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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 cash back

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now on Capital One's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 350
    689
    Poor - Average
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • Qualify with limited / bad credit
    • High rewards rate
    • No foreign transaction fee

    Cons

    • Has annual fee
    • High APR

    Annual Fees

    $39

    APR

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

    Bonus Offers

    None

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
    • Use your QuicksilverOne card and get 50% back as a statement credit on your monthly Spotify Premium subscription, now through April 2018
    • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account 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 flexibility

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Apply Now on Capital One's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 630
    689
    Average
  • Card Details
  • Pros

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

    Cons

    • No rewards
    • High APR

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

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

    Bonus Offers

    None

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Pay no annual fee
    • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
    • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
    • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
    • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
    • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
    • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use

$0 annual fee. The ongoing APR is 24.99% Variable APR.

Benefits of the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card: 

  • $0 annual fee
  • If you make your first five monthly payments on time, Capital One may give you access to a higher credit line
  • You can choose your own due date, which lets you schedule payment for the time of the month that best suits your cash flow
  • This card does not impose a penalty APR if you have a late payment

Drawbacks of the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card: 

  • The ongoing APR is high. 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.

Bottom line

The Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is an excellent choice for those with average credit who don’t carry a balance and appreciate being rewarded for responsible behavior.

Best for 0% APR on purchases

ABOC Platinum Rewards Card

ABOC Platinum Rewards Card

Apply Now on Amalgamated Chicago's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 630
    850
    Average - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • 0% APR period on purchases
    • No Annual Fee
    • Available with average credit or better

    Cons

    • Low rewards rate
    • Has foreign transaction fees
    • 3% of each balance transfer (minimum $5)

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • Min APR: 13.90%, Variable
    • Max APR: 23.90%, Variable
    • Cash Advance APR: 25.99%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Earn 10,000 Bonus ABOC Rewards Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days from account opening

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases for 12 months
  • Additional Information
    • 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 12 months; after that the variable APR will be 13.90% -23.90%, based on your creditworthiness
    • Earn 10,000 Bonus ABOC Rewards Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days from account opening
    • Unlimited Points That Don’t Expire
    • Earn Points on Every Purchase! It’s simple: $1 = 1 Point
    • No Annual Fee
    • Select Your Rewards Your Way

The annual fee is $0. Introductory APR of 0% on Purchases for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.90% - 23.90% Variable. Earn 10,000 Bonus ABOC Rewards Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days from account opening. 

Benefits of the ABOC Platinum Rewards Card:

  • There’s an introductory 0% APR period, which is relatively rare among cards for average credit
  • This card also has a rewards program. You get 1 ABOC point per $1 spent; points can be redeemed for statement credit, gift cards, merchandise or travel at varying redemption rates.
  • It does not impose a penalty APR if you have a late payment, but it may end the introductory APR offer.

Drawbacks of the ABOC Platinum Rewards Card:

  • The card’s issuer, Amalgamated Bank of Chicago, has limited upgrade options as your credit improves

Bottom line 

The 0% APR period on this card is great for those looking at a major purchase they’ll need to finance. Take into account its basic rewards program, and there’s a lot to like in this card for average credit.

Best for balance transfers

Chase Slate®

Chase Slate®

Apply Now on Chase's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 630
    719
    Average - Good
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No annual fee
    • $0 Intro fee on transfers made within 60 days of account opening
    • Long 0% Intro APR Period

    Cons

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

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 15.99% - 24.74% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 25.99%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

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

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months
  • Additional Information
    • $0 Introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening
    • Chase Slate named "Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers" four years in a row by Money Magazine
    • 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% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 15.99% - 24.74% Variable APR. $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®:

  • It doesn’t offer rewards.
  • Other balance-transfer credit cards and low-interest cards offer longer 0% APR periods or lower ongoing APRs.

The bottom line:

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

Best for small business

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

Apply Now on Capital One's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 350
    689
    Poor - Average
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • Qualify with limited / bad credit
    • No annual fee
    • No foreign transaction fee

    Cons

    • High APR

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 23.99% Variable APR
    • Penalty APR: 30.40%, Variable
    • Cash Advance APR: 23.99%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    None

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • 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 23.99% 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®

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Apply Now on Capital One's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 630
    689
    Average
  • Card Details
  • Pros

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

    Cons

    • High APR

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

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

    Bonus Offers

    Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • 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 won't expire for the life of the account
    • 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 24.99% 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.

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To recap our selections:

NerdWallet’s best cards for fair credit

Best for … Card
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.


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