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Best Credit Card Options For International Students

Updated on Jan 28, 2021
Credit cards for students

Student credit cards are primarily designed for students in the sense that such credit cards have lower fees, low-interest rates, and often have many rewards and perks. It is the best starter credit card for young students who typically lack a credit history or credit score.

You can start building a good credit score during your college years and get a head start in being eligible for other better credit options in the future. The potential benefits of acquiring a credit card early in adult life are worth the responsibility of being a cardholder.

For international students, getting a credit card in a foreign country like the United States may seem challenging at first with all the requirements put up by card issuers. For instance, you need to provide your Social Security Number (SSN) to apply for a credit card. Fortunately, this isn't always the case. 

There are several credit card options for international students, even for those with no credit history or even an SSN. These cards can help you develop good payment habits and build a good credit history.

Here're our pick of the top 5 credit cards options for international students:

Deserve Edu Mastercard for Students: Best for Students without an SSN/ Credit History 


Deserve

Deserve Edu Mastercard may be the best option for international students studying in the United States, especially for students with little or no credit history and without a Social Security Number (SSN) (one might need to have a US bank account). It has no annual fees and does not require a security deposit. Students born in the U.S. can also apply for this credit card.

Current Offer: Get a one-year subscription to Amazon Prime Student after you spend $500 in the first 3 billing cycles (Lifetime Value of $59)

Features

Purchases Intro APR: N/A

Balance Transfers Intro APR: N/A

Regular APR: 18.74% (Variable)

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

Rewards and Benefits

  • Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases 
  • Get cell phone protection up to $600
  • Enjoy car rental insurance, roadside assistance, price protection, extended warranty
  • Have access to Mastercard ID Theft Protection
  • Refer a friend to Deserve using your personal referral code. And receive $30 upon approval and activation. Also get unlimited referral bonuses
  • Zero Liability on Unauthorized Charges

Deserve Edu Mastercard for students is best as the starter/first credit card for international students because of the low eligibility standards. Since the APR is on the higher side for a student credit card, you should pay off the balance in full each month to avoid paying interest fees. Once you build a credit history and a decent credit score, opt for a credit card from a major issuer that offers better rewards. 

Discover it Student Cash Back: Best for Rewards and Bonuses


Discover

Discover it Student Cash Back is one of the popular international student cards in the United States because of its variety of rewards such as rewards for maintaining good grades and large bonuses with no annual fees. However, an SSN is required for international student credit card applicants.

Current Offer: This card will match all of the cashback earned during the first year of being a cardmember, automatically. 

Features

Purchases Intro APR: 0% for 6 months

Balance Transfers Intro APR: 10.99% for 6 months

Regular APR: 17.99% (Variable)

Balance Transfer Fee: 3% (till February 10, 20210, then 5% of the amount of each transfer

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

Rewards and Benefits

  • Earn 5% cashback on up to $1,500 in combined quarterly purchases on rotating spending categories and unlimited 1% cashback on all other purchases. Since cashback is matched after one year, Discover doubles the cashback earnings at the end of your first year
  • Get 20$ statement credit every year if your grade point average (GPA) is at least 3.0
  • Free FICO credit score is given on a monthly statement or online anytime
  • Report payment to major US credit bureaus. 

Discover it Student Cash Back with its potential high rewards structure and cashback match for new cardmembers are attractive for students. To enjoy the 5% cashback on the rotating spending categories, you need to manually activate the rate. Otherwise, it is automatically set to 1% cashback on the purchases. Do keep in mind that Discover is not widely accepted as Visa, Mastercard, or American Express. 

Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students: Best Student Travel Card


BoA

Bank of America's Travel Rewards credit card is best for students who are frequent travelers. With one flat reward rate with every dollar spent, earning travel rewards is fairly easy. With a relatively long introductory APR on purchases, no annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees, this is the best option for students traveling outside the U.S. as well.

Points earned with this card can be used to redeem for hotels, flights, rental cars, or baggage fees.  

