10 Credit Card Options for International Students Without an SSN

Updated on April 24, 2024

At a Glance

  • International students generally cannot obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) unless authorized to work in the US. But can can still apply for student credit cards.
  • A few options for credit cards for international students include Deserve Edu, Bank of America Cash and Travel Rewards cards, Citibank, Capital One Journey Student Credit Card, Capital One Platinum Credit Card, Capital One Quicksilver Card, Barclaycard, and American Express.

10 Credit Cards for International Students

The information mentioned above is important to know when considering a credit card. And although not having a social security number seems like the source of all your problems, there are still ways for you to get a credit card without one.

Many major banks offer a credit card for international students, and, depending on the bank, you can apply with your passport or your I-20 form.

Check out the options below!

Bank of America Cash Rewards and Travel Rewards Cards (Best for Versatile Rewards)

The Cash Rewards card offers cash back on various categories, potentially including those that might appeal to students like online shopping or dining. The Travel Rewards card, on the other hand, is good for students who plan to travel, providing points for every dollar spent that can be redeemed for travel expenses.

Bank of America Travel Rewards Card

3.8
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

690

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

8.24%-28.24%

Overview

  • Minimum Credit Score: 690
  • Variable APR: 8.24%-28.24%

Qualifications

  • Good to excellent credit score (typically 690 or higher)
  • Proof of income
  • U.S. Social Security Number
  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • U.S. resident with a valid address

Pros

  • No yearly fee
  • New cardholder bonus offer
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Flexible rewards redemption
  • Intro APR period

Cons

  • Requires a good to excellent credit rating
  • No specific bonus reward categories
  • Optimal rewards exclusive to select clientele

Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard (Best for Average Credit)

This card is tailored towards individuals with average credit, making it accessible to international students who have begun to build credit. It offers points on every purchase, with extra points for certain categories like gas, utilities, and groceries, which can be redeemed for statement credits.

Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard

4.7
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

630

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

30.74%

Overview

  • Minimum Credit Score: 630
  • Variable APR: 30.74%

Qualifications

  • Good to excellent credit score (typically 700 or higher)
  • Proof of income
  • U.S. Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • U.S. resident with a valid address

Pros

  • Eligible for those with average credit
  • Attractive rewards rate
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Higher than average APR

Capital One Journey Student Credit Card (Best for Building Credit)

Designed specifically for students, this card encourages responsible use by increasing the cash back rate when you pay on time. It’s a solid choice for students who are new to credit and want to build their credit history while earning rewards.

Capital One Journey Student Credit Card

4.6
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

630

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

29.99%

Overview

  • Minimum Credit Score: 630
  • Variable APR: 29.99%

Qualifications

  • Limited credit history accepted (designed for students)
  • Must be a current college or university student
  • U.S. Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • U.S. resident with a valid address

Pros

  • No yearly fee
  • Eligible for those with average credit
  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earns rewards

Cons

  • Higher than average APR

Capital One Platinum Credit Card (Best for Fair Credit)

This card is a good match for international students with fair credit scores. It doesn’t offer rewards but comes with no annual fee and has a higher chance of approval for those with limited credit history.

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

3.6
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

630

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

30.74%

Overview

  • Minimum Credit Score: 630
  • Variable APR: 30.74%

Qualifications

  • Fair to good credit score (typically 580 or higher)
  • Proof of income
  • U.S. Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • U.S. resident with a valid address

Pros

  • Eligible for those with average credit
  • No yearly fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Higher than average APR
  • No rewards program

Capital One Quicksilver Card (Best for Good Credit and Cash Back)

For students with good credit, the Quicksilver card offers a simple cash back program with a flat rate on all purchases. This is ideal for those who want rewards without having to track spending categories.

Capital One Quicksilver Card

4.5
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

690

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

19.99%-29.99%

Overview

  • Minimum Credit Score: 690
  • Variable APR: 19.99%-29.99%

Qualifications

  • Good to excellent credit score (typically 690 or higher)
  • Proof of income
  • U.S. Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • U.S. resident with a valid address

Pros

  • No yearly fee
  • Attractive rewards rate
  • Intro APR period
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Requires a good to excellent credit rating
  • No specific bonus reward categories

Citi Rewards+ (Best for Good Credit)

The Citi Rewards+ card rounds up points on every purchase to the nearest ten points, which can be a neat bonus for smaller purchases, making it beneficial for students. Plus, it offers bonus points after spending a certain amount in the first few months, which could be useful for initial expenses.

Citi Rewards+ Credit Card

3.7
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

690

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

14.49%-24.49%

Overview

  • Minimum Credit Score: 690
  • Variable APR: 14.49%-24.49%

Qualifications

  • Good to excellent credit score (typically 690 or higher)
  • Proof of income
  • U.S. Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • U.S. resident with a valid address

Pros

  • No yearly fee

Cons

  • Foreign transaction fee

Deserve Edu Credit Card (Best for Limited Credit History)

Aimed at students, especially those who might not have a Social Security number, this card offers cash back on all purchases and comes with a feature that may cover Amazon Prime Student. It’s a good starter card for international students who haven’t built up credit in the U.S.

