Compare credit cards for international students

Apply for a student credit card even without a Social Security number.

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Although credit card options for international students studying in the US are limited, you can find a few excellent starter credit cards. To apply for most of these cards you’ll need a US Social Security number (SSN), but this is not a requirement for all cards.

What all student credit cards have in common is that you must have a US residential address to apply.

Can a foreign student get a US Social Security number?

Yes. To apply for an SSN you must:

  • Be enrolled and registered for classes
  • Be in the US for at least 10 days
  • Have a student visa (F-1, J-1 or M-1)
  • Have permission to work in the US by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Note: A letter of authorization to work on- or off-campus by your school can be used to get your SSN. But if you don’t have permission to work, you can apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), which you can often use instead of SSN to apply for a credit card.

If you meet the requirements, visit a Social Security Administration office and fill out an SS-5 form. You will also need original ID documents, such as your passport.

Compare international student credit cards

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
1% cash back on all purchases
20.24% variable
Designed for college students to build credit history and earn rewards.
1% cash back right away, 1.25% after six on-time payments and 1.5% after 12 on-time payments
14.74% to 25.74% variable
Build your credit with no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score.
17.24% variable
Credit card for professionals relocating to America without a US credit history.
1.5x points on all purchases
0% intro for the first 12 billing cycles (then 16.74% to 24.74% variable)
Earn 25,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. This can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category, grocery and wholesale club purchases each quarter, then 1%
0% intro for the first 15 statement closing dates (then 15.74% to 25.74% variable)
Earn $200 after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days from account opening.

Compare up to 4 providers

Best credit cards for international students

Best credit card for international students without an SSN: Deserve® Edu Card

Foreign students who don’t have an SSN or an ITIN can apply for the Deserve® Edu Card. In addition, you get to earn unlimited cash back on all of your purchases without paying an annual fee.
  • Cash back. Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases.
  • No annual fee. You won’t pay an annual fee for the life of the card.
  • Amazon Prime Student subscription. When you use your Deserve® Edu Card to pay for your annual Amazon Prime Student subscription, Discover EDU will reimburse you for the fee of $59.

Best credit card for US students abroad: Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students

US students studying abroad could use a card like the no-annual-fee Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students. The card offers unlimited points on purchases, a solid signup bonus and no foreign transaction fees for purchases made abroad. Also, foreign students studying in the US can likely apply for this card with an ITIN.
  • Reward points. Earn unlimited 1.5x points on all of purchases. Redeem points for a statement credit for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 25,000 points — worth $250 toward travel purchases — once you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days of account opening. This is one of the more generous signup bonuses you can get with a student credit card.
  • Intro APR period on purchases. Get 12 billing cycles of 0% intro APR period on purchases. After that, your rate reverts to a 16.74% to 24.74% variable.

Best credit card for international students for rewards on purchases: Discover it® Student Cash Back

If you’re looking to earn the highest cashback rate on select categories of purchases each quarter, then Discover it® Student Cash Back is a good choice. Aside from earning cash back, you get to earn a generous welcome offer and a good grades reward each year.
  • Cash back. Earn 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter you activate them, on up to $1,500 in combined purchases. After reaching the cap and on all other purchases, you earn 1% cash back.
  • Cashback match. This is Discover’s version of a welcome offer where Discover matches all the cash back you earned during your first year of card membership without limits. This means if you earn $500 in cash back during your first year, Discover will award you an additional $500.
  • Good grades reward. Every school year you earn a 3.0 GPA or higher, Discover will reward you with a $20 statement credit for up to five years.

Best credit card for everyday purchases for international students: Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students

This card offers one of the highest cashback rates on everyday purchases on a category you choose, such as gas, dining, travel, drug stores, home improvement/furnishings and online purchases. You also earn an accelerated rate at grocery stores and wholesale clubs.
  • Cash back. Earn 3% cash back on a category you choose each month and 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on up to $2,500 in combined purchases each month. After reaching the cap. You’ll earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Signup bonus. Earn a $200 online cash rewards bonus once you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days of card membership.
  • No annual fee. You won’t pay an annual fee for the life of the card.

How we picked our best cards

We looked at all credit cards for students and compared features such as rewards rate, annual fee, intro APR period and the ability to apply without a US Social Security number. We chose the cards that offered the optimal combination of these perks.

How to compare credit cards for international students

When choosing a card for you, consider the following:

  • Do you have an SSN? If you don’t, consider the Deserve® Edu Card card, which doesn’t require one to apply. Also, some credit cards let you apply with an ITIN.
  • Do you travel often? The Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students could be the best choice as you can quickly rack up points and redeem them on flights or baggage fees.
  • Do you want to earn accelerated rewards? In this case, both the Discover it® Student Cash Back and the Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students could be a solid option due to the high rewards rate on select categories of purchases.

Bottom line

International students studying within the US, or US students studying abroad, could find solid credit cards that can help them earn rewards or save money on interest. But know that most credit cards require a US Social Security number or an International Tax Identification Number to apply.

However, if none of these cards seem right for you, compare other student credit cards until you find a fit for your financial needs.

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