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Having a good or excellent credit score (670 and above) can put you at a big advantage when it comes to qualifying for the best rewards credit cards, but there are some that you may be able to get approved for with average credit.
There are two scenarios that could lead you to having average credit: 1) You are completely new to credit and looking to get your first card in order to start building a credit history; or 2) Something has happened over the years that has caused your credit score to take a hit and you are looking to repair it.
Whether you are just starting your credit journey or you are fixing damaged credit, CNBC Select has ranked the best credit cards for fair and average credit, and there's one that can help you do both — while also letting you earn cash back every time you use it.
Below, we take a look at the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card and explain why it is the best choice for people with average credit who also want to earn cash back. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards.) But first, we look at how to best manage your cash-back card so you can later qualify for more rewards.
Credit cards that reward you with cash back when you spend can be a great tool for your wallet and your overall financial health. It's basically like getting money back when you shop for the things you need.
Some of the best cash-back credit cards include the Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card, which offers 2.5% back on all your purchases (up to $250 per billing cycle), as well as others that have no annual fee. The Citi® Double Cash Card comes with no annual fee and rewards cardholders with 2% cash back (1% on all purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill).
There are even some cash-back cards catered to foodies, such as the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, and others that are great for grocery shopping, like the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.
But most, if not all, of these require having good or excellent credit to qualify. If you aren't there yet, here are some steps to take with the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card that teach you how to manage credit wisely and can lead you on the way to qualifying for these other cards.
- Pay your bills on time. On-time payments make up 35% of your FICO score calculation.
- Make your payments in full. If you don't think you can pay the full amount, at the very least pay the minimum so your account stays in good standing.
- Only charge what you know you can pay off. Carrying a balance month to month can become costly once the interest starts accruing.
- Use 30% or less of your credit limit. Using up all of your available credit shows that you may be a financial risk to lenders and it also increases your credit utilization rate, or your debt-to-credit ratio (which lowers your credit score).
- Before you apply, know the terms to redeem your cash back. For example, with the Capital One QuicksilverOne, you earn your cash automatically, but other cards may require you to pay your balance off first (which is the case in the Citi Double Cash Card mentioned above).
Why the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is the best cash-back card for people with average credit
The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card stands out because of its generous and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases that is available to those with average credit. Usually the best cash-back rates are given to good or excellent credit cardholders, but this card opens up doors for others to qualify.
With the Capital One QuicksilverOne, you can keep track of your credit score and future purchases by using Capital One's free credit monitoring service, CreditWise® from Capital One®. The card also encourages good credit habits: once you make your first five monthly payments on time, you may qualify for a higher credit limit.
And if you hold onto the card for a while, you can see the benefit of all the cash back you earned over time. CNBC Select calculated that the average American could earn an estimated $293 in the first year of card membership (including the $39 annual fee), and a total of $1,464 after five years.
As for cash back, you can redeem it at any time and for any amount. You may want to redeem your cash back as a statement credit (which is essentially a credit back onto your account), as a gift card to a store or for purchases on Amazon.com.
For frequent travelers outside the U.S., there are no foreign transaction fees on the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. There is a $39 annual fee, however, and the variable APR is relatively high at 26.99%. If you don't carry a balance month to month, though, you won't ever pay interest.
New cardholders don't receive any sort of welcome bonus once approved, but they will get extended warranty protection for eligible purchases and an array of travel benefits, including 24-hour trip assistance.
As you work your way toward better credit, whether it's building it from the bottom-up or repairing it, know that the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card can help get you there — while earning you money along the way. And once your score gets in a higher range, you can look forward to qualifying for more robust rewards cards.
1.5% cash back on all purchases
Balance transfer fee
Foreign transaction fee
See our methodology, terms apply.
To determine which credit cards offer the best value for people with average or fair credit, CNBC Select analyzed the most popular credit cards offered by the biggest banks, financial companies, and credit unions that we determined have average or fair credit score requirements.
We compared each card on a range of features, including: annual fee, rewards program, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee, welcome bonuses and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available.
CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.
Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.
CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.
It's important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming points/miles for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)
While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.
When analyzing student cards and secured cards, we did not calculate the estimated rewards a cardholder could earn. When you're a student or building (or rebuilding) your credit history, your focus should be on developing good financial habits, such as paying your balance on time and in full, and not optimizing the points you can earn.
Information about the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, and Alliant Cashback Visa® Signature Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuers of the cards prior to publication.
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