5 Best Credit Cards for People With Fair Credit: Detailed Guide

The credit card world is a game where credit card companies offer the best deals to people with the best credit. If you’ve got fair credit, then it’s a completely different scenario.

You’ve probably experienced some of the difficulties people with fair credit face – rejected credit card applications, sky-high APRs and a noticeable lack of rewards.

However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have opportunities to get solid credit cards tailored to your credit scores. There are cards out there that offer some pretty decent rewards for people with fair credit.

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at 5 best credit cards for people with fair credit:

  • QuicksilverOne from Capital One
  • Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus
  • Chase Slate
  • Discover it Cash
  • Capital One Platinum

Before we jump into an overview of why these cards are great options, we want to define “fair” credit.

What Fair Credit Means

According to FICO, the company who creates the credit scoring models most used by credit bureaus, banks and lenders, a fair score is considered anything between 580 and 669. When your scores fall into this range, several things happen.

First, you’ll notice that any credit card you get will have high interest rates. Also, you might start to get declined for cards that you could’ve gotten before your scores dropped.

From a lender’s perspective, they see your low score as an increase in the chances that you’ll be late in paying them back or, in some cases, not pay them back at all.

In fact, according to FICO, 28% of consumers with fair credit scores will be delinquent at least once. “Delinquent” is credit jargon for being more than 30 days late on a bill.

So, if you have a credit card bill that’s due on the first of the month, you have 30 days to pay it or your late payment will be reported to the credit bureaus. The bureaus plug that information into FICO’s scoring model and your scores drop.

Now, credit card issuers don’t want to freeze you out of getting a card. They’d still like to have a chance to earn your business (and your money), so they create credit cards with high rates and relatively low rewards.

These cards don’t have quite the rewards power that other cards do, but, if you find the right ones, you can get some great benefits as you rebuild your credit.

Pro tip: Just because these cards are designed for people with fair credit doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get them.

1. The QuicksilverOne Card from Capital One

QuicksilverOne card

In the previous section, we mentioned the phrase “rewards”. This is a word that describes perks and benefits that you get for free when you use your credit card to make purchases.

In most cases, those perks fall into three categories: cash, points or miles. The QuicksilverOne from Capital One is a cash rewards card, and, based on our research, one of the best credit cards for fair credit.

The Good: Cash Rewards

Capital One will credit 1.5% of almost all of your purchases back to your account. This ability to earn cash back is what makes the QuicksilverOne a cash rewards credit card. You can view you rewards balance when you log into your account.

Capital One lets you choose how you get your money back. If you want to redeem all the cash you have, Capital One will redeem the entire balance as a statement credit. You can also request the sum in check form.

Another option you have is to automate rewards deposits at increments of $25, $50, $100 or $200. So, if you choose $50, then any time your rewards balance surpasses $50, Capital One will automatically credit $50 to your statement.

Of the cards on this list, the QuicksilverOne has the best base cash-back rate. To figure out how much money you could get back on your card, take a moment to look at your budget.

Identify the spending categories in which you use a credit card, add up all the totals and multiply it by 12, then multiply it by 0.01. The result is what you could earn in cash back every year.

If you don’t have a budget, make one today. It will help you get out of credit card debt and get a handle on your finances.

Pro tip: You’ll start out with a low credit limit – $1,500 or lower – but Capital One will increase your credit limit if your first five payments are on time.

The Bad: APR, Annual Fee

The QuicksilverOne’s APR is 24.99%, which is pretty high when compared to what you could get with good or excellent credit. This number is used to calculate how much interest they’ll charge you if you don’t pay off your entire balance every month.

Basically, if you have a balance of $1,300 for purchases in March and you only pay $300, then you’ll be charged for your average daily balance in March.

To get that number, Capital One divides your yearly interest rate (APR) by 365 days – this gives them your daily interest rate.

Then, they multiply that number to the balance you had each day in March. They total up each one of those calculations and that’s how they get the amount of interest you’ll pay for the month.

In addition to the card’s high APR, you’ll have to pay $39 a year to use the card. That amount is charged to your card the first month you own it and every year after that.

Now, for the next card: The Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card.

2. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is an airline rewards card, which means you earn frequent flier miles/points every time you swipe the card.

In the case of the Rapid Rewards Plus, you’ll earn Rapid Rewards points on your purchases. Each month, those points are automatically transferred to your Southwest Rapid Rewards frequent flier account.

Based on our research, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is the best airline rewards card for people with fair credit.