Deserve Edu Master Card

4.6
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

630

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

22.99%

Overview

  • Minimum Credit Score: 630
  • Variable APR: 22.99%

Qualifications

  • No credit history required
  • Proof of enrollment in a U.S. college or university
  • U.S. bank account
  • No Social Security Number required for international students
  • Must be 18 years of age or older

Pros

  • No yearly fee
  • Qualify with limited/bad credit
  • Reports to the three major credit bureaus
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Higher than average APR

Open Sky Secured Visa Credit Card (Best for Rebuilding Credit)

This is a secured card, meaning you’ll provide a deposit that serves as your credit line. It’s particularly good for those with no credit history or those who need to rebuild credit. International students can apply without a Social Security number, which is a significant advantage.

OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card

4.4
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

300

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

25.64%

Overview

  • Minimum Credit Score: 300
  • Variable APR: 25.64%

Qualifications

  • No credit check required
  • Must provide a refundable security deposit ($200 minimum)
  • U.S. resident with a valid address
  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Must have a source of income to cover credit obligations

Pros

  • Qualify with limited/bad credit

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Requires minimum deposit
  • No rewards program

Wells Fargo Active Cash Credit Card (Best for High Cash Back)

This card offers a flat cash back rate on purchases, which is one of the highest available. If an international student has a strong credit history and can manage the card responsibly, it’s an excellent way to earn rewards on every purchase.

Wells Fargo Active Cash Credit Card

4.4
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

670

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99%

Overview

  • Minimum Credit Score: 670
  • Variable APR: 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99%

Qualifications

  • Good to excellent credit score (typically 690 or higher)
  • Proof of income
  • U.S. Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • U.S. resident with a valid address

Pros

  • 2% cash rewards on all purchases
  • Introductory APR for purchases/balance transfers
  • No annual fee

Cons

  • 3% fee on foreign transactions
  • Better perks may be available with other cards
  • Lower value for travel rewards redemption

Discover it® Student Chrome (Best for Average Credit)

Specifically designed for students, this card offers cash back on gas and dining, which can be useful for students who commute or prefer eating out. It also matches all cash back earned at the end of the first year, which can be a great bonus for new users.

Discover it Student Chrome Credit Card

4.9
Stilt’s lender ratings reflect the findings and opinions of our editorial staff. Our scoring methodologies consider a wide array of factors and data points for every lender, offering, and financial solution.
Min. credit score

630

Fixed APR

N/A

Variable APR

18.24%-27.24%

Overview

  • Minimum Credit Score: 630
  • Variable APR: 18.24%-27.24%

Qualifications

  • Designed for students with limited credit history
  • Proof of income may be required
  • Must be a college or university student
  • U.S. Social Security Number
  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • U.S. resident with a valid address

Pros

  • No yearly fee
  • Intro APR period
  • Eligible for those with average credit
  • Bonus categories

Cons

  • Complicated rewards

How to Get a Credit Card Without an SSN

One of the main reasons banks ask for your SSN is so they can check up on your credit history. They need to know that they can trust you before they authorize any type of credit. Unfortunately, if you have good credit back home, this foreign credit history can’t be transferred to the U.S., so that is not a viable option.

Luckily, your SSN isn’t the only way they can check up on your credit history. Your credit history is attached to your name, birthday, and address meaning international students can still apply for credit cards.

Credit Cards using ITIN

If you don’t have an SSN, you can apply for an ITIN.

Acquiring an ITIN requires the completion and submission of Form W-7 to the IRS. This process involves providing additional documentation, which includes a certification letter, a photocopy of your identification, evidence of your foreign status, and a copy of Form I-20. All necessary forms and detailed instructions are accessible on the official IRS website.

There are multiple credit card providers who will offer you a credit card with just an ITIN. 

Secured Credit Cards

If you are not able to get an ITIN, you can also get a secured credit card. This will a low limit credit card, generally $300-$1,000. You will need to deposit the same amount for security. As you make credit card payments, you will build credit history. Once you have built enough credit history, you can get the deposit back.

Though it may seem like more of a challenge, it’s a challenge that is important for any student to overcome. Getting a credit card may seem like something simple, but it can be the key to many future problems.

By getting a credit card, you begin to build a relationship with the bank where you show them how responsible you are. This way, if you end up applying for citizenship or residency, having a credit card will help with something like a future loan for a house.

How Do I Build My Credit?

If you manage to get a credit card, you can start building your credit by:

  • Making payments on time
  • Paying your balance in full at the end of each month
  • Keeping balance lower than 30% of your credit card limit
  • Using your card!

Banks can use your personal information to see your credit history, but this doesn’t guarantee your chance of getting a credit card. So in some cases, you might not be able to get the credit card you want.

