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A credit score of 580-569 places you in the “fair” range. Credit cards for fair credit are available and you can get approved. You won’t get the best rates or the best deals, but you can get a credit card.

Credit cards for fair credit come in various forms. You can get cards with no annual fee, cards with rewards, cards for travel, student cards, and more. The bad news is that most cards will carry relatively high interest rates: that’s the price you pay for having credit in the “fair” range. The good news is that if you manage your card well you won’t have to pay any interest, and it can help you build better credit in the process!

Use Your Credit Card Wisely

A credit card can be a convenience or a catastrophe. It can help you build credit or help you destroy it. To keep your outcomes positive, remember these points.

Your credit card for fair credit will affect your score in two main ways.

  • Payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score. Making payments on time is the single most important thing you can do to boost your credit.
  • Credit utilization makes up around 30% of your score. Your Credit utilization rate is the percentage of your credit limit that you actually use. If your credit limit is $1000 and your balance is $300 your credit utilization rate is 30%. Keeping your balance below 30% of your limit will help your credit and keeping it lower will help your credit more.

Here’s what you need to do to make your card an asset instead of a liability.

  • Use your card. An active card does more for your credfit than a dormant one.
  • Pay every bill on time. Late or missed payments kill credit. On-time payments build credit.
  • Pay every bill in full. If you pay in full before the due date, you won’t pay interest. That’s a free loan from the card company! If you carry a balance you will pay high interest, compounded daily.
  • Never make the minimum payment. Minimum payments are a one-way street into the credit card debt trap. Even if you can’t pay the whole balance, pay as much above the minimum as you can.
  • Keep your balance low. Remember your credit utilization and keep track of it.

Using a credit card wisely takes discipline, but that discipline will build your credit and prevent you from accumulating high-interest debt.

The Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit

Here are some things to consider when shopping for a credit card.

  • Is there an annual fee? A fee on international spending?
  • What is the APR (Annual Percentage Rate).
  • Does the card offer rewards? If it does, do they fit your spending patterns?

Let’s look at some of the best credit cards for very poor credit.

No Fee: Capital One Platinum Card

The Capital One Platinum Card is a simple, basic credit card with no annual fee and no international transaction fee. The minimum credit score is 580, so it’s accessible with fair credit. You can check for pre-approval with no hard credit inquiry on the website. You’ll have fraud coverage and unlimited access to your credit score. You may be considered for a higher credit limit in as little as 6 months. There are no rewards: this is a basic card.

The downside: there’s a high 26.99% variable APR. Only use this card if you are sure that you’ll be paying off the balance in full every month.

No Fee Plus Rewards: Petal 2 Visa Credit Card

The Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card has no annual fee and an APR of 12.99% – 26.99%. IYou’ll also get 1% cash back on purchases, 2% to 10% cash back at selected merchants, and an extra 1.5% if you pay on time. There are no international fees, making this a great travel card. You’ll also get free access to an app that helps with budgeting and with financial decisions.

The downside: the minimum credit score is 630 so you’ll need to be in the upper half of the “fair” range to qualify. Petal will qualify applicants with no credit score on the basis of bank account information.

No Penalty APR: Avant Credit Card

The Avant Credit Card has a minimum credit score of 580. placing it squarely in the fair credit score bracket. You can miss a payment without triggering a penalty APR, a plus for the absent-minded or those on a shoestring budget. You may pay a late fee. The regular APR is 24.99% – 29.99%, depending on your credit.

The downside: you may pay an annual fee, varying with where you applied. See the issuer’s website for details.

Best for Wal-Mart Shoppers: Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard

The Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard is a great deal if you shop at Walmart regularly and a decent deal even if you don’t. The minimum credit score is 580. There is no annual fee or international transaction fee, and the APR is 17.99% – 26.99%. The real story here is the rewards.

  • 5% cash back for online purchases at Walmart.com.
  • 2% cash back when you buy at Walmart stores or gas stations.
  • 2% cash back for travel and restaurant purchases.
  • 1% cash back on other purchases.