The Good: Points and APR

The reason we think this credit card is the best airline rewards choice for people with fair credit is that you can earn a ton of points in the first year of owning the card and in the years following.

Intro Points Bonus

If you can spend $1,000 in the first three months starting from the day you’re accepted for the card, then Chase will deposit 40,000 Rapid Rewards miles to your Rapid Rewards account.

We think this is a great deal because, as our research has shown, Southwest offers some of the cheapest rewards flights you’ll find.

Their Rapid Rewards program can get you rewards seats for less than 10,000 points, a redemption rate that’s hard to come by with airlines like Delta, American, and United.

Spending Bonuses

In addition to these intro points, you’ll also get two points for every dollar you spend on flights, hotels or rental cars purchased on Southwest’s website or through their app.

All other purchases get 1 point per dollar, except for money-based purchases like traveler’s checks, poker chips and online gambling.

Anniversary Points

Every year on your cardmember anniversary, you’ll get 3,000 bonus points as long as your credit card is still active and not in default because of multiple consecutive missed payments.

Decent APR

Whereas the QuicksilverOne only had one APR – 24.99% – the Rapid Rewards Plus has a range of 16.74% to 23.74%.

That low-end APR is pretty competitive with cards for people with good or excellent credit. Remember, though, you’ll probably get an APR higher than 16.74% because your credit scores are lower. Expect around 20% or 23.74%.

The Bad: Annual Fee

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier has the highest annual fee of the group at $69. The reason for this is pretty straightforward.

Chase has to pay Southwest for the miles they give their cardholders, so the card’s annual fee helps them recoup some of that money they spent on miles.

3. The Chase Slate Card

Chase Slate Card

Another category of a credit card we haven’t mentioned up to this point is the low-interest card, which, in some cases, is also called the balance-transfer card.

The Chase Slate is one of these cards because it has an introductory offer that gives you no interest on purchases and balance transfers.

The Good: Zero APR, No Balance Transfer or Annual Fee

We see three strengths in this card that we think you’ll enjoy as a consumer with fair credit.

15 Months of No Interest

At the time of publishing, the Chase Slate was offering no interest on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. What this means is that any purchases or balance transfers you make during the first 15 months of owning the card won’t have any interest applied to them.

So, if you transfer a balance of $1,000 to this card, you won’t pay interest even if you don’t pay off the entire balance every month. The same rules apply to purchases.

Now, at the end of that 15 months, any remaining balance will fall under the new APR of between 15.74% and 24.49%.

No Balance Transfer Fee in First 60 Days

If you make a balance transfer to your Chase Slate card within the first 60 days of owning the card, you won’t be charged the usual 3% fee that would be applied to the transfer. The Slate is one of the few cards that offers this perk.

No Annual Fee

The Chase Slate card does not charge and annual fee. A possible reason as to why they’re doing this is because they’re not actually giving you free money, points or miles, so they don’t necessarily have to make up for those costs.

The Bad: No Rewards

The QuicksilverOne, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus and (as you’ll soon see) the Discover it Cash card all provide cash or travel rewards for consumers with fair credit. The Slate, unfortunately, does not.

Despite this, though, the Chase Slate definitely has a role to play in your credit life.

For example, if you have a balance on a credit card that’s got a high interest rate, being able to transfer it to your Slate card with no interest or fees could help you pay that balance off much quicker.

Consider where you’re at with your debt. Do you have a balance on a high-interest card? The Slate could be a perfect option for you.

You see, if you’re paying $40 or $50 a month for that high-interest balance, it totally works against the cash rewards you’d earn with the QuicksilverOne or the flights you’d get with the Rapid Rewards Plus.

4. The Discover it Cash Card

Discover it Cash Card

As you’ve probably guessed, the Discover it Cash is a cash rewards credit card, but it’s a little different than the QuicksilverOne credit card.

The Discover card’s cash rewards program is what makes it one of the more interest credit card choices for fair credit.

The Good: Cash Back, Matching, Zero Interest, No Annual Fee

The benefits of the Discover card are, in our opinion, the best of the cash back cards available for fair credit.

Cash Back

Unlike the QuicksilverOne’s straight 1.5% rewards rate, the Discover it Cash card combines a 1% cash-back rate with rotating categories of purchases that can score you 5% cash back.

For example, at the time of publishing, Discover was giving 5% cash back at home improvement stores and wholesale clubs from April to June.

In the first quarter of the year (Jan. - Mar.), purchases at gas stations, wholesale clubs and for ground transportation got the 5% bonus.

