In a NutshellThe best credit cards for international students are more likely to accept students with little to no credit history and reward them for handling credit responsibly. Whether you’re an international student or studying abroad, you can find a card that’s right for you.
These offers are no longer available on our site: Deserve® EDU Mastercard, Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
A great credit card for international students is out there — even for those who don’t have an extensive credit history or, perhaps, even a Social Security number.
The best cards will also limit fees and may even offer rewards. Here are our top choices for the best credit card for international students and what we like about each one.
- Best for international students studying in the U.S.: Deserve® EDU Mastercard
- Best for U.S. students studying abroad: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students
- Best for building credit: Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
- Best for no fees: Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card
Here’s why: The Deserve® EDU Mastercard doesn’t require a security deposit. And for international students, the credit card issuer doesn’t even require a Social Security number to apply.
The Deserve® EDU Mastercard is designed to reward students who have positive financial health and habits.
With the Deserve® EDU Mastercard, you’ll earn 1% cash back on all purchases, issued as a statement credit. You’ll also get one year of Amazon Prime Student when you spend $500 in the first three billing cycles using the card. The Deserve® EDU Mastercard has a $0 annual fee, too, which many students may find to be a nice perk.
If you want to learn more about the Deserve® EDU Mastercard, read our review.
Here’s why: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students offers a sign-up bonus of 25,000 online bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days after account opening.
That’s a great rewards bonus for a student card. And for U.S. students studying abroad, those points earned with the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students could be used to help offset airfare, hotels or rental cars. And since this card charges no foreign transaction fees, you can use the card overseas just as you would in the States without having to worry about an additional fee for each purchase you make.
With the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students, you’ll earn 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all purchases.
Read our full review of the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students to learn more.
Here’s why: With the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® card, you’ll earn 1% cash back on all purchases. But what’s really cool is you’ll get rewarded with an extra 0.25% cash back when you make your payments on time.
Making on-time payments is a key part of building your credit. And with this card, you’ll earn extra rewards for it, too!
The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® credit card really is all about helping students build credit. Because of this, students with thin credit files could have a better chance of being approved than with other cards. And Capital One says it will automatically consider you for a higher credit line in as little as six months.
If you think this card feels right for you, read our review of the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® card to learn more.
Here’s why: The Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card has a $0 annual fee. And its foreign transaction fees? None. The card also has no over-limit fees or even late fees.
And instead of relying solely on your credit history, the Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card looks at your digital financial records when determining its potential risk and deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Like Deserve, these alternative methods make Petal a great choice for students with little to no credit histories. And both cards could also be especially useful for international students studying in the United States.
Plus, the Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card has the added benefit of 1% cash back on all purchases. And there’s the potential to earn even more cash back if you establish positive payment habits: After making 12 on-time payments, you can earn up to 1.5% cash back.
If a no-fee card is what you’re looking for, it’s hard to beat the Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card. So this card might be a great option if you’re worried about getting into trouble with fees with your first credit card.
Just remember that “no fees” doesn’t mean no interest, though. The Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card comes with a variable purchase APR of 17.24% - 31.24%. So as with most credit cards, you’ll want to try and pay off your monthly balance on time and in full before the grace period ends to avoid interest charges.
Check out our review of the Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card if you’re considering it.
How we picked these cards
As we sorted through dozens of student cards, we looked for ones that accepted alternate forms of validating identity or determining risk for the lender. These two features will be critical for international students, especially those who don’t have a Social Security number.
We also looked for cards that charge fewer fees, which can be helpful for students. And we looked for cards that offered some sort of rewards, like cash back (for making on-time payments or getting good grades) or points that could be used toward free travel.
How to make the most of international student cards
If you don’t have credit scores or a Social Security number, these cards could make it possible for you to start building a credit history.
While that’s a great thing, it also comes with great responsibility. To get the most credit-building mileage out of student cards, you need to make sure that you make at least your minimum payments on time and in full every month. You may even want to set up automatic payments so that you don’t ever accidentally miss a payment.
And if you use a card that offers an introductory 0% purchase APR for a certain amount of time — say to purchase school supplies or cover an emergency — you need to make sure that you bring your balance down to $0 before the introductory period ends if you want to avoid interest charges. And once the intro period is up, you’ll face an APR that will be based on the lender’s assessment of your credit risk.
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that these are primarily best “first” cards. That doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be the best cards for you a few years down the road. Once you’ve built up your credit, you’re probably going to want to see if you can qualify for credit cards that offer more rewards and perks.