How to choose the best credit cards for fair credit

Find out how your "fair" credit score affects your credit eligibility and get tips to improve your score.

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Whether you’re looking to take out a mortgage, lease a vehicle or qualify for a new credit card, you should know how your “fair” credit score will affect you. A fair credit score sits between 600-649 – just a tier below a “good” score, which is anywhere from 650-719, and opens up the doors to a wider range of credit products and more competitive rates and terms.

In our guide below, compare the best credit cards on the market for those with fair credit and learn more about what your credit score means, including tips and tricks on how you can improve your score.

How we chose the best credit cards for fair credit

We’ve chosen the cards on this page based on the providers available through Finder. These cards are not representative of the entire market. Our top credit cards for those with fair credit offer rewards points, miles or cash back, basic perks such as balance protection and roadside assistance, and a signup bonus. We’ve also considered annual fees and balance transfer fees.

No single credit card will be the best choice for everyone, so compare your options before picking your new card.

Best for earning rewards: American Express Cobalt Card

The American Express Cobalt Card earns you Membership Rewards points which can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, gift cards and statement credit.

Get 5x the points when you spend at eligible grocery stores across Canada, as well as bonus points and standard Amex perks like comprehensive insurance coverage, entertainment access and more.

Best for balance transfer: Scotiabank Value Visa Card

The Scotiabank Value Visa Card has a low purchase and cash advance APR of 12.99%, but you won’t earn any rewards points or cash back. However, this can be a powerful starter credit card, especially for online shopping – you can save big with the much lower purchase APR.

This card also comes with a competitive balance transfer offer should you need to move debt to the card.

Best for low APR: BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard

Although you’ll get a low purchase and cash advance APR of 12.99% with the BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard, you won’t earn any rewards points or cash back. But for online shopping purposes, you can save with the low purchase APR if you don’t pay off your balance in full each month.

This card also comes with an optional balance transfer offer of 9 months – which makes it one of the longest offers on the market.

Best for no annual fee: BMO AIR MILES Mastercard

With the BMO AIR MILES Mastercard you’ll earn rewards without paying an annual fee. Earn 2 Air Miles when you spend $20 at participating Air Miles partners, and earn 1 Air Miles for every $20 spent elsewhere.

Plus, take advantage of an optional balance transfer offer as well as a bonus signup offer, earning you 800 bonus Air Miles within 3 months.

What is fair credit?

Credit scores in Canada range from 300 to 900 points. The “magic number” is said to be 650 – a credit score higher than 650 is regarded as being in the “good”, “very good” or “excellent” range, while anything under 650 is regarded as “fair” or “poor”. A fair credit score sits just below the “good” credit range, starting at around 600 and going up to 649.

In simple terms, a fair credit score means that you pose a medium level of risk to banks and other lenders when it comes to defaulting on your loan. The lower your score is, the more risk lenders perceive and the less money you’ll be able to qualify for. That’s why it’s important to maintain your score and take measures to improve your ranking where possible.

American Express Cobalt Card

American Express Cobalt Card

19.99 % APR

Purchase interest rate

Eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, fees and charges apply

American Express Cobalt Card

Apply today and earn up to 5 points for every dollar you spend on eligible purchases.

  • Purchase interest rate: 19.99%
  • Cash advance rate: 22.99%
  • Annual fee: $120
  • Credit rating: Fair, Good, Excellent
  • Minimum age: Age of majority in province/territory of residence
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Compare credit cards for fair credit

Name Product Welcome Offer Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Credit Rating
Earn 2,500 points with minimum spend of $500 for each billing period. Up to 30,000 bonus points in your first year.
19.99%
22.99%
$120
Fair, Good, Excellent
Earn 2,500 points with minimum spend of $500 for each billing period. Up to 30,000 bonus points in your first year.
Offers 5,000 Bonus Aeroplan Miles when you spend $500 in the first three months of membership. For new cardmembers only.
N/A
N/A
$60
Fair, Good, Excellent
New cardmembers receive 5,000 Bonus Aeroplan Miles when spending $500 in the first three months of membership.
Offers 150 AIR MILES® when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months of membership.
19.99%
22.99%
$0
Fair, Good, Excellent
Offers 150 AIR MILES® when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months of membership.
Receive 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points when you charge $1,500 in the first 3 months of card membership.
19.99%
22.99%
$150
Fair, Good, Excellent
Receive 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points when you charge $1,500 in the first 3 months of card membership.

Compare up to 4 providers

How to choose the best credit card for fair credit

  • Compare your options. Aim to compare at least three to four credit cards to see which one will give you a high return on rewards, as well as perks, for the lowest fee.
  • Search for a no annual fee card. Find a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee so that you can put the money you save onto your balance.
  • Opt for a low interest rate. If you think you’ll carry a balance on your card, look for a card that has a low purchase APR to keep your payments manageable and cheaper.
  • Ask about intro offers. Lock in a card that offers a signup bonus, a balance transfer offer and/or a low purchase rate offer in the first few months.
  • Decent rewards. Tap into a card that offers a good return on cash back, points or miles and use that balance to help make your payments on time every month – or treat yourself to travel, gift cards or merchandise.
  • Other benefits. Look for a card that offers basic benefits like fraud protection and extended warranty coverage.

How to improve a fair credit score

  • Make payments on time. This is the best way to improve your credit score, since your payment history accounts for roughly 35% of your total score.
  • Keep your credit utilization ratio low. Your credit utilization ratio is calculated as the amount of credit you use vs. the total amount you have. Keep your spending low in relation to the total amount of credit you have access to. This accounts for roughly 30% of your credit score.
  • Pay your balance off each month. Pay your balance off in full each month to improve your score and save money on interest.
  • Only apply for credit you need. Every credit check on your account will drag down your score, so only apply if you need the credit and you’re sure you’ll qualify. Inquiries on your report account for around 10% of your total score.
  • Don’t cancel old credit cards. Keep old cards open even if you don’t use them to maintain your total credit amount and the length of your credit history.
  • Correct errors in your credit report. Contact both credit bureaus (Equifax and TransUnion) if you notice any errors on your report and ask them to fix it.

Bottom line

A fair credit score will still let you qualify for many credit cards, but your options will be more limited and you won’t be able to take advantage of some of the best credit card offers on the market. However, a fair credit score places you very close to a good score, which means with a little budgeting and effort, you could improve your credit score and open yourself up to more financial products.

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