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Great credit cards for international students
Looking to build credit as an international student in America? A credit card designed for students might just be the answer.
Figuring out which is the best credit card for international students in the US can be tricky. To help, we compared student credit cards and found several picks that could be the best credit cards for international students:
Our featured American Express Card for Students from Canada, the UK, India, Mexico and Australia: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Our featured card for Rewards in the United States: Discover it® Student Cash Back
Our featured card for Frequent Travelers: Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Our featured card for Everyday Purchases: Citi Rewards+SM Student Card
Our featured card for Motivating On-Time Payments: Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
A great American Express credit card for international students from Australia, Canada, India, Mexico and the UK
American Express doesn’t have a student-specific card, but it does offer a rewards card without an annual fee, which could be interesting to students. Before, it was virtually impossible for students to obtain an American Express card. However, students with existing financial history from abroad may be eligible for an American Express card.
Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
No Annual Fee.
Balance Transfer is back! Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from the date of account opening. After that, 18.74% to 29.74% variable APR.
3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%.
3% Cash Back on U.S. online retail purchases, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.
3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%.
Get $7 back each month after using your Blue Cash Everyday Card to spend $12.99 or more each month on an eligible subscription to The Disney Bundle, which includes Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. Enrollment required.
Amex doesn’t include warehouse stores, specialty markets, or superstores in the U.S. supermarkets category. You’ll only earn 1% cash back on purchases at these stores.
There’s a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, which may make this a problem credit card for international students.
Depending on how you’ll use your credit card, you may be able to earn more rewards with other cards that have an annual fee.
Important Note: On the American Express application page, you will have the option to click "I don't have credit history in the U.S." in the Social Security Number (SSN) field on the application page. When clicking this, you may be able to qualify for the card using your credit history from Canada, the UK, Australia, India or Mexico. No need to have built U.S. credit to apply!
Our featured pick for best credit card for international students with rewards in the United States: Discover it® Student Cash Back
One of the top international student cards in the US, the Discover it® Student Cash Back card offers a variety of rewards, including for good grades, without many fees. However, Discover requires an SSN from international student credit card applicants.
No annual fee or foreign transaction fee.
Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined quarterly purchases at a changing list of merchants each quarter. Earn 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
Discover doubles your cash back earnings at the end of your first year as a new cardmember.
Get an annual $20 statement credit if your grade point average (GPA) is at least a 3.0.
Reports your payments to all three major US credit bureaus.
You need an SSN to apply.
Discover isn’t as widely accepted as Visa, Mastercard, or American Express.
Put your foreign credit score to work in the United States
Check if you're eligible to use your foreign credit history to apply for a U.S. credit card, even without an SSN.
Our featured pick for best credit card for international students who are frequent travelers: Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students offers a large intro points bonus, good flat-rate rewards on every purchase, and extra rewards for Bank of America customers who have a checking or savings account. You can apply for Bank of America credit cards and bank accounts using an ITIN or your passport by visiting a bank branch or calling customer service.
No annual fee or foreign transaction fee.
Earn 1.5 points per dollar. Receive a 10% points bonus if you have a Bank of America checking or savings account.
Receive a 25,000-point intro bonus offer (worth $250 in travel statement credits) if you make $1,000 worth of purchases within 90 days of your account opening.
Redeem points to receive a statement credit for travel purchases starting at 2,500 points for a $25 statement credit.
These things make this one of the best credit cards for international students who will be frequently traveling.
While you can redeem points for cash rewards, you get at a lower rate of .6 cents per point rather than 1 cent per point for travel statement credits. You can also redeem points for gift cards, but there isn’t a predetermined rate.
You might earn more rewards with a different card, especially if you don’t want to open a Bank of America account.
Our featured pick for best credit card for international students for everyday purchases: Citi Rewards+SM Student Card
If you expect to use your new international student credit card for everyday purchases, the Citi Rewards+SM Student Card’s rewards program could be especially appealing. The points you receive from purchases get rounded up to the nearest 10 points. For example, a $2 coffee gives you 10 points, while an $11 lunch turns into 20 points. You may be able to apply for using an ITIN or passport at a Citi branch.