If you are an international student, this might be harder to prove since you can’t transfer your foreign credit history. But this doesn’t mean all hope is lost. There are still ways you can build your credit before getting a card.

  1. You can start building your credit by opening a debit or savings account here in the U.S. If you already have an account that you trust back home, then look to see if they have a branch here where you can open an account. This could end up being very useful to you anyways; making it simpler to pay things while you are in the U.S.
  2. When you open a checkings and savings account together, you can show that you have healthy spending habits by transferring a monthly amount to your savings and paying everything, such as your utility bills on time.
  3. If your credit history isn’t enough to get you a credit card, you can get something called a secured credit card to help you build the credit while learning how a credit card would work. Secured credit cards require a deposit, usually starting at $200.

How Secured Credit Cards Work:

The money you deposit in a secured credit card doubles as the credit you owe on the secured card. Secured credit cards protect the issuer in the event you can not make a payment. This is a great option and can also help international students start out building their credit. The secured credit card serves as a practice credit card and since the balance is much lower, it is safer.

You can apply for a loan. Student loans are easier to get as a student, especially if you don’t have a credit history to back you up. When you get the loan, make sure to pay everything on time. This way, you can start showing how responsible you are with debts.

Getting a Loan Without a Cosigner

If you need to take out a loan but don’t have a credit history, many banks offer you the opportunity of getting a loan with a cosigner. This can seem great, but it’s a very large responsibility to leave your co-signer with since they are affected by any mistakes you make.

Try to get a loan without a cosigner. Though many banks would rather you sign with a cosigner, getting a loan without a cosigner is possible. There are some tricks you can follow such as borrowing less money and showing you have a good enough income to pay it back.

Although you might be an international student, there are still plenty of opportunities to get a loan when you don’t have a credit history.

Build Your Credit First to Get Your Credit Card

Building credit takes time and unfortunately, not everyone has that luxury.

Finding someone to loan you money is only a temporary solution which should encourage you to apply for credit cards in the future. Building your credit history is very important so don’t let a challenge like not having an SSN stop you from growing your credit history.

Lastly, building credit history is necessary, especially if you are planning on creating a life after college in the United States. Let us know what your concerns are and what has worked for you in the past so we can continue to help international students build a better life.

Read More

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can international students in the U.S. get a credit card without an SSN?

Yes, international students in the U.S. can get a credit card without an SSN. Many credit card issuers offer options specifically designed for international students who do not have an SSN.

What are the credit card options for international students without an SSN?

Here are 10 credit card options for international students without an SSN:

  1. Deserve Edu Mastercard: Designed for students, this card doesn’t require an SSN and offers cashback rewards.
  2. Bank of America Cash Rewards for Students: Available to students, this card may accept an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) instead of an SSN.
  3. Journey Student Rewards from Capital One: This card is designed for students and accepts ITINs.
  4. Citi Rewards+ Student Card: Citi may accept ITINs for this student credit card.
  5. Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card: Designed for students, it may accept ITINs and offers cashback rewards.
  6. Discover it Student Cash Back: This card is open to students and may accept ITINs. It offers cashback rewards and a bonus for good grades.
  7. Capital One Secured Mastercard: A secured card that can be a good option for those with limited credit history. It may accept ITINs.
  8. State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) Savings-Secured Visa Platinum Card: This secured card doesn’t require an SSN and is available to SDFCU members.
  9. First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard® Secured Credit Card: A secured card that may accept ITINs.
  10. OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card: A secured card that does not require a credit check or an SSN.

What are the eligibility requirements for these credit cards?

Eligibility requirements may vary by issuer and card type, but generally, you will need to be an international student with a valid U.S. mailing address, a passport, and a source of income, such as a part-time job or financial support from family. Some cards may accept ITINs in place of an SSN.

Are there any fees associated with these credit cards?

Credit cards may have annual fees, foreign transaction fees, and late payment fees. It’s essential to read the card’s terms and conditions to understand the fees associated with each card.

How can international students apply for these credit cards?

You can apply for these credit cards online through the respective issuer’s website. The application process typically involves providing personal information, such as your name, address, date of birth, and income details. Some issuers may require proof of enrollment at a U.S. educational institution.

What are the benefits of having a credit card as an international student?

Having a credit card can provide several benefits for international students, including:

  • Building a credit history in the U.S., which can be helpful for future financial endeavors.
  • Convenience for making purchases and paying bills.
  • Emergency funds in case of unexpected expenses.
  • Some credit cards offer rewards, like cashback or travel miles, which can provide additional value.

Are there any tips for responsible credit card usage for international students?

To use a credit card responsibly:

  • Pay your bills on time to avoid late fees and negative impacts on your credit score.
  • Keep your credit utilization low by not using too much of your available credit.
  • Monitor your credit card statements for any unauthorized charges.
  • Use your credit card for necessary expenses and avoid overspending.
  • Make at least the minimum payment each month to maintain a positive credit history.
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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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