If you have a fair credit score, it can feel like you’re in limbo when it comes to credit cards. Your credit is good enough that you don’t need a secured credit card. But most of the best credit cards in terms of rewards, perks, and interest rate offers are reserved for people with good or excellent credit.
That said, it is possible to find good credit cards for fair credit. Here’s what you need to know.
Credit Score and Credit Cards
Virtually every time you apply for a credit card, the credit card company will run a credit check. As such, your credit score is a crucial factor in determining whether or not you get approved for the card you want.
Before Applying: Credit Score Ranges
Before you even start shopping around for a credit card, take a moment and check your credit score to get an idea of where you stand. Since the FICO score is used by a wide range of credit card provider, here are the various FICO credit score ranges for your information:
- Exceptional: 800 to 850
- Very good: 740 to 799
- Good: 670 to 739
- Fair: 580 to 669
- Poor: 300 to 579
If your credit score is right on the line between fair and good, it may pay off to work on building your credit for a few months before you apply. But if you’re relatively new to credit or you have reason to believe it will take time to increase your credit score, consider some fair credit card offers.
How Your Credit Score Affects Your Credit Cards
Your credit score determines not only the interest rate on your credit card but also whether you’re approved in the first place.
Keep in mind, too, that each credit card issuer has its own set of criteria for your credit score and credit report. So even if the score you see is considered good, the card issuer may still not approve your application.
How to Choose a Credit Card if You Have Fair Credit
There aren’t as many credit cards available for people with fair credit, but they’re out there. Unfortunately, most financial institutions don’t share their credit score requirements upfront — with the exception of Capital One — so it can be tough to determine which cards you can apply for.
The good news is that there are tools out there that can match you with credit cards based on your credit profile. Experian CreditMatch is one of those tools — simply create a profile with Experian using your personal information, and it will identify your credit report and score and show you which cards you might be able to get.
Of course, these services can’t guarantee approval, but it’s better than going into an application process blindly.
Use Credit Cards to Improve Your Fair Credit Score
While the credit card offers for fair credit aren’t as appealing as some of the best credit cards on the market, they can be a great way to work on building your credit so that you can qualify for better cards in the future.
Credit Score Building Credit Cards
Just about any credit card can be used to build your credit score. Here are some tips on how to use your new credit card to build credit:
- Use the card regularly
- Keep a low balance relative to the credit limit
- Keep your credit utilization ratio low
- Pay your bill on time every month — also, pay in full to avoid interest charges
- Avoid applying for new credit cards until you know your credit is ready
The best credit cards for fair credit will also offer good benefits, such as rewards on your everyday purchases, gas stations or grocery stores, select insurance protections, and possibly even a sign-up bonus.
Tips to Improve Your Credit Score to Get Better Offers
In addition to the tips on responsible card use, here are some other tips that could help you increase your credit score and improve your approval odds of getting a better offer.
- Pay all your bills on time every month.
- Keep other credit card balances low.
- Pay down high credit card balances by the monthly due date
- Avoid applying for credit unless you absolutely need it
- Use Experian Boost to get credit for your on-time payments for your cell phone, utilities, and even select streaming services
- Ask a family member with good credit to add you as an authorized user on one of their credit cards so that you can enjoy the positive benefits of their account.
Getting the Best Credit Offer Terms
The best fair credit cards offer decent terms, even if they’re not the best out there. One thing to note is that regardless of where your credit score lies on the fair credit spectrum, you can generally expect high-interest rates — sometimes they’re upwards of 20%.
As a result, it’s best to make it a priority to pay your bill in full every month to avoid interest charges instead of trying to find the lowest APR possible.
Other features and credit card terms you’ll want to consider when comparing the best credit cards for fair credit include:
- Annual fee: Some credit cards for fair credit charge one, but not all
- Rewards: Some of these cards don’t offer rewards, but others can give you rewards rates that get close to what the best rewards cards offer. For example, if cashback rewards are important to you, you may want to look into credit cards that offer rewards for your card purchases.
- Bonus: Sign-up bonuses on credit cards for fair credit are few and far between, but they do exist.
- Other fees: Depending on how you plan to use your new credit card, take a look at the fine print for foreign transaction fees, cash advance fees, balance transfer fees, and more.
Take your time to shop around to find the best credit card offers for fair credit that work best for you and what you want to do.
FAQs About Credit Cards for Fair Credit Scores
As you search for the best fair credit cards and work on improving your credit, here are some other common questions you may have about the process.
There are credit cards for just about everyone on the credit spectrum. Even consumers with no credit score at all can get approved for some cards. However, the higher your credit score, the better your chances of getting one of the best cards available.
That’s a hard question to answer because it depends on where you are on the credit spectrum. That said, retail credit cards tend to be easy to get approved for, but many of them restrict you to using the card with that retailer only. Others may work on the Visa or Mastercard network, though.
There are other credit cards that promise approval even with terrible credit, but these cards tend to charge exorbitant fees and interest rates, so it’s best to avoid them.
Credit cards are a great way to build credit because you never have to pay interest, as long as you pay your balance on time and in full every month.
Use your credit card regularly, but try to avoid racking up a high balance relative to your credit limit. Also, make sure you pay your bill on time every month — consider setting up autopay so you don’t have to do it manually every time.
In most cases, you’ll get a decision on your application within just a few seconds if you apply online. In some cases, though, you may need to wait to receive a letter in the mail. Some other cards may promise both instant and guaranteed approval. But again, it’s generally best to avoid these cards.