The rewards do not expire.

The downside: the APR is on the steep side. Pay your balance in full on or before the due date!

Best for Referring Friends: Jasper Cash Back Mastercard

The Jasper Cash Back Mastercard is a solid entry in the fair credit market. The minimum credit score is 580 and there’s no annual fee or international transaction fee. The APR is from 15.49% to 24.99%.

This card has a reward system designed to encourage referrals. You’ll start with 1% cash back on purchases. For every friend you refer, you’ll get an additional 1%, up to a maximum of 6%. If you have a large network of friends that could be quite a deal!

The downside: take the referral program away and you have a pretty ordinary card. If you aren’t going to refer friends it may not be such a great deal.

Best for Students: Discover It Student Chrome

The Discover It Student Chrome card is a solid offer for college students. There’s no annual fee or international transaction fee. You get 2% cash back on gas and restaurant spending, up to $1000 per quarter. there’s 1% unlimited cash back on other purchases and a 2x cash back bonus after your first year.

There’s a 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months. The regular APR is from 12.99% to 21.99%. You’ll even get a $20 statement credit for each year with a GPA above 3.0!

The downside: You need to be a student, and the minimum credit score is 640. You’ll need to be at the high end of the “fair” range to qualify

Innovative Deal: Upgrade Visa Card with Cash Rewards

The Upgrade Visa Card with Cash Rewards is a different kind of credit card. The basics are not unusual. There’s no annual fee, activation fee, or maintenance fee. The APR ranges from 8.99% to 29.99%. You’ll get 1.5% unlimited cash back when you make a payment.

The feature that makes this card different is that any balance carried beyond the due date is converted to a fixed-rate installment loan. You’ll pay in equal monthly installments, which makes budgeting easier. You can also request a personal loan through your card, with funds sent straight to your bank.

The downside: The minimum credit score is 630, so if you’re at the lower end of “fair” you may not qualify. Interest rates may be high.

Watch Those APRs

If we look at the details of these cards, one thing becomes clear: interest rates are high. They are highest of all if you’re at the lower end of the credit score range for that card. When a card issuer cites a range of APRs you can be sure that people at or near the minimum score for that card will be paying the rate at the high end of the range.

Revolving credit – predominantly credit cards – gets very expensive with a low credit score. Look at the data:

Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Fortunately, you don’t have to pay those high interest rates. If you pay each bill in full on or before the due date, you will pay no interest at all. When your card carries an APR over 20%, compounded daily, that’s a very good thing.

The Card is Just the Beginning

Credit cards for fair credit are available, and you can get one. If you’re at the low end of the “fair” range and you have some serious black marks on your record, you may not get approved for the cards listed here. You can always try the best credit cards for poor credit. Either way, getting approved for a card can be a head start toward better credit.

Once you have a credit card you have a tool to make your credit better. It can also make your credit worse. It’s up to you to use that tool wisely.

Build on That Start

Once you’ve established good habits with your credit card, consider an installment loan. Many banks and credit unions offer credit-builder loans, or you can apply with an online lender like Self. These loans are designed for people with poor credit. They put an installment loan on your record, which improves your credit mix, and if you make your payments on time you’ll be boosting your score.

Knowledge is the key to building better credit. Start by learning how your credit score is calculated. Get your credit reports: they will give you better awareness of your own financial situation. If you have trouble understanding them, look at this guide to how to read a credit report. Many credit reports contain errors. You’ll want to watch out for them and dispute any problems that you find.

There’s no need to hire a person or company to improve your credit. You can do anything they can do. If anyone tells you that they can remove legitimate items from your credit report, give you a new credit identity, or fix your credit issues, you may be looking at one of many debt relief or credit repair scams.

It takes time and effort to rebuild damaged credit. It’s worth it to make the effort. You won’t just be raising your credit score, you’ll also be taking control of your financial life!