Bonus Match

According to Discover, they’ll match any cash rewards you earn in your first year.

So, if you accrued $500 in rewards, Discover will also pitch in $500. This matching program is unique to discover – no other major credit card company offers cash matching at this level.

Zero Interest

The Discover it gives you no interest on purchases and balance transfers. However, the balance transfer rules are a bit different.

The 14-month, no-interest offer kicks in the day you make your first balance transfer, and that transfer has to take place by the date listed in Discover’s fine print. At the time of publishing, that date was about two-and-a-half months away.

No annual fee

Like the Chase Slate, the Discover it Cash card has no annual fee.

The Bad: None

The Discover it Cash card doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. The card has no annual fee, steady cash-back rewards and a great introductory APR offer.

Whereas other cards have annual fees or no rewards program, this one has no annual fee and a great rewards program.

5. Capital One Platinum Card

Capital One Platinum Card

The final credit card on our list is the Capital One Platinum, another card from Capital One designed for consumers with fair credit.

Of the cards listed in this article, the Platinum has the least amount of benefits: no rewards, no zero-interest offers.

The Good: Credit Limit Increase, No Annual Fee

Capital One will increase your credit limit on the Platinum card if you make your first five payments on-time. This is a great perk, because our research of this card revealed that you can expect credit limit of $1,500 or lower to start off, which is really low.

An increased credit limit is also valuable to your credit score. The lower your overall credit balances in relation to your credit limits, the higher your credit score will go.

Also, as we pointed out in the heading to this section, the Capital One Platinum has no annual fee.

The Bad: No Rewards

The big downside to this card is that you don’t get any up-front perks and there are no rewards that you can accrue by using your card to purchase things.

Our Final Thoughts on the Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit

This list of credit cards represents a few of the best choices you have as someone with fair credit.

What we’ve included here gives you a great picture of which cards offer the best rewards, the most forgiving APRs and the best annual fees.

QuicksilverOne: Great Cash Back

The QuicksilverOne is a solid choice for cash back, especially if you have fair credit. The truth is, aside from this card and the Discover it, the cash-back choices for fair credit are slim.

The main drawback to this card is the $39 annual fee; not a huge fee, but it still takes away from your cash rewards.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus: Best Travel Rewards

There really is no comparison in the world of travel cards for people with fair credit. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus has an amazing intro bonus of 40,000 points, enough to score you multiple free round-trip flights.

The only downside to this card is its annual fee: $69. Considering that you’ll most likely pay around $22 in taxes and fees for domestic rewards flights, you’re looking at around $90 in the first year if you use your miles for two trips.

Chase Slate: 15 Months of Zero Interest

The Slate’s main strength is its introductory offer of 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months.  You also won’t pay a balance transfer fee if you make your transfers in the first 60 days and there’s no annual fee.

There are no rewards, though, and you don’t get any cash or points intro bonuses.

Discover it: Top Cash Rewards

Based on our research, we believe the Discover it gives you the best overall cash rewards. The 1% cash-back rate is lower than the QuicksilverOne, but the rotating 5% categories and the rewards match the first year push this card over the top.

Also, the Discover it Cash doesn’t have an annual fee.

As far as downsides, this card doesn’t have any real weaknesses.

Capital One Platinum

The final card on our list is a great tool for building up your credit score, but the same could be said about the other cards on this list.

We mentioned that its main benefit is the ability to increase your credit limit and that the card’s downfall was the lack of rewards.

However, we think that might actually be a good thing. A card without rewards provides less incentive to spend money on what you don’t need.

A Few Quick Tips for Raising Your Credit

In our free eBook, “A Complete Guide to Credit Scores,” one of the methods we teach for raising credit scores is to get all your current balances under 30% of your credit limits. (To get the eBook, subscribe to our newsletter below.)

Doing so will provide a big boost to your scores, as how much of your limits you use is the second biggest influence on your credit scores.

Also, set up automatic payments on all your bills and credit cards. This will help you avoid late payments, which are the biggest influencer of your credit scores.

Just getting these two habits squared away will move you from bad or fair credit scores to excellent scores.

The biggest benefit? Not only will you have access to the best credit cards, but the money you save on lower interest rates can be used to invest through robo-advisors or pay down existing debt.

J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren is a personal finance reporter who examines credit cards, credit scores, and various bank products. J.R. is a three-time winner at the Florida Press Club’s Excellence in Journalism contest. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and his insight has been featured on Investopedia, GOBankingRates, H&R Block and Huffington Post.