Credit Cards for Fair Credit in the US

SimpleDirect's Guide on Credit Cards for borrowers with bad or fair credit!

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By Ben Harper

You can get credit cards for fair credit. They won’t have the bells and whistles you see advertised on TV, but they are a great start to rebuilding your credit history and earning chances for even better credit cards in the future.

Credit Cards: Learn The Basics

A credit card is a loan from the issuing bank. You receive a credit line based on your qualifications. In exchange for the credit line, you agree to make the minimum required payments. You also agree to the interest and fee charges as outlined in the agreement.

Best credit cards for fair credit in the USA: what are credit cards?

How are Credit Cards Used?

Credit cards extend your purchasing power. Unlike cash or a debit card, you don’t need the funds available when you make the purchase. You ‘borrow’ the funds. If you don’t pay the full balance off within the grace period (usually 21 days), the balance accrues interest.

Purchases post to your account within a day or two. How long you have until interest charges accrue depend on where you’re at in the billing cycle. If you charge something at the start of the cycle, you get close to the full grace period. If you charge it later, though, your grace period may be much shorter.

Credit cards for fair credits: learn how credit cards are used in the USA

Are Credit Cards for Good Credit Only?

Consumers with good credit have the largest selection of credit cards available. Since there are so many credit card types, you have many more options including reward credit cards, 0% APR balance transfer credit cards, and credit cards with high credit limits.

But, if you have less than perfect credit, there are plenty of credit cards for poor credit, you just have to know where to look.

What is Bad Credit?

Bad credit is a subjective term, but in general, banks consider a score lower than 580 ‘bad credit.’ Each bank has different requirements, though. Some require credit scores of 620 or higher and ‘elite credit cards’ often require scores of 700 or higher.

Types of Credit Cards

You have many options when applying for a credit card. Here are the main categories:

Best Credit Cards In the US - Check Your Options

Credit Score Range
Excellent (741-850) See My Options
Great (721-740) See My Options
Very Good (701-720) See My Options
Good (681-700) See My Options
Average (661-680) See My Options
Fair (641-660) See My Options
Poor (621-640) See My Options
Very Poor (350-620) See My Options
I'm not sure See My Options

Secured credit card

If you have bad credit (or no credit), you may need to put money down to get a credit card. The credit card company holds the funds as collateral. If you don’t pay your bill, they keep the deposit.

Unsecured credit card

Most credit cards are unsecured, meaning you don’t need a deposit. You need good or at least average credit but have many options.

0% APR balance transfer card

You may get a 0% APR for a limited time (usually 6 to 12 months) on balance transfers. You may pay a fee (5% of the amount transferred for example), so read the fine print.

Best credit cards in the USA: 0% APR balance transfer card

Cashback rewards card

You can earn a percentage of the amount they spend back in cash rewards. Some cards only reward purchases in specific categories while others offer cashback on all purchases.

Travel reward card

You can earn a percentage of the amount you charge back in airline miles which you can redeem for airline tickets.

Retail credit card

Stores offer branded credit cards that may be used in their store (or brand of stores) only. They usually have flexible qualifying guidelines and are a great starter credit card.

Read More: Best Credit Cards in the US

Ways to Improve your Credit Score if you Can’t get a Credit Card

While there are many opportunities to get credit cards for poor credit, not everyone will get approved. If you can’t get approved, consider fixing your credit using one or more of the following tips:

Bring all late payments current

Your payment history makes up 35 percent of your credit score. This is the largest component of it. Even one late payment can drop your score significantly. If you have any late payments, bring them current and continue making your payments on time moving forward. After 6 months or so, you should see improvement in your credit score from the good payment habits.

Lower your outstanding debt

Your credit utilization rate makes up 30 percent of your credit score. This is a comparison of your outstanding debts to your total credit line. Any revolving debt higher than 30 percent of your credit line hurts your credit score. Try paying your debts down to increase your score.

Best credit cards in the USA: lower your outstanding debt with a credit card

Take care of collections, judgments, and other negative information

Take care of any financial mistakes you made. Whether a creditor sent a bill to collections, charged off your account, or you have a tax lien reporting, do what’s necessary to rectify the issue. Provide the credit bureaus with proof that you took care of it, and it may improve your credit score.

Check for accuracy

Mistakes happen all the time on credit reports. Pull your free credit reports, and look at the information’s accuracy. Do all accounts belong to you? Is the payment information correct? Is the account number correct? Any incorrect information you find, dispute with the reporting credit bureau using their online form.

Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit

If you’re looking for credit cards for fair credit or even bad credit, you have a few options including secured and unsecured credit cards.

Best Credit Card Options for Fair Credit

Credit Score Range
Good (681-700) See My Options
Average (661-680) See My Options
Fair (641-660) See My Options
Poor (621-640) See My Options
Very Poor (350-620) See My Options
I'm not sure See My Options

Secured Credit Cards

Secured credit cards require collateral in the form of a cash deposit. Your credit line equals your security deposit. For example, if you have a $500 credit line, you must make a $500 security deposit.