No annual fee.
Earn 2 points per dollar on the first $6,000 in purchases each year at supermarkets and gas stations. Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Points on purchases get rounded up to the nearest 10 points. Additionally, get 10% of your points back on the first 100,000 points you redeem each year.
There’s currently an intro offer for new cardmembers to earn 2,500 bonus points if you make $500 worth of purchases within your first three months.
Redeem points for gift cards, travel, or when shopping on Amazon.com or BestBuy.com at a rate of up to 1 cent per point.
Has a 3% foreign transaction fee.
Points may be worth less than 1 cent each if you don’t redeem them for gift cards.
Our featured pick as best credit card for international students at motivating on-time payments: Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® offers cash back rewards to cardholders, and incentivizes international student credit cardholders to make on-time payments with an offer of extra cash back. You can apply using an ITIN or SSN.
No annual fee or foreign transaction fee.
Earn 1% cash back on all purchases. Or, earn 1.25% cash back on all purchases during months when you make the monthly payment by the due date.
Potential credit line increase after five on-time monthly payments.
High annual percentage rate (APR). Even if you make on-time payments, you may wind up paying high interest charges if you don’t pay your bill in full each month.
There’s still a late payment fee of up to $39.
Additional features to consider
As you compare credit cards for international students, also review the cardholder benefits from the card issuer (e.g. Bank of America, Citi, and Capital One) and card network (e.g., Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover).
The benefits can vary depending on the credit card, even when you’re comparing two cards from the same card issuer or that are part of the same network, but they may include:
Extended warranties on purchases you make with the card
Cell phone insurance if you pay your monthly phone bill with the card
Zero liability on unauthorized purchases
Free access to your US FICO credit score
Travel accident insurance
Additionally, some international student credit cards offer a 0% intro APR on purchases. When you open a card with a 0% purchase APR offer, your purchases won’t accrue interest during the intro period as long as you make at least the minimum monthly payments. After the end of the introductory period, the standard APR will apply to your card’s balance and any additional purchases.
While the intro APR feature might save you money if you have to make a large purchase now and pay it off over time, it’s best to get in the habit of paying your credit card bill in full each month. This type of responsible use can save you money on interest and help you establish a positive credit history.
Having trouble getting approved? Try a secured card instead
Student credit cards are designed for college students, and credit card companies realize that students might not have a long credit history, high credit score, or large income. In some cases, a student credit card will be the cardholder's first credit card and, like international students, the applicant might not have any credit history.
However, card issuers will often still try to pull an applicant’s credit report and might not approve an application from someone who doesn’t have good credit or shows other signs of poor creditworthiness, such as a low income compared to their monthly bills. If you have a credit score abroad, Nova Credit can help you qualify for the best credit cards for international students that are available to you.
If you’ve tried to get a student card as an international student and were denied, you might want to consider a secured credit card instead.
Credit card issuers create secured credit cards for international students who are rebuilding their credit or have no credit history. With a secured credit card, you’ll need to send the issuer a refundable security deposit, which will generally determine your card’s credit limit. A larger security deposit can lead to a higher credit line, but you can find options that allow you to get started with a $49 to $199 deposit.
Secured cards work like unsecured cards and paying your bills on time can help you build credit. Depending on the issuer, you might receive a credit limit increase or get your security deposit back after you show consistent, responsible use. Otherwise, you’ll get the money back when you close your account, assuming it’s in good standing and you don't have an outstanding balance.
If you’re studying in the United States, you probably have plenty of reasons for wanting a credit card. A credit card can be a convenient and safe way to make purchases online and it can give you access to extra funds if you’re in an emergency situation and need money. Additionally, having a credit card can help you establish and build credit in the US, which could be important if you plan on staying in the US after your studies or might want to return later.
Apply for U.S. credit cards with confidence
Access your free international credit report to see which U.S. credit cards you could already be eligible for. No SSN required.
More from Nova Credit:
How to use your international credit report to get credit in the U.S.