Best Credit Cards for Fair Credit

We have compiled a list of the 4 best credit cards for fair credit.

Updated: March 11, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

|
Rebecca Goodman

Edited By

Rebecca Goodman

 

Your credit history impacts your financial future and any time you apply for credit, from credit cards to loans, it will be looked at. If you've got a fair or average credit score, you may wonder what this means when it comes to your credit card options.

It's not the end of the world if your credit score is fair, instead of excellent, and using a credit card responsibly is one way to boost your credit score.

In this article, you'll learn all about credit scores, how to upgrade a fair score, why credit scores are important, and some of our best credit cards for fair credit.

ServiceScoreRegister
1. Capital One Platinum Credit Card★★★★★Click Here
2. Barclaycard Forward Card★★★★★Click Here
3. Tesco Bank Foundation Credit Card★★★★Click Here
4. Aqua Classic Credit Card★★★★Click Here

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a three-digit number that lets lenders know your creditworthiness.

It tells lenders if you're a good person to loan credit to, as your credit score reflects your credit history. Several factors determine your credit score, including the following:

  • Credit utilisation: allows lenders to see how much you've used of your total available credit and how much you owe on different accounts
  • Payment history: your history with making payments on time will determine your credit score and eligibility for new credit
  • Length of credit history: this lets you see how long you've been building your credit report and lets lenders know if you have any long-term debts
  • Types of credit: if you've got multiple credit lines across mixed credit types, they’ll appear on your credit report
  • New credit inquiries: if you've applied for credit recently, this will appear on your credit history

How your credit report is scored

Your credit score is labelled in different categories, including poor, fair, average, or excellent.

The major credit reference agencies in the UK are Equifax, Transunion, and Experian and they each have their own scoring system for credit scores. This means you don't just have one score, as you'll have one with each agency.

Equifax rates credit scores as follows:

  • Excellent: 800 to 850
  • Very good: 740 to 799
  • Good: 670 to 739
  • Fair: 580 to 669
  • Poor: 300 to 579

TransUnion rates credit scores as follows:

  • Excellent: 781 to 850
  • Fair: 661 to 720
  • Poor: 601 to 660
  • Very poor: 300 to 600

Experian rates credit scores as follows:

  • Excellent: 961 to 999
  • Good: 881 to 960
  • Fair: 721 to 889
  • Poor: 561 to 720
  • Very poor: 0 to 560

How a credit card can help your credit score

There are lots of different ways to boost your credit score but there are no quick fixes. The main ways to increase your score is by making payments on time, not using too much credit, and by regularly checking your score for errors. Another way is by using a credit card responsibly, and clearing it each month.

By increasing your credit score, you can open the doors to more financial products, and usually those which are cheaper and include more benefits.

The higher your credit score, the less of a risk you appear to lenders.

There are several benefits to increasing your credit score, such as:

  • Better interest rates: the higher your credit score, the more likely you'll be offered better interest rates for future credit lines
  • Higher credit limits: once you've built up your credit file, you'll be eligible to take out more credit
  • More credit access: some of the best loans and credit cards require you to have an excellent credit score

The different types of credit cards

There are seven main types of credit card to choose from. Some cards offer multiple features, or you can pick a card specialising in the feature you need. For example, if you’re looking for a card to spread the cost of purchases, you can apply for a card just for purchasing.  

The seven different types of credit cards are:

  • Credit builder cards: ideal for people with bad or fair credit; with one of these credit cards, you can work towards having good or excellent credit scores
  • Purchase cards: a card designed to spread the cost of big purchases. Usually, credit card issuers will offer a 0% interest rate for a set period
  • Balance transfer cards: if you've already got a credit card, you can use balance transfers to reduce the interest you're paying by transferring the balance from old card to a new one with 0% interest. There's usually a fee to pay but if you pay off the debt during this period, you'll avoid paying interest.
  • Purchase and balance transfer cards: get the best of both worlds with this card as it allows you to make both purchases and balance transfers
  • Money transfer credit cards: allow you to transfer credit over to your debit card and can be used to pay off pricey overdrafts
  • Rewards cards: allow you to earn rewards for spending which can vary between shop discounts and cashback
  • Travel credit cards: designed to make spending while travelling easier. Usually, if you use your debit or credit card abroad, you can be charged foreign transaction fees, and these cards reduce the cost of using a card abroad.

