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Credit Cards

The best credit cards for fair and average credit of September 2021

We 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 to find the best card for your needs.

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If you have fair or average credit (generally 580 to 669, according to Experian), you don't have to settle for a no-frills credit card with high fees.

There's an assortment of credit cards designed for people with fair or average credit that still offer rewards programs, helpful perks, no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees.

While these cards might be easier to qualify for, they often come with high interest rates — but this shouldn't be an issue if you pay your bill on time and in full. After all, your primary goal when signing up for a credit card should be to improve your score with responsible financial behavior, so it bumps up to a good score range (670 to 799).

Below, Select reviewed the best credit cards that give people with fair or average credit better qualification chances. (See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best cards.)

Keep in mind that card issuers don't disclose exact credit score requirements and the ranges provided above should only be used as a guideline. If you're unsure if you'll qualify, you can fill out a pre-qualification form to check your odds.

Here are Select's picks for the top credit cards for people with fair or average credit:

Best for No Fees

Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

On Petal's secure site
  • Rewards

    1% cash back on eligible purchases right away and up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments; 2% to 10% cash back at select merchants

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    12.99% - 26.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    None

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Fair, Good, No Credit

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No credit history required (if you do have a credit history, that does factor into the credit decision)
  • No fees whatsoever
  • 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away and up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments; 2% to 10% cash back at select merchants
  • Credit limits range from $500 to $10,000

Cons

  • Card isn't for rebuilding credit, but it's good for building credit
  • No special financing offers
  • No welcome bonus
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $249
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $1,577

Who's this for? The Petal 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa Credit Card, issued by WebBank Member FDIC, is one of the few cards that charge no fees whatsoever*. There are no annual fees, no late payment fees and no foreign transaction fees.

The application process for the Petal 2 Visa Credit Card differs from most credit cards. Applicants may be asked to link their bank accounts, and then WebBank uses Petal's technology to review the data, taking into account bill payments and earnings. This allows Petal to determine your eligibility from more than just your credit history. And if you have no credit history, that's OK — it's not required. (It's one of the reasons this card also tops our list of best cards for rebuilding your credit history.) However, if you do have a credit history, that does factor into the credit decision.

This card also has a rewards program: you can earn 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away, which rises up to 1.5% after you make 12 on-time monthly payments. This is a great way to encourage responsible behavior, while earning cash back for everyday purchases. Cardholders also earn 2% to 10% cash back from select merchants.

Best for Cash Back

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Information about the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    1.5% cash back on all purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $39

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    26.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    None

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good/Fair

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • Redeem cash back at anytime and for any amount
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Access a higher credit limit after making your first five monthly payments on time

Cons

  • $39 annual fee
  • 26.99% variable APR
  • No welcome bonus
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $293
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $1,464

Who's this for? Many of the best cash-back cards require good or excellent credit, but there are some cards for people with fair/average credit that offer good cash-back rates. Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card gives consumers a competitive 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn. And cash back can be redeemed at any amount, without the typical $25 minimum some other cards set.

This card has a $39 annual fee, but the average American can earn $293 a year in cash back, which is more than enough to offset the fee. After five years, you could earn $1,464.

The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card charges no foreign transaction fees and comes with travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver and 24-hour travel assistance services. Plus, you can get access to a higher credit limit after making your first five monthly payments on time.

Best for Travel

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Information about the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    26.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    None

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good/Fair

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Travel benefits, such as travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver and roadside assistance
  • Access a higher credit limit after making your first five monthly payments on time

Cons

  • 26.99% variable APR
  • No rewards program

Who's this for? If you travel often, it's a good idea to choose a card that provides travel benefits that can save you money and protect you against unexpected issues. The Capital One® Platinum Credit Card offers a variety of travel benefits — most notably no foreign transaction fees.

This perk will save you the typical 3% fee many other cards charge on each purchase made outside the U.S. For example, the average American spends $2,154 a year on travel, and depending on how much of that is done abroad, you could potentially save up to $65 with the Platinum Credit Card from Capital One® (and even more depending on your travel spending habits).

This card also offers travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, roadside assistance and 24-hour travel assistance services — all at no extra cost, though third-party service fees apply for roadside assistance. These perks are a great way to make traveling less stressful and provide you with coverage for eligible issues.

This card doesn't offer a rewards program, so you don't have the opportunity to earn cash back, points or miles from your everyday spending. But with no annual fee, it can be a good starter card if you want to eventually upgrade to another card in the Capital One family.

Best for College Students

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

On Deserve's secure site
  • Rewards

    1% cash back on all purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    18.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A, balance transfers are not available

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    N/A

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • One year of Amazon Prime Student after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles (valued up to $59)
  • No social security number needed to apply, perfect for international students
  • No credit history required, great for credit newbies
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • No special financing offers
  • No welcome bonus

Who's this for? The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is one of our top picks for college students looking to build credit, earn rewards and benefit from money-saving perks. This card has no annual fee and offers 1% cash back on all purchases. While the rewards rate isn't the most competitive, you can also benefit from a year of Amazon Prime Student after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles with your EDU card (up to $59), which is a great way to enjoy free two-day shipping, discounts at Whole Foods Market and access to Prime Video.

This card is also good for international students since a social security number isn't required. Plus, you don't need to have a credit history. You do need to be over 18, enrolled in college and have a U.S. bank account.

Deserve doesn't charge any foreign transaction fees, which is helpful if you do a semester abroad or travel outside the U.S. during school breaks.

Select doesn't calculate the number of rewards you can earn with a student credit card because the focus should be on building your credit history and practicing good financial habits rather than maximizing your rewards.

Best credit cards for fair/average credit

Best for... Credit Card
No FeesPetal 2 Visa® Credit Card
Cash BackCapital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
TravelCapital One® Platinum Credit Card
College StudentsDeserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Our methodology

To determine which credit cards offer the best value for people with average or fair credit, 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.

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.

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.

Petal 2 Visa Credit Card issued by WebBank, Member FDIC.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.