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Top Fair Credit Cards

Top Fair Credit Cards
Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Updated September 22, 2021
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Editor’s note: At Lantern, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, we occasionally feature content that includes information about our partners and their products or services. We do not provide, endorse, or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendations—and our opinions are our own.
When you have fair credit, it can be difficult to get approved for new credit card accounts with attractive terms, which are usually reserved for people with good or excellent credit. So if your credit is just fair, you might end up applying for cards that are designed for people with bad credit. But you may be able to do better. What credit score exactly is considered fair credit can vary, but the credit bureau Experian defines it generally as a FICO® score between 580 and 669. Having fair credit often results from a limited credit history or a history of significant credit problems. But people with fair credit are in a better position to get a credit card than those with bad credit. In either case, using a credit card responsibly can be a helpful way to work toward improving your credit history.So if you have fair credit, how can you find a top credit card for your individual needs? Fortunately, many credit card issuers have products specifically available to applicants with fair credit. These cards may have more generous rewards than cards for poor credit but less attractive benefits than cards for people with stellar credit records. And while most fair credit cards don’t have an annual fee, there are some that do. To choose the top cards in this category, we looked for issuers that are specifically marketing their cards to people who have credit between poor and good. We then looked for cards that offer compelling features such as cash back rewards, low fees, and valuable benefits. 

How We Chose the Top Fair Credit Cards

To find the top fair credit cards, we first divided the market into the following five categories: 
  • Simple cards for fair credit
  • Simple student cards for fair credit
  • Top student rewards cards for fair credit
  • Top rewards cards for fair credit
  • Small business cards for fair credit
Then, we looked at more than a dozen major credit card issuers and credit unions to find the top cards in each of these categories. We included only cards that are offered to all applicants, leaving out products offered by credit unions that not everyone can join.And for each category, we looked at the most relevant factors. For example, top rewards cards need to offer the most valuable cash back rewards, while the top simple student cards for fair credit need to offer benefits that students would want, like 0% APR introductory financing. While credit card terms may change from time to time, the following rankings reflect information that was accurate in September 2021. Recommended: How to Read Your Credit Card Statement

Top Simple Cards for Fair Credit

If you’re looking for a fair credit card, you may not need many bells or whistles. You may just want a basic card that allows you to build credit without enticing you to overspend or incur debt. For the top simple fair credit cards, we looked for cards that were easy to use. Just keep in mind that simplicity also means that these cards won’t offer rewards or other benefits that similar cards may provide.

If You Want a Simple Card for Fair Credit: Capital One Platinum

The Platinum card from Capital One is a very straightforward card for those with fair credit. Since this is a simple card, there aren't many benefits. However, the card does offer automatic consideration for a higher credit line in as little as six months. There are also no foreign transaction fees with this card. This card doesn’t have an annual fee, either. What you do get is a simple credit card from a major card issuer that can be your gateway to more full featured cards if your credit history improves. 

Top Simple Student Cards for Fair Credit

Due to their age and limited income, many students may fall into the fair credit category. For students who want a credit card to help them work on their credit history and to give them a reliable method of payment, a simple card specifically for students with fair credit may be just what they need. And since students tend to have limited income, we looked at cards that also offered 0% introductory APR to give them an opportunity to take a break from interest charges as they save for the future or try to get ahead on future payments.

If You Want a Simple Student Card for Fair Credit: BankAmericard Credit Card for Students

The BankAmericard Credit Card for Students is a simple card for students with fair credit. Although new account bonuses are rare for student cards, this card offers new cardholders the opportunity to earn a $100 statement credit after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. The card also offers an introductory 0% APR for 18 billing cycles for new purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening. There’s a 3% balance transfer fee for each transaction, with a minimum of $10. After the introductory APR, a variable APR between 12.99% and 22.99% applies. There’s no annual fee for this card.

Top Student Rewards Cards for Fair Credit

Some students may want a card that gives them cash back rewards, but many such cards may be out of their reach due to their fair credit status. Thankfully, there are some rewards cards that are available to students with fair credit. To find the top student rewards cards for fair credit, we looked for cards with a straightforward rewards earning structure. After all, students have enough to think about without having to remember bonus categories! 

If You Want a Student Rewards Card for Fair Credit: Capital One Quicksilver Student

The Capital One Quicksilver Student card is a rewards card that is specifically for students with fair credit. Capital One defines students as anyone currently enrolled or admitted and planning to enroll within the next few months at an accredited university, community college, or higher education institution. This card has a simple earning structure that may appeal to busy students. Earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. There are also no foreign transaction fees. This card doesn’t have an annual fee.

Top Rewards Cards for Fair Credit

Applicants with fair credit shouldn’t have to forgo a card that offers cash back rewards, if that is what they’re interested in. When looking at competitive rewards cards for fair credit, we considered it important to find a card that offers valuable cash back rewards without an annual fee. 

If You Want a Rewards Card for Fair Credit: Petal 2

Although issued from a lesser-known bank, the Petal 2 card offers a good cash back rewards structure that grows with you over time. The card is issued from WebBank, Member FDIC and runs on the Visa network. With this card, you earn 1% cash back right away on eligible purchases. But after making 12 on-time monthly payments, you can earn 1.5% cash back. Plus, earn between 2% and 10% bonus cash back at select merchants.Cardholders are eligible for a credit limit between $500 and $10,000, depending on creditworthiness. As an added bonus, there are no fees associated with this card. That means no late fees, foreign transaction fees, or any other fees. And of course, there’s no annual fee with this card. 

Top Small Business Cards for Fair Credit

Individuals aren’t the only ones who could benefit from fair credit cards; small business owners with fair credit may want to take advantage of these offers as well. However, there aren’t too many small business cards for small businesses with fair credit. We looked for cards with an easy earning structure for small businesses and with no fees.  

If You Want a Small Business Card for Fair Credit: CapitalOne Spark Classic

The Capital One Spark Classic offers an easy rewards earning structure without many fees. Small business owners can earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases with this card. Although its benefits are limited, the card does offer free roadside assistance and extended warranty on eligible purchases. This card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. There is also no annual fee for this card. 

The Takeaway

Credit cards can help those with fair credit build a credit history and potentially a stronger credit score when other credit cards are out of reach. As with any credit card, it’s important to manage your card responsibly by paying your bill on time and avoiding debt. Since credit cards for those with fair credit may have more limited rewards and benefits than cards available to those with better credit, you may want to consider graduating to other cards if your credit improves. However, these top fair credit cards are a great place to start and can offer many benefits for the right applicant. If you’re looking for credit cards that can help build credit, Lantern by SoFi can help. Find multiple offers from our network of partners. 
Photo credit: iStock/Delmaine Donson
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website on credit (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans)The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.SOLC0821160

About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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