Remember taking out credit is a serious commitment, so before you fill out any applications, you should know what you're getting yourself into.

Advantages

✔️ Build your credit report: a credit card can help you build your credit score, which can be helpful if you plan to get a mortgage later in life

✔️ Spread the cost of purchases: a credit card is a good option if you need to make a big purchase before payday, and it allows you to spread the cost making it more affordable

✔️ A safer alternative to cash: if your credit card is stolen and used, you can cancel the card, get a new one, and claim a refund from the card provider

✔️ Spending abroad: you can use your travel credit card while abroad which can be safer than cash and there are usually little to no foreign transaction fees

Disadvantages

❌️ Credit file damage: if you miss any repayments, you may harm your credit score

❌️ High-interest rates: interest rates will vary across the different types of credit cards. It's essential to watch for interest rates after the interest-free period.

❌️ Long-term debt: if you don't repay your credit cards on time, you could fall into long-term debt. Avoid this by paying back more than the minimum on your credit card.

Unsecured credit vs secured credit cards

On top of the seven different types of credit cards, you may also be offered unsecured or secured credit cards.

  • Secured credit card: you fund this credit card by depositing an amount of money onto the card
  • Unsecured credit card: your credit balance is determined by your credit report.

Secured credit cards explained

Secured cards aren't common. They don't require a credit check, as you'll have to deposit cash to get one as security. If you miss a payment, the lender can take the money from the initial deposit. Secured credit cards are good for credit building, but only if you can afford the initial deposit.

Unsecured credit cards explained

Most credit cards fall under this category. You don't need to deposit money beforehand, as your credit balance will be based solely on your credit history.

How we decided our best credit cards for those with fair credit

Before we dive straight into the best six credit cards for fair credit, we wanted to share with you the factors that helped us form our decision.

Factors we considered:

  • APR rates: annual percentage rates can be high on credit cards (up to 36%). However, the national average credit card rate is 16.65%, so we looked for cards around this figure to ensure you get a good deal.
  • Features: some cards have benefits like zero-interest introductory periods and a rewards programme
  • Annual fees: some cards have annual fees varying between £100 and £250. We ensure the best credit cards for fair credit have little to no annual fees.
  • Credit limits: you may not be offered a vast credit limit with fair or average credit. However, card limits differ between card providers.
  • Eligibility: you may only be eligible for some credit cards with fair or average credit, but we have found ones that accept applicants with a fair or average credit rating.

The 4 best credit cards for a fair credit score

Considering all the above factors, we've compiled a list of what we think are the 4 best credit cards for fair credit. Before you dive in, it's worth remembering that if you can't afford to make the repayments, no credit card will be worth it and if you don't make these payments you could harm your credit score and end up in expensive debt.

1. Capital One platinum credit card

The Capital One card is a great option if you're looking for a way to boost your credit score.

With this credit card, you can build your credit and apply for a credit limit increase six months after opening the account if you've made all your repayments on time.

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Capital One Platinum Credit Card
Max Credit Limit
£1,500
Representative % APR (variable)
28.9% APR
  • For people with bad credit or building credit.
  • £200 to £1,500 credit limit.
  • No annual fee.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 28.94% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 28.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

Advantages

✔️ Choose your monthly due date payment for when it suits you best

✔️ You can use Capital One's credit score checker CreditWise to monitor and build your credit score

✔️ If your card has been stolen or misplaced, you have the power to lock your card with a few taps

✔️ No foreign transaction fees

Disadvantages

❌️ The APR is high

❌️ No rewards programme

2. Barclaycard Forward card

Start working towards an excellent credit score with Barclaycard's Forward Card which comes with a personalised credit limit suited to your credit score. You can also use zero interest on purchases for the first three months of opening the account.

