Student credit cards 23 August 2023

5 Best Credit Cards for International Students

If you plan on staying in the U.S. for your studies, you may want to build a credit history by getting an international student credit card. Here’s how to get a credit card as an international student and the best cards to pick from.

5 Best International Student Credit Cards

International students can get a credit card but they need to get an ITIN to apply for credit cards if they are ineligible for SSN. The best cards to get as international students would be those that do not require a credit history, have no annual fees and offer rewards on spending.

Capital One Quicksilver Student Credit Card is the best credit card for international students with an ITIN. It offers cash back rewards on purchases and charges no annual fee. International students who are unable to get an SSN or an ITIN can apply for Deserve® EDU card using their passport. International students eligible for an SSN can access most credit cards in the U.S.

International students can also use credit cards from their country in the U.S. but it comes with heavy fees and can become highly expensive. Therefore, it is better to get a local credit card as it will be more affordable comparatively. Moreover, it can help in building credit in the U.S. and widen your financing options in the future.

Below is our list of the best credit cards for international students along with their fees, benefits, and specific eligibility requirements.

Best Credit Card for International Students

LenderScholaroo ratingRegular APRCredit Score

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Best for students with no credit history

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4.5/522.99%N/A

Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards

Best for cashback rewards

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4.6/519.99% - 29.99%No minimum credit score

Petal 2 Visa Credit Card

Best for no fees

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4.4/517.99% - 31.99%N/A

Capital One Journey Student Credit Card

Best for cash back on travel

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4.2/529.99%N/A

Chase Freedom Rise™ Credit Card

Best for rewards without an annual fee

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4.0/526.74%N/A
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Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Best for students with no credit history

Scholaroo rating
4.5/5
Regular APR
22.99%
Credit Score
N/A
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Lender

Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards

Best for cashback rewards

Scholaroo rating
4.6/5
Regular APR
19.99% - 29.99%
Credit Score
No minimum credit score
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Lender

Petal 2 Visa Credit Card

Best for no fees

Scholaroo rating
4.4/5
Regular APR
17.99% - 31.99%
Credit Score
N/A
Visit website
Lender

Capital One Journey Student Credit Card

Best for cash back on travel

Scholaroo rating
4.2/5
Regular APR
29.99%
Credit Score
N/A
Visit website
Lender

Chase Freedom Rise™ Credit Card

Best for rewards without an annual fee

Scholaroo rating
4.0/5
Regular APR
26.74%
Credit Score
N/A
Visit website

1. Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Best for students with no credit history

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Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

4.5
Scholaroo Rating
Regular APR22.99%
Annual Fee$0
RewardsEarn 1% cash back on all purchases
Credit ScoreN/A
Why We Like ItPros and ConsEligibility RequirementsBenefits and Rewards

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard is a good option for international students as you don’t need an SSN or a good credit score to apply. It has some great card perks, in addition to its low credit requirements.

Some benefits include a year of Amazon Prime Student membership when you spend $500 in the first three billing cycles. There is also a 1% cash back on all purchases. The Deserve® EDU Mastercard has a $0 annual fee and a 22.99% variable APR.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • No social security number is required to apply
  • No cosigner or security deposit required
  • Cell phone protection up to $600

Cons

  • High APR rates
  • Late payment fees of up to $25
  • No minimum credit score
  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Must be enrolled in a U.S.-based college or university
  • Can apply with a passport
  • 1% cash back on all purchases
  • One year Amazon Prime Student membership when you spend $500 in the first three billing cycles

2. Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for cashback rewards

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Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

4.6
Scholaroo Rating
Regular APR19.99% - 29.99%
Annual Fee$0
RewardsUnlimited 1.5% cash back on purchases
Credit ScoreNo minimum credit score
Why We Like ItPros and ConsEligibility RequirementsBenefits and Rewards

Capital One Quicksilver Student Credit card is a good option for students who don’t have an excellent credit score. The card has no annual fee and comes with a number of rewards, including an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, 10% on Uber and Uber Eats, and 5% on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. You also get $50 when you spend $100 within the first three months. If you refer family and friends who get approved for a card, you can get up to $500 a year.

This card is great for travel too as it does not charge foreign transaction fees and offers travel-related benefits like cashback rewards, travel accident insurance, 24-hour travel assistance services, and complimentary concierge service. You can use Capital One’s online pre-approval tool to see if you qualify for a card within minutes and this only requires a soft credit check.