Current Offer: Get a sign-up bonus on 25,000 bonus points after purchases worth $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening (redeem $250 worth in travel statement credits) 

Features

Purchases Intro APR: 0% for 12 Billing Cycles

Balance Transfers Intro APR: N/A

Regular APR: 14.99%-22.99%  (Variable)

Balance Transfer Fee: Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transfer (whichever is greater)

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

Rewards and Benefits

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 on all your purchases. Get a 10% points bonus if you have a checking or savings account with Bank of America
  • Earn 25,000 points for at least $1,000 worth of purchases in the first 90 days of account opening 
  • Redeem points to get a statement credit for travel purchases (starting at 2,500 points for a $25 statement credit 
  • Preferred Rewards members can earn up to 2.62 points for every $1 you spend everywhere, every time
  • Access to free FICO credit score 
  • Overdraft protection

Bank of America Travel Rewards is a credit card for students looking to earn travel rewards on every purchase without having to pay an annual fee or foreign. It might also interest students who already have an account with Bank of America and want to build credit while managing their accounts.

The rewards can be redeemed only through Bank of America since the points earned are not transferable. Also, it offers 0% introductory APR balance transfers. If you are not keen on travel rewards, go for cards like Discover it Student Cash Back or Deserve Edu card.

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One: Best for Credit Building


Visa

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One credit card is great for students who want to start building their credit history. It offers incentives to students for on-time payments and earns extra cashback for it. And on-time payments is how you start building good credit. The credit limit can be raised after just the first 6 months of on-time payments.

With basic cashback rewards, no annual fee, and no foreign transaction fee, this card makes a good first credit card from a major issuer like Capital One. International students can apply 

Features

Purchases Intro APR: N/A

Regular APR: 26.99%  (Variable)

Balance Transfer Fee: N/A

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

Rewards and Benefits

  • Earn 1% cashback on all your purchases and earn a 0.25% extra Cash Back bonus on the cashback with on-time payments
  • Earn $5 each month for 12 months on Select Streaming Subscriptions when you pay on time. (Exclusions Apply)
  • With CreditWise, enjoy free and unlimited access to your credit score and tools to monitor your credit profile
  • Automatic credit line review for a higher credit line after 6 months of on-time payments
  • Enjoy 24/7 access to Eno, your Capital One assistant (Check balance, transactions and pay your credit card bill, etc.)
  • Extended warranty
  • Travel accident insurance and secondary rental car collision insurance

International students having no credit history have a better chance of being approved for a Journey Student Rewards credit card and also get the opportunity to build a credit history. Since the APR is fairly high for a student credit card, pay off the balance in full each month, otherwise, it can be very costly.

Bank of America Cash Rewards for Students: Best for Cash Back


BoA

Bank of America's Cash Rewards is the best credit card option for students who want to earn cashback on everyday purchases without paying an annual fee and also while building a credit history. It offers a tiered rewards structure for earning cash back on purchases that students often spend their money on like groceries, restaurants, entertainment, online shopping.

This card may also appeal to students already banking with Bank of America and may also use it as overdraft protection for their checking account. 

Current Offer: Earn $200 cash rewards after spending $1000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening

Features

Purchases Intro APR: 0% for 12 Billing Cycles

Balance Transfers Intro APR: 0% for 12 Billing Cycles

Regular APR: 13.99%-23.99%  (Variable)

Balance Transfer Fee: Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transfer (whichever is greater)

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%

Rewards and Benefits

  • Earn 3% cashback in the category of your choice: online shopping, dining, travel, home improvement, gas, etc.
  • Earn 2% cashback on grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • Earn 1% cashback on all your other purchases
  • Earn 3% and 2% cashback on the first $2,500 in the combined category each quarter, then earn 1%
  • Access to free FICO credit score
  • Access to digital wallet technology and mobile/online banking
  • Paperless statements 

Since it charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, it isn't the best student cards for use outside the U.S. 

Overall, Bank of America's Cash Rewards is ideal for students that do most of their spending on college expenses because of the high cashback rewards with no annual fee plus the introductory bonus.

Conclusion

To get the most out of your student credit cards, pay the balance in full every month on time. Set up automatic payments to avoid missing the payment.

For cards that have a 0% introductory purchase APR for a certain period, make sure to keep the balance down to $0 before the introductory period is over to avoid the credit card APRs.

Furthermore, student credit cards are great starter cards, but it doesn't necessarily mean it will remain the best card for you once you have improved your credit score and credit history. You may be qualified for cards that offer better rewards and perks.

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