Barclaycard Forward Card

Barclaycard Forward Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £50
Representative % APR (variable)
33.9% APR
  • 0% interest on purchases for 3 months (from the date you open your account).
  • Credit limit £50 to £1,200.
  • Minimum repayment £5.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 33.9% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 33.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

Advantages

✔️ You can earn a 3% interest reduction if you make all repayments on time for a year

✔️ Receive five-month Apple subscriptions for Apple TV+, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, and more

✔️ Make interest-free purchases for three months

Disadvantages

❌️ Unavailable if you've had any county court judgements (CCJs) or bankruptcies in the last six years

❌️ Credit limit as low as £50

3. Tesco Bank Foundation credit card

With the Tesco Bank Foundation Credit Card, you can build your credit score and take advantage of Tesco's rewards programme at the same time. With this rewards card, you can earn extra Clubcard points for shopping with the card.

Tesco Foundation Credit Card

Tesco Foundation Credit Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £250
Representative % APR (variable)
29.9% APR
  • Collect Clubcard points almost every time you shop.
  • Credit limit £250 to £1,500.
  • Access to Tesco Bank CreditView, provided by TransUnion, for 3 years from account opening.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 29.9% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 29.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

Advantages

✔️ Earn Clubcard points on spending

✔️ Track your credit score with the Tesco Bank CreditView

✔️ Manage your account anytime with Tesco's Mobile Banking App and online banking

Disadvantages

❌️ There's a different APR rate (39.9%) for cash withdrawals, transactions, and transfers

❌️ You may not be accepted if you've had any CCJS

4. Aqua Classic credit card

The Aqua Classic credit card limit grows as your credit score increases. This card is ideal for anyone who needs better credit as it helps you build credit with a reasonable credit limit that prevents long-term debt.

Aqua Classic Credit Card

Aqua Classic Credit Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £250
Representative % APR (variable)
34.9% APR
  • Smart credit limits from £250 – £1,200.
  • Build better credit with expert support in the Aqua app.
  • Ability to build your credit score, if you manage your account well.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 34.9% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 34.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

Advantages

✔️ You can check your eligibility in 60 seconds without impacting your credit file

✔️ Enjoy 48 days interest-free if you pay off the balance in full each month

✔️ Access to Aqua Coach, which helps you improve your credit score

Disadvantages

❌️ The maximum credit limit is £1,200, so if you’re looking for more credit, this may not be the right card

❌️ There's a 5% fee for all cash transactions

The best alternatives to credit cards

If you’ve gotten this far and are having second thoughts about applying for a credit card, maybe a credit card isn't the right financial tool for you. If that's the case, plenty of other options are still available.

Other options are available:

  • Personal loans: another option if you need a cash loan, just watch out for interest rates
  • Overdrafts: an arranged overdraft can help you have access to cash but there may be fees
  • Short-term loans: if you require cash, these can tide you over until payday but are usually expensive
  • Buy now, pay later: if you're looking to make online purchases consider Klarna or PayPal credit. You can spread the cost of your purchases, making them more affordable, but interest rates apply.

Final thoughts

All the credit cards we've recommended for fair credit should help you improve your overall credit rating if you use them correctly. They're not the only way to boost your credit score though, there are many other things you can do including the following:

  • Credit utilisation: don't use all of the credit that's available as this may indicate that your finances are stretched
  • Register on the electoral roll: when you're applying for credit, it makes it easier for lenders to see your proof of address
  • Close unused credit accounts: if you have open credit accounts you're not using, closing them will show lenders that you don't overstretch yourself when borrowing
  • Limit credit applications: a hard credit search will remain on your credit card, if you make too many in a short space of time, this can have a negative impact on your credit score
  • On-time payments: paying back your credit card balance on time will help your credit file grow. If you miss any payments, you may risk reducing your credit rating to a bad credit score.

Related Guides:

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the Minimum Credit Score to Get a Card?

What's the Easiest Card to Get Approved?

How Fast Can I Get a Credit Card in the UK?

What is the Average Credit Limit on a UK Credit Card?

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