Pros

  • Various travel associated benefits offered
  • 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • Offers a welcome bonus
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Rewards don’t expire

Cons

  • Late payment fee of up to $40
  • Be 18 years or older
  • Have a Social Security Number
  • Have a steady income
  • Be enrolled as a student

Cash Back

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • Earn 10% cash back on Uber and Uber Eats purchases

Early Spend Bonus

  • Earn $50 when you spend $100 in the first three months

Referral Bonus

  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring family and friends

3. Petal 2 Visa Credit Card

Best for no fees

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Petal 2 Visa Credit Card

4.4
Scholaroo Rating
Regular APR17.99% - 31.99%
Annual Fee$0
Rewards2% - 10% cash back at select merchants
Credit ScoreN/A
Why We Like ItPros and ConsEligibility RequirementsBenefits and Rewards

The Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card is a great option for starters and international students without an SSN. The card comes with up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases and reports your payments monthly to three major credit bureaus.

Card rates start at 17.99% variable APR and there is no annual fee. There are no foreign transaction fees although the card doesn’t allow for balance transfers.

Pros

  • No membership fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Doesn’t require a security deposit
  • Earn up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases

Cons

  • No balance transfers allowed
  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Can apply with an ITIN
  • Sufficient income to afford bill payments
  • Up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments
  • 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away
  • 2% – 10% cash back at select merchants

4. Capital One Journey Student Credit Card

Best for cash back on travel

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Capital One Journey Student Credit Card

4.2
Scholaroo Rating
Regular APR29.99%
Annual Fee$0
Rewards1% cash back on all purchases
Credit ScoreN/A
Why We Like ItPros and ConsEligibility RequirementsBenefits and Rewards

The Capital One Journey Student credit card is an option for international students without an SSN and the card comes with 1% cash back on all purchases. There is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee, but the card comes with a high APR of 29.99%.

You can choose a monthly due date that works for you and earn up to $500 annually by referring friends and family when they’re approved for a Capital One credit card.

You can be automatically considered for a credit limit increase on your card after six months of on-time payments.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • 3% cash advance fee
  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Can apply with an ITIN
  • 1% cash back on all purchases
  • 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel

5. Chase Freedom Rise™ Credit Card

Best for rewards without an annual fee

Apply now

Chase Freedom Rise™ Credit Card

4.0
Scholaroo Rating
Regular APR26.74%
Annual Fee$0
RewardsEarn 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Credit ScoreN/A
Why We Like ItPros and ConsEligibility RequirementsBenefits and Rewards

The Chase Freedom Rise™ credit card is a great option for international students as you don’t require an SSN or a security deposit. The card has no annual fee and you can qualify with limited or no credit history.

You’ll be evaluated for a credit line increase after six months and you earn 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Cash back rewards do not expire.

The card comes with an interest rate of 26.74 APR and there is a 5% cash advance fee. There is also a late fee of up to $40 and a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Pros

  • Don’t need an SSN to apply
  • No credit history needed
  • Doesn’t require a security deposit
  • Offers cash back rewards on all purchases
  • Trip cancellation insurance

Cons

  • High APR
  • Foreign transaction fee
  • Balance transfer fee of up to 5%
  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Can apply with an ITIN
  • Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • Cash back rewards do not expire as long as you keep your account open
  • Earn a $25 statement credit when signing up for AutoPay within the first 3 months after opening your account

How to Get a Credit Card as an International Student?

Arrive in the States:

Firstly, you have to arrive in the country to be able to apply for any credit card. This is because all credit card issuers require applicants to have a U.S. address as an eligibility requirement for approval. You must also be at least 18 years old to apply for a card.

Apply for an ITIN:

Moreover, all credit card companies require either an SSN or an ITIN to qualify for a card. While not all international students are eligible to get an SSN, many can apply for an ITIN through Form W-7. Along with the associated form, you will also be required to submit supporting original or certified copies of the original documents listed in the instructions. You will only be required to submit your valid passport if it contains the date of entry. In case you do not wish to submit your passport, two other documents that can confirm your foreign status and identity must be submitted, and at least one of the two must contain a photo ID. A few examples of acceptable alternatives include a driver’s license, a visa issued by the U.S. government, a national identity card, and a civil birth certificate.

To check your eligibility, you can go through the information for applying for an ITIN as an international student on the Internal Revenue Service United States Government website. International students may be able to gain relevant information from their university’s international student office also.

Compare Card Options and Apply: 

Once you have an ITIN, you can compare the best credit cards for international students to find the one that suits you most. After choosing a suitable option, you can apply for the credit card online through the bank’s website. You might also need to provide the company with assurance that you will be able to make the monthly payments with some sort of proof of income. Moreover, many credit card companies require a minimum level of credit score to apply which most international students do not have. In such a case, it is best to look for a secured or student credit card as they are most flexible in their eligibility requirements.

Most online credit card applications provide the applicants with a decision instantly if they have provided all the relevant information. However, for international students, it might be best to either apply in person or through a customer support representative as they can clear any confusion and may be able to suggest multiple options according to your situation.

