get great credit card rewards and perks. The Nerds have put together some of the top credit cards for people in the 630-689 FICO score range and are just starting out with credit or are working to get their credit back on track.

Best for balance transfers

Chase Slate®

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • $0 Intro on balance transfer fees made within 60 days of Account Opening
  • Long 0% intro APR period

Cons

  • No rewards
  • Can't transfer debt from another Chase account

Bonus Offer

Save with a $0 introductory balance transfer fee, 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and $0 annual fee. Plus, receive your Monthly FICO® Score for free.

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

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

APR

  • Min APR: 15.49%, Variable
  • Max APR: 24.24%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • $0 Introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • Monthly FICO® Score and Credit Dashboard for free
  • No Penalty APR - Paying late won't raise your interest rate (APR). All other account pricing and terms apply
  • $0 Annual Fee

Introductory APR of 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 15.49% - 24.24% Variable. $0 fee on balance transfers during the first 60 days. Free access to your FICO score, updated monthly. No penalty APR. $0 annual fee.

Benefits of the Chase Slate®:

  • Offers a combination of a long introductory 0% APR and an introductory $0 balance transfer fee, making it perfect for people who want to consolidate high-interest credit card debt.
  • Gives you access to your FICO score to help you know where you stand with your credit.

Drawbacks of the Chase Slate®:

The bottom line:

If you’re trying to tackle high-interest debt, the Chase Slate® is your new best friend.

Best for cash back

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now on Capital One's secure website

Pros

  • Qualify with average credit
  • High rewards rate
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • High APR

Bonus Offer

Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

Annual Fee

$39

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 24.99% Variable APR
  • Cash Advance APR: 24.99%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back doesn’t expire and there’s no limit to how much you can earn
  • 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
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use

Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, regardless of the category. $39 annual fee.

Benefits of the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card:

  • Great ongoing rewards rate; no need to keep track of bonus categories.

Drawbacks of the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card:

  • It charges an annual fee.
  • It doesn’t allow you to earn more rewards with bonus categories.

The bottom line:

The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great card for someone with fair or average credit who pays their balance in full each month. Keep in mind, however, that you would need to spend $2,600 per year on the card just to pay for the annual fee.

Best for small business

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Apply Now on Capital One's secure website

Pros

  • Qualify with average credit
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • High APR

Bonus Offer

Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, every day

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 23.49% Variable APR
  • Penalty APR: 29.90%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 23.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Enjoy no annual fee
  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Build business credit with responsible use
  • Fraud coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Enjoy business benefits including Year-End Summaries, employee cards at no extra cost, and experienced small business customer service

Earn 1% cash back on every purchase, every day. Receive business benefits, including year-end summaries and free employee cards. $0 annual fee.

Benefits of the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business:

  • Business credit cards typically come with higher credit lines than personal credit cards, giving your business access to more capital.
  • No foreign-transaction fee, in case you travel internationally for your business.

Drawbacks of the Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business:

  • It doesn’t offer any bonus categories like other business credit cards.
  • The ongoing APR is 23.49% Variable APR, which could be costly for your business if you carry a balance.

The bottom line: 

Business owners with fair or average credit don’t have many options. The Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business is a great start, but you should work on improving your credit and applying for a better business credit card down the road.

Best for students

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Apply Now on Capital One's secure website

Pros

  • Qualify with average credit
  • High rewards rate
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • High APR

Bonus Offer

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

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 20.49% Variable APR
  • Cash Advance APR: 20.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • 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
  • There’s no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, and rewards don't expire
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Pay no annual or foreign transaction fees
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you

Earn 1% cash back on all purchases, plus a 25% bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time. Get access to a higher credit line after making your first five payments on time. $0 annual fee.

Benefits of the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®:

  • The card has a 1.25% rewards rate, the best among student credit cards.
  • No foreign transaction fees, in case you study abroad.

Drawbacks of the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®:

  • The ongoing APR is 20.49% Variable APR, which can get you in trouble fast if you don’t pay your balance in full every month.

The bottom line:

The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® is a solid choice for students who are getting their first credit card. It offers credit-building tools and rewards you for paying your balance. Just be sure to pay off your balance in full each month to avoid the interest.

To recap our selections:

NerdWallet’s best cards for fair credit

Best for … Card
Balance transfers Chase Slate®
Cash back Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Small business Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business
Students Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Methodology

NerdWallet’s credit cards team selects cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to win in multiple categories.

Last updated Dec. 7, 2016.

Ben Luthi is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email:bluthi@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @benluthi.


Image via iStock.