The deposit remains untouched as long as you pay your bills on time. Don’t pay your bill and they can take it from your deposit. Most secured credit card companies automatically upgrade you to an unsecured card after 6 – 12 months of on time payments, but it varies by credit card company. If they don’t, you can apply elsewhere, and close the secured account, getting your money back when you’re ready.

The Best Secured Credit Cards

Discover It Secured Card

One of the best secured credit cards in the USA is Discover

Even if you have ‘bad credit’ you can earn Discover rewards with the Discover It Secured Card. Put down your cash security deposit and earn the following benefits:

  • No annual fee
  • Low introductory rate on balance transfers for 6 months
  • Earn 1% - 2% cashback on qualifying purchases each quarter
  • Get upgraded after just 8 months of responsible use of your secured credit card

OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card

One of the best credit cards for fair credits in the USA is OpenSky

If your credit is so low you don’t want to talk about it or you don’t have any credit, check out the OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card. We like this card for the following reasons:

  • You don’t need a bank account to make the security deposit, just send a money order, check, or wire transfer
  • They don’t check your credit but instead use your income for qualifying
  • It’s a great option for consumers struggling to build or improve their credit score

Capital One Secured Credit Card

Credit cards for fair credits: consider a Capital One secured credit card

If you want a higher credit limit than you have the cash to put down, the Capital One Secured Credit Card is a good option. Capital One calls this the ‘credit rebuilding credit card’ helping people with bad credit get a credit card. We like it for the following reasons:

  • You may only need a $49 or $99 deposit for a $200 credit line depending on your other qualifying factors
  • Capital One automatically checks if you’re eligible for a higher credit line every 6 months
  • You choose your due date

The Best Unsecured Credit Cards for Fair Credit

Unsecured credit cards don’t require a security deposit, but consumers often need higher credit scores to qualify. Fortunately, these credit cards for poor credit offer the best of both worlds – you don’t need great credit or a security deposit.

Best Credit Card Options for Fair Credit

Credit Score Range
Good (681-700) See My Options
Average (661-680) See My Options
Fair (641-660) See My Options
Poor (621-640) See My Options
Very Poor (350-620) See My Options
I'm not sure See My Options

Indigo Mastercard

Personal loans for fair credits: consider an Indigo Mastercard for your credit card

Indigo Mastercard is a great option if you have poor credit. They offer instant pre-qualification with no hit to your credit score and a fast approval process. Consumers qualify with a previous bankruptcy and a low credit score. Here are a few other reasons to love it:

  • Reports to all three credit bureaus monthly to help improve your credit score
  • Free 24/7 online account access
  • Fair APR for consumers needing a credit card for poor credit

Destiny Mastercard

Fair credit credit cards: consider destiny mastercard

If you’re looking for fair credit score credit cards with instant approvals, the Destiny Mastercard is a great option. You don’t need a security deposit and get many of the same benefits borrowers with good credit get including:

  • Fast application process with instant approval
  • Reports to all three credit bureaus
  • Average APR for consumers with bad credit

Milestone Gold Mastercard

Credit cards for fair credits: consider milestone gold mastercard

If you have a previous bankruptcy and poor credit, consider the Milestone Gold Mastercard, another unsecured credit card for consumers with bad credit. While it doesn’t offer rewards, you can get instant approval online along with the following benefits:

  • 24/7 access to your account online
  • Low annual fee (less than $99)
  • Accepted at more than 35 million locations

Alternatives for Credit Cards for Poor Credit

If you can’t secure a credit card for poor credit, consider one of these alternatives:

Credit Card Options for Poor Credit

Credit Score Range
Poor (621-640) See My Options
Very Poor (350-620) See My Options

Become an authorized user

Ask a close family member (with good credit) to add you as an authorized user on their credit card. Make sure the credit card company reports authorized users to the credit bureaus. You’ll get credit for the cardholder’s responsible credit card use, which may boost your credit score.

Use Experian Boost

If you don’t have enough tradelines to create a credit score, try Experian Boost, a free program that provides ‘credit’ for your regular monthly payments, such as utilities, cellphone, and Netflix bills.

Credit builder loan

A credit builder loan builds your credit without lending you money. The lender holds the ‘loan amount’ in a bank account where it earns interest. You make payments like you would on a regular loan and earn the credit for timely payments. Once you pay the loan as agreed, you receive the full amount plus interest and hopefully have a higher credit score.

Bottom Line

Ideally, you should have ‘good credit’ to get a credit card, but life happens. Many credit card companies offer credit cards for fair credit with more benefits than many realize. Look at your options, weigh the pros and cons, and see which credit card offers you the most benefits.

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Ben Harper

Ben is a personal finance writer with SimpleDirect, where he focuses on topics such as personal loans, credit cards, and offering financing.

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