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If you have a fair credit score—a FICO® Score☉ in the range of 580 to 669—you might not be able to get approved for every credit card. However, some credit cards are easier to qualify for than others, and your chances could be better if you focus on certain types of cards.
What Credit Cards Can I Qualify for With Fair Credit?
Credit card companies may consider multiple factors when reviewing your card application, including your credit report, income, monthly bills and history with the card issuer. Your credit score can also be an important factor, and if you have a fair credit score, you may want to start by looking for one of these types of cards:
- Secured credit cards: Secured credit cards can be good for building or rebuilding your credit. You need to send the card issuer a security deposit to open your card, which will generally set your card's credit limit. To limit their risk, the issuer can hold on to the deposit if you fall behind on your bill.
- Student credit cards: Student credit cards can be easier to qualify for than other cards, as it's understood that many students don't have a credit history or high income. However, you'll typically need to be a college student to qualify.
- A card from your bank or credit union: If you have an established relationship with a bank or credit union, you may want to ask about what credit cards it offers. Sometimes, you may be able to get approved based on your account balances and history with the financial institution, even if you don't meet the standard credit score requirement.
- Retail store cards: Retail or store cards are often easier to qualify for than more general-use rewards cards. However, you might only be able to qualify for a closed-loop card, which can only be used at the associated brand's stores. An open-loop store card can be used anywhere the card's payment network (Visa or Mastercard, for instance) is accepted, and might have added perks when used with its associated retailer.
If you're able to qualify for a credit card with a fair score, you might not get a card that has a high credit limit or low ongoing interest rate. However, raising your score to the high end of the fair range—say 640 to 669—could expand your prospects to general-use unsecured rewards cards and cards with promotional interest rate offers.
While the "easiest" card to get will depend on your specific credit score and overall creditworthiness, here are a few credit cards that could be good picks for applicants with fair credit.
- Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase with this unsecured credit card. There's a $39 annual fee, but you may be eligible for a credit limit increase in as little as six months.
- Journey Student Rewards from Capital One. This is an unsecured no-annual-fee card with 1% cash back on all purchases, which can be boosted each month to 1.25% cash back if you pay your bill on time. Cardholders also get a $5 credit per month credit for 12 months on select streaming services.
- Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card. As the name states, there's no annual fee on this unsecured credit card. You can earn up to 10% cash back at select merchants, and can use your banking history to help you qualify for the card.
Consider the cards within each type and narrow in on which specific one could be best for you. If you're planning on making a large purchase, a card with an introductory 0% interest rate offer might be best. But if you want something to use for everyday purchases, a rewards card may be more appealing.
What to Do if You're Denied for a Credit Card
Credit card issuers generally check your credit before approving you for a card, and each credit check can lead to a hard inquiry, which could hurt your credit scores a little. With this in mind, you don't necessarily want to keep submitting new applications if your first one is denied. Instead, one of the first steps you might want to take is to call the card issuer and ask if there's anything you can do to help resolve the issue.
For example, if the card issuer couldn't access your credit report because your credit was frozen, you might get approved after temporarily lifting the freeze. Or, perhaps you have other credit cards from the same company and there's a limit on the amount of credit they're willing to extend to you. In this case, you may be able to work with the card issuer to reduce your available credit on your existing cards and make way for the new card.
When there's no recourse, you could focus on improving your creditworthiness before applying for a new card.
If your credit score impacted the decision, the credit card issuer must send you an adverse action letter. The letter should tell you about your right to request a free copy of your credit report within 60 days of an adverse action. You can check your Experian credit report online.
The adverse action letter will also show you which credit score the lender used to make the decision and list four to five credit score risk factors. These are the primary reasons—in order—that your credit score wasn't higher. From there, you could take steps to improve your credit.
How to Improve Your Fair Credit Score
Improving your credit score could be one of the keys to getting approved for more credit cards, and there are few important steps you can take:
- Pay down credit card debt. If you have credit card debt, paying down your balances could help lower your credit utilization ratio and increase your scores.
- Pay off past-due accounts. If you have accounts that are currently past due, bringing the account current could help your score. And regardless of any effects past-due accounts have on your credit score, card issuers might deny your application if you have an account with the issuer that's past due or over its credit limit.
- Make on-time payments. Paying your monthly bills on time can help you build a positive credit history and increase your credit scores.
- Look for errors in your credit reports. Look for erroneous negative information in your credit report. You can file a dispute to have incorrect information removed so it can't hurt your credit scores.
Improving your credit scores can take time, but it's well worth the effort. Good credit can help you qualify for more favorable rates and terms on loans, and, in many states, even save you money on insurance.
Check Your Credit Score and Get Matched to Card Offers
Before applying for a credit card, you may want to check your credit to see where you stand. Experian lets you check your credit report and FICO® Score 8 for free. And after logging in to your Experian account, you can also use the Experian CreditMatchTM tool and see which cards you're matched with from Experian's credit card marketplace.
If you're not sure you can qualify for a credit card and want to avoid a rejected application, you might look into prequalification. In this process, you'll submit some information about yourself and a card issuer will show you the cards you might be able to qualify for. There's no harm to your credit, but prequalification is also no guarantee you'll be approved.