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.

Learn more about what your credit score means, including tips and tricks on how you can improve your ranking. We’ll also give you the chance to compare credit cards for fair credit, with recommendations for how to choose the best card for your needs.

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

  • 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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What is fair credit?

Credit scores in Canada range from 300 to 900 points, but most credit bureaus say that a good score starts at around 650. A fair credit score sits just below the “good” credit range, starting at around 575 and going up to 650.

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.

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.
Fair, Good, Excellent
Earn 5x points per $1 spent on eligible grocery, restaurants, bars, cafés, food delivery, 2x points on transit, gas, travel purchases, and 1 point on all other spend.
Offers 5,000 Bonus Aeroplan Miles when you spend $500 in the first three months of membership. For new cardmembers only.
Fair, Good, Excellent
Earn 1 Aeroplan Mile for every dollar spent. Double your miles on purchases at over 170 Aeroplan partner brands.
Offers 150 AIR MILES® when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months of membership.
Fair, Good, Excellent
Earn 1 mile for every $15 you spend at official sponsors and 1 mile for every $20 you spend anywhere else.
Receive 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points when you charge $1,500 in the first 3 months of card membership.
Fair, Good, Excellent
Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy™ points per dollar spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy™ properties, 3 points on eligible gas, dining and travel and 2 points on all other spend.

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What can I do with fair credit?

With a fair credit score, you’ll likely be able to qualify for a good selection of loans and credit cards, but you may get less favorable terms. What does this mean? You could pay higher levels of interest on outstanding balances or need a cosigner to qualify for bigger loans or credit limits.

  • Credit cards. You’ll likely be able to qualify for basic or low-interest cards, but you might have more trouble getting a premium card with exclusive perks.
  • Loans. You should be able to qualify for a personal loan or a car loan, but you may be charged higher interest rates.
  • Mortgage. It’s less likely that you’ll be approved for a mortgage with a fair credit score, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. You’ll have better luck if you’re closer to a 650 score or can find a cosigner for the loan.

How to choose the best credit card for fair credit

  • Compare your options. Aim to compare at least three to four cards to see which one will give you a high return on rewards and benefits for the lowest fee.
  • Search for a fee-free 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 low-interest. Look for a card that builds up less interest to keep your payments manageable.
  • Ask about intro offers. Lock in a card that offers 0% or low interest financing in the first few months of your contract so that you can stay on top of payments.
  • Decent rewards. Tap into a card that offers a good return on cashback, and use that balance to help make your payments on time every month.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 the credit bureau 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 competitive loans and credit cards, but you might get less favourable terms. However, you can use your existing credit to try to improve your score, so that you can get the most out of financial products on offer.

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