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Best credit cards for international students

The right card can serve your needs, no matter where you are.

Updated . What changed?

Fact checked

Our pick for international students: Deserve® Edu Card

Deserve® Edu Card logo

1%

Cash back on all purchases

  • No credit score or SSN required
  • Amazon Prime Student subscription
  • No annual fee
Apply now
If you’re studying abroad, it’s important to have the right financial tools. While credit card options for international students are limited, you can find a few excellent starter credit cards. Note that if you’re an American study, you’ll likely need a US Social Security number (SSN) to apply for a card, but this isn’t a requirement for all cards.

We’ve compiled a list of the best cards for international students to help you find the best card for your needs.

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.

Best credit cards for international students

Best credit card for international students without an SSN

Deserve® Edu Card

Deserve® Edu Card logo
Credit recommended (580-850)
Apply now
on Deserve®'s secure site
580
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 1%
Cash back
Other
Welcome offer
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.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 18.74% variable
Balance transfer APR N/A
Welcome offer Amazon Prime Student subscription credit up to $59
Rewards 1% cash back on all purchases

Best credit card for US students abroad

Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students logo
Credit recommended (580-850)
Read review
580
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
1.5x
Points
25,000
Points welcome offer
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 14.99% to 22.99% variable.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 12 billing cycles (then 14.99% to 22.99% variable)
Balance transfer APR 14.99% to 22.99% variable
Welcome offer 25,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
Rewards 1.5x points on all purchases

Best credit card for international students for highest rewards on purchases

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back logo
Credit recommended (580-739)
Read review
580
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 5%
Cash back
Other
Welcome offer
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.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 6 months (then 12.99% to 21.99% variable)
Balance transfer APR 10.99% intro for the first 6 months (then 12.99% to 21.99% variable)
Welcome offer Discover will match cash back at the end of your first card year
Rewards 5% back in rotating categories each activated quarter up to $1,500, then 1% after that and on all other purchases

Best credit card for international students for everyday purchases

Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students

Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students logo
Credit recommended (580-850)
Read review
580
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 3%
Cash back
$200
Welcome offer
This card offers one of the highest cashback rates on everyday purchases in 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.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 15 statement closing dates (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
Balance transfer APR 0% intro for the first 15 billing cycles (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
Welcome offer $200 after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
Rewards 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category, grocery and wholesale club purchases each quarter, then 1%

Best for no fees

Petal® Visa® Credit Card

Petal® Visa® Credit Card logo
Finder Rating: 2.9 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (650-850)
Read review
Rates & fees

650
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 10%
Cash back
n/a
Welcome offer
The Petal® Visa® Credit Card is a simple cashback product with no fees. It doesn't require a credit score, which can be extremely helpful for an international student. However, keep in mind you'll need an offer code to apply. If you don't have one, you can get on the company's waitlist by entering your email on the Petal website.
  • Rewards. Earn 1% cash back at the beginning. This rate can grow to as high as 1.5% cash back as you make on-time monthly payments.
  • No fees. You won't find annual, late payment, foreign transaction or other types of fees.
  • You don't need a credit score. Petal has proprietary methods beyond FICO scores to evaluate your creditworthiness.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 12.99% to 23.99% variable
Balance transfer APR N/A
Welcome offer N/A
Rewards Up to 10% cash back from select merchants, on other purchases earn 1% back, 1.25% after six on-time payments and 1.5% after 12 on-time payments

How to choose the best credit card if you’re an international student

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.

Do I really need a credit card if I’m an international student?

While a credit card can be helpful, you might not even need one. Here’s why you might reconsider:

  • You’re staying for a very short period of time.
    In this case, you could stick with a debit card, which can be much easier to qualify for and manage.
  • You don’t want the hassle of applying for a credit card.
    Some cards, such as the Petal® Visa® Credit Card, require you to obtain an invite code before you can apply. Other issues may ask you for additional documents before you can be approved.
  • You expect your spending to be extremely low.
    In this case, you might stick with simpler options such as cash.

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.

Summary of best picks

Here’s a quick summary of our top international student credit card picks.

Best International Student Card Table

Credit cardAnnual feeRewardsWelcome offerIntro APR
Deserve® Edu CardNoYesYesNo
Bank of America® Travel Rewards for StudentsNoYesYesYes
Discover it® Student Cash BackNoYesYesYes
Bank of America® Cash Rewards for StudentsNoYesYesYes
Petal® Visa® Credit CardNoYesNoNo

Compare international student credit cards

Looking to compare these cards side by side? Select your credit score below and click “Show Cards” to browse and compare your options.

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Deserve® Edu Card
1% cash back on all purchases
18.74% variable
$0
Designed for college students to build credit history and earn rewards.
Jasper Mastercard®
N/A
15.49% variable
$0
Credit card for professionals relocating to America without a US credit history.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students
1.5x points on all purchases
0% intro for the first 12 billing cycles (then 14.99% to 22.99% variable)
$0
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.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students
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 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
$0
Earn $200 after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days from account opening.
Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card
2x points at supermarkets and gas stations for the first $6,000 annually, then 1x after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 7 months (then 14.49% to 24.49% variable)
$0
Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening. All information about this card has been collected independently by Finder.
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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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