Look for Alternates:

Some students are unable to qualify for both an SSN and ITIN. The best option for such students would be to apply to a lender, like Deserve®, that allows students to get credit cards using their passports. If possible, there is also an option of becoming an authorized user on someone else’s card. By becoming an authorized user, you can have access to the amount of credit the credit card owner does. However, in some cases, the credit card owners may set a maximum limit on your usage. Also, not all credit card companies allow international students to become authorized users.

How To Choose The Best Credit Card As An International Student

Choosing a credit card as an international student in the U.S. is a decision that requires careful consideration of various factors. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you choose the best one:

  • Understand Your Needs and Goals: Identify what you want from the card: Is it for building credit, earning rewards, or managing everyday expenses? Knowing your specific needs is crucial in finding a card that aligns with your financial goals.
  • Check Eligibility Requirements: Look for cards that accept applications without a Social Security Number (SSN) or that are specifically tailored to international students. This step is vital, as not all cards will be accessible without an SSN or U.S. credit history.
  • Consider Fees and Costs: Evaluate annual fees, foreign transaction fees, and interest rates. Choosing a card with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees is generally a wise decision for international students to keep costs low.
  • Examine Rewards and Benefits: Consider rewards that align with your spending habits, such as cash back on groceries or travel rewards. Look for additional benefits like free credit score access or student-specific perks.
  • Evaluate Credit Building Tools: Look for cards that offer tools to help you understand and build your credit. These tools can be highly beneficial for someone new to the U.S. credit system.
  • Consider Secured Credit Cards: If unsecured options are limited, explore secured cards that require a deposit but help build credit. While not as attractive as unsecured cards, they can be a good starting point for credit building.
  • Read Reviews and Seek Guidance: Look for online reviews and ratings, or consult with your university’s financial services department. Peer reviews and professional guidance can provide insights that might not be apparent from promotional materials.
  • Understand the Terms and Conditions: Thoroughly read and understand the terms, including interest rates, penalties, and how rewards are earned and redeemed. This step is essential to avoid unexpected surprises or fees.
  • Consider Alternative Options: If a credit card is not feasible, explore other options like debit or prepaid cards.

Ways to Build Your Credit History as an International Student in the U.S.

Building credit history in the U.S. is important for anyone planning to stay in the country long-term, including international students. If obtaining a credit card is not feasible, there are still other methods to establish and build credit. Here are some alternatives:

  1. Secured Credit Cards: A secured credit card requires a cash deposit as collateral and is generally easier to obtain. This is often an excellent starting point for building credit, even if it may not offer as many benefits as an unsecured card.
  2. Become an Authorized User: If you have a family member or close friend with established credit in the U.S., you could become an authorized user on their account. While this can be a viable way to build credit, it requires a high degree of trust between the parties, as the primary account holder’s credit behavior will affect your credit history as well.
  3. Apply for a Loan with a Co-Signer: A personal loan with a co-signer who has good credit may be an option. This method requires careful planning, as taking out a loan should align with your financial goals and ability to repay.
  4. Utilize Rent Reporting Services: Some services will report your regular rent payments to credit bureaus, contributing to your credit history. This can be a natural way to build credit through an existing financial responsibility, though not all credit bureaus may consider rent payments.
  5. Open a Joint Account: Sharing a bank account with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident can sometimes help establish a credit presence. Similar to becoming an authorized user on a credit card, this method requires trust and shared responsibility.
  6. Use a Credit-Builder Loan: Some financial institutions offer credit-builder loans specifically designed to help individuals establish credit. This is a targeted way to build credit but must align with your broader financial strategy.
  7. Build a Relationship with a Bank or Credit Union: Establishing a relationship with a financial institution by maintaining a checking or savings account can sometimes lead to credit opportunities. Building a relationship with a local bank or credit union can create opportunities for credit that you might not find elsewhere.
  8. Consider Reporting Utility Payments: Some utility providers might report regular, on-time payments to credit bureaus. This option can vary widely by provider and location, but it’s worth exploring as it leverages regular monthly expenses.

FAQs

Can I get credit card as an international student?

Yes, international students can open a credit card in the U.S., although it may be more challenging without an SSN. If you are unable to qualify for an SSN, you can apply for most credit cards with an ITIN. Some lenders even accept passports for international students who do not have an SSN or ITIN in the U.S.

Which bank is best for international credit card?

Capital One is the best bank for credit cards for international students as it accepts applicants with ITIN too and those international students who are ineligible for SSN are eligible for an ITIN.

Which is the best credit card for international students without SSN or ITIN?

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is the best card for international students without SSN or ITIN as you can apply for it with your passport.

Can you open a bank account as a foreign student?

Yes, foreign students can open a bank account in the U.S. Generally, you’ll need your passport, student visa, I-20 or DS-2019 form, and proof of address. Some banks might have partnerships with educational institutions, making the process even more straightforward.

Can international students get an SSN?

Yes, those international students who have permission to work in the U.S. legally may apply for an SSN.