Credit cards for fair credit

Find out what having fair credit means and which credit cards you can apply for.

As a general rule, you’ll find that the most competitive credit cards – those that offer the best rewards or the longest 0% periods – are reserved for those with good credit. But if your credit score is fair, you should still have a decent selection of credit cards to choose from.

What is a fair credit score?

A fair credit score means credit reference agencies think you’re doing a reasonable job managing credit. But indicates room for improvement and potentially higher risk for lenders. This may lead to credit card rejections or less favourable terms, such as shorter 0% periods, higher interest rates, or lower credit limits.

Various credit reference agencies use distinct scoring systems, resulting in varying fair credit ratings. The table below details Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion’s scoring systems.

Score bandRatingWhat it means
961–999ExcellentYou could be in line for the best loan interest rates.
881–960GoodYou could get most, though not all, of the best deals.
721–880FairYou should have access to loans with reasonable rates of interest.
561–720PoorYou may get accepted for a loan, but with higher interest rates.
0–560Very poorYou may be rejected for a loan or find it hard to get one without very high interest rates.
Score bandRatingWhat it means
811–1,000ExcellentYou’re very likely to be approved for competitive credit offers.
671–810Very goodYou’re likely to be approved for credit, but won’t necessarily be offered the very best interest rates.
531–670GoodYou should be offered credit at reasonable interest rates, but may have a low initial credit limit.
439–530FairYou have a chance of being approved for credit, but are likely to be charged a high interest rate and have a low limit.
0–438PoorIt’s likely your credit application will be rejected.
Score bandRatingWhat it means
628–710ExcellentYou’re very likely to be approved for competitive credit offers.
604–627GoodYou’re likely to be approved for credit, but won’t necessarily have the best interest rates.
566–603FairYou should be offered reasonable interest rates, but are likely to have a low credit limit.
561–565PoorYou have a chance of being approved for credit, but are likely to be charged a high interest rate and have a low limit.
0–550Very poorIt’s highly likely your credit application will be rejected.

Lenders might work with all 3 credit reference agencies or just 1 or 2, and they all have different requirements. So you might find that while one lender rejects you, another is happy to accept your application. You can find out how to check your credit score for free here.

How to choose the best credit card for fair credit

If you have a fair credit score, you won’t have access to every credit card on the market, so you’ll need to research your options carefully. It’s worth using an free eligibility checker before you apply for a credit card as this will show you how likely you are to get accepted and, as it only uses a “soft” search, your credit score won’t be affected. This will reduce the risk of you applying for a credit card that you then get rejected for.

You’ll also need to consider what type of credit card you want. For example:

  • Do you want to spread the cost of a large purchase such as a new car or holiday? If so, you’ll want a 0% purchase credit card to help you spread the cost over a number of months interest-free.
  • Do you want to pay off existing debt more cheaply? If so, you’ll want a balance transfer credit card – preferably one that won’t charge interest for several months or one that offers a much lower interest rate than your current card. Note that you’ll usually pay a balance transfer fee of between 1% and 3%.
  • Can you comfortably afford to pay off your balance in full each month and are you looking to earn rewards? If so, consider a card that lets you earn cashback or loyalty points or even air miles. Just watch out for annual fees and high interest rates.

What type of credit cards are available to fair credit scores?

The type of credit cards available to those with fair credit scores are not dissimilar to those with good scores, but some options will be more restricted.

For example, you should still be able to apply for a 0% balance transfer or 0% purchase card, but you might find that the 0% period you’re offered is shorter than the one advertised. Similarly, you might have to pay a higher transfer fee or a higher interest rate. Note that when a credit card is advertised with a representative annual percentage rate (APR), this rate only has to be offered to 51% of successful customers. The remaining 49% could be offered a much higher rate.

If you can’t get accepted for a 0% balance transfer credit card, you might get accepted for a low APR balance transfer credit card instead. This offers a low rate of interest for the life of the debt which means you’ll still save money in the long run. Many of these cards won’t charge a balance transfer fee either.

You might still get accepted for certain rewards credit cards too, but the rewards on offer might not be quite as enticing as they would be for someone with excellent credit. Be warned that your credit limit is unlikely to be as high either, though this might increase after a few months if you use your card sensibly.

Another option worth considering is a credit builder credit card as this type of card has more flexible acceptance criteria and enables you to increase your credit score over time. However, these cards usually have lower credit limits and higher interest rates, so you’ll need to ensure you pay off your balance in full each month.

Frequently asked questions

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you. Most of the data in Finder's comparison tables has the source: Moneyfacts Group PLC. In other cases, Finder has sourced data directly from providers.

Written by

Rachel Wait

Rachel Wait is a freelance journalist and has been writing about personal finance for more than a decade, covering everything from insurance to mortgages. She has written for a range of personal finance websites and national newspapers, including The Observer, The Mail on Sunday, The Sun and the Evening Standard. Rachel is a keen baker in her spare time. See full profile

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