Credit Cards for Foreign Students and Immigrants

Best Credit Cards for Foreign Students and Immigrants in 2018

Are you a foreign student or immigrant living in the U.S.? Are you planning on staying in the U.S.? If you’ve answered “yes” to either of these questions and you’re finding it difficult to qualify for a credit card, you’re not alone. We have rounded up the best credit cards for foreign students and immigrants to help you with your search.

As if qualifying for a credit card isn’t challenging enough, it can be even more challenging finding the right one. The good news is that there are a number of options designed specifically to accommodate your needs as a foreign student or immigrant. You just need to know what to look for.

These options include unsecured and secured credit cards that are open to people without a Social Security number. Some of the top credit cards for foreign students and immigrants also offer generous signup bonuses and rewards programs.

The problem is that these options could be tough to find. That’s why we found them for you.

The credit card for foreign students: Deserve Classic Mastercard

Annual fee: $0
Sign-up bonus: none
Rewards: Earn 1% cash back on all purchases


  • 1% cash back on all purchases
  • No foreign-transaction fee
  • No deposit required
  • 0% purchase APR for 6 months
  • No annual fee
  • High credit limits (up to $5,000)
  • First late-payment fee waived
  • Access to Mastercard Platinum benefits
  • Social Security number not required


  • High APR after the introductory period
  • Low cash-back earning potential

All in all, the Deserve Classic Mastercard could be an ideal credit card for foreign students who don’t have a Social Security number, but want an unsecured credit card that lets them earn cash back while building credit. It’s also a great option if you often travel back home, because no foreign-transaction fee applies.

The best option for dining and entertainment: Citi ThankYou Preferred (for international students)

Annual fee: $0
Sign-up bonus: earn 2,500 bonus points when you spend $500 within the first three months of becoming a cardholder
Rewards: Earn two points for every dollar spent on dining and entertainment, and earn one point for every dollar spent on all other purchases (points are worth 0.5 and 1 cent when redeemed for cash back and travel, respectively)


  • 0% purchase APR for seven months
  • Flexible due-date options
  • No annual fee
  • Generous rewards program
  • Unlimited earning potential
  • Travel and purchase protections
  • Social security number not required


  • Penalty APR (29.99%)
  • Foreign-transaction fee (3%)
  • May not be ideal for students who don’t go out often

All in all, the Citi ThankYou Preferred card could be a good option for you if you enjoy going out, because it allows you to earn a generous amount of points on dining and entertainment purchases. Even if you don’t go out that often, this card may still be a good option for you, as it doesn’t require a Social Security number to qualify.  This is one of the better credit cards for foreign students.

Best secured option: Discover it Secured Card

Annual fee: $0
Sign-up bonus: 100% cash-back match at the end of the first year
Rewards: Earn 2% cash back for every dollar spent at restaurants and gas stations, and earn 1% cash back for every dollar spent on all other purchases (limited to $1,000 each quarter)


  • No annual fee
  • No penalty APR
  • Generous cash-back rewards
  • First late-payment fee waived
  • U.S.-based customer serviced
  • Enhanced security features
  • Convertible to an unsecured card with responsible use
  • Free FICO score online and on statements


  • Social Security number required
  • Cash back limited to $1,000 per quarter
  • Minimum deposit requirement ($200)
  • May not be ideal for those who don’t dine out or drive often

All in all, the Discover it Secured card could be a good credit card for foreign students or immigrants that have a Social Security number and want to earn cash back on dining and gas purchases. It is also a viable option for those who can’t get approved for an unsecured card.

The best option if you want a lower security deposit: Capital One Secured

Annual fee: $0
Sign-up bonus: None
Rewards: None


  • No annual fee
  • Automatically receive a credit limit increase when you make the first five payments on time
  • Access to Platinum Mastercard benefits
  • Zero fraud liability
  • Flexible due-date options
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No penalty APR


  • Social Security number required
  • Minimum deposit required ($49, $99 or $200)

All in all, the Capital One Secured card could be ideal if you’re a foreign student or immigrant looking for a straightforward secured credit card with which you can begin building credit.

If you can’t get approved, you have another option

If you can’t get approved, you can consider becoming an authorized user on someone else’s card. To do this, you’ll need to provide your name, date of birth and address. The credit card issuer does not need your Social Security number. Assuming the primary cardholder uses the card responsibly, you can start building credit right away.

There are a number of benefits that come with building credit. For example, you’ll save on financing when it’s time to buy a car, home or if you need to take out a loan. You may also be able to rent an apartment without a cosigner and qualify for lower insurance premiums. To receive these benefits for yourself, discover if you qualify for any of these credit cards today.