If you have fair credit, a great credit card offer is difficult to find. Maybe you’ve made a few mistakes in the past. You might have exceeded your limit on a credit card once. Perhaps you made a late payment or two. Now, though, your financial situation is under control — and you’re ready to look for a new credit card.
Your credit rating may not be ideal, but you can take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone. The average credit score in the United States is just 687. While it is true that credit card issuers don’t spend the majority of their marketing dollars trying to attract new customers with average credit, you can still find a great credit card for your needs if you shop around. Decide which features and benefits of a credit card are most important to you — but remember that you may not get a credit card with every possible perk.
Choose Your Priorities
Credit card issuers go to great lengths to attract customers with excellent credit. Credit cards for people with excellent credit typically offer the highest limits, the lowest APRs and the best reward programs. If you have fair credit, though, you can’t expect to receive a credit card with every possible feature. You’ll have to decide whether you want a card with a higher limit, a lower APR or a better reward system.
Apply for Credit Sparingly
Credit reporting bureaus believe that a person who applies for many different loans within a short amount of time represents a greater risk to lenders than a person who spends more time shopping for the best offer prior to applying for credit. Applying for many credit cards, therefore, can reduce your credit score slightly and potentially prevent you from getting the credit card that you really want. To avoid hurting your credit score, spend some time looking for the ideal credit card for your needs before you apply. Alternatively, watch your mail for pre-approved credit card offers so you’ll know that the issuing bank will not deny your application.
Consider a Balance Transfer Card
Would you like an opportunity to pay down some of your existing debt and potentially give your credit score a boost? Look for a credit card with a balance transfer offer. Often, a credit card issuer will offer the ability to transfer a balance from another credit card with no interest fees for several months. With no interest to pay, you’ll have an opportunity to reduce your debt more quickly. Meanwhile, the issuer of the credit card from which the balance was transferred will report that you have paid the card’s balance in full. As long as you use both credit cards responsibly and continue to lower your total credit utilization, your credit score will more likely increase.
What to Do If You Have Trouble Getting a Credit Card
Suppose that, after spending some time shopping for the perfect credit card, you finally apply for one — and your application is declined. Undaunted, you apply for another card. However, the second card issuer denies your application as well. If this happens, don’t panic; it may be that your credit score simply isn’t as high as you think it is. Spend a few months paying down your existing debts, and then try again. Alternatively, read your credit reports and look for inaccuracies. The law requires credit reporting bureaus to provide one free report to consumers each year. If you find inaccuracies, you have the right to dispute them.
If your credit score turns out to be lower than you initially thought, consider applying for a secured credit card. To receive a secured credit card, you’ll need to loan the card issuer some of your money. The funds that you provide essentially become collateral to guarantee that you’ll repay the money that you borrow with your credit card. Most banks review the accounts of secured credit card holders periodically. If your account is in good standing during the review, the card issuer will upgrade your credit card to an unsecured credit card with better terms and refund your deposit. You’ll also get the deposit back if you close the credit card with your account in good standing.