Editorial Review

Deserve Edu Review: A Credit Steppingstone for Students

Students without a credit history, as well as international students without a Social Security number, have an option without a security deposit.

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  • Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

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Our Take


NerdWallet rating

The Bottom Line: A great option if you can't get a card through conventional means. However, if you can qualify for a "regular" student card, there are more rewarding alternatives.

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

on Deserve's secure website

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

Annual Fee
Regular APR
20.74% Variable
Intro APR

Quick Facts

Annual Fee
Regular APR
20.74% Variable
Intro APR

Pros & Cons

  • Qualify with limited credit
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • High APR

recommended credit score

Alternate Pick: No credit check

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

An option if you have bad credit

If your credit is considered bad, rather than thin or nonexistent, start rebuilding it with this card, which removes two of the biggest obstacles to getting a credit card: There's no credit check, and you don't need a bank account. There is an annual fee, though — $35 — and you must provide a deposit of at least $200. Your credit limit matches your deposit.

Read our review

Full Review

If you’re a student and you lack a credit history, credit card issuers might be unlikely to approve you without a security deposit. If you’re an international student, getting a credit card can be even harder because you may lack the Social Security number that a credit card application typically requires.

The Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students offers a gateway to credit for some applicants by removing the credit history and security deposit requirements for all students. For international students, it also waives the Social Security number requirement.

Along with eliminating these roadblocks, the card also offers cash back and other incentives, a rare option for people without a credit history.

Nerd tip: If you’re a working professional, you might be interested in a different credit card from this issuer: the Deserve® Pro Mastercard. Visit our review of that credit card for more information.

» MORE: Alternative lenders offer credit cards for newcomers to U.S.

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students: Basics and benefits

The Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students launched in October 2017 as part of the issuer’s rebranding, replacing the SelfScore Achieve credit card. The new card offers many of the same benefits, but it’s available to all students. The SelfScore Achieve card initially was available only to international students and students at certain schools.

Although Deserve removes some obstacles to credit for many students, by law all applicants under 21 must prove they can pay their bill on their own. Like many other issuers, Deserve doesn’t allow co-signers. Details:

  • Annual fee: $0.
  • Rewards: Unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases.
  • Interest rate: The ongoing APR is 20.74% Variable.
  • Foreign transaction fees: None.
  • Credit limit: Up to $5,000. Individual cardholders’ limits are determined during underwriting.
  • Other benefits: 
    • The card reports to two credit bureaus, TransUnion and Experian, which helps you build credit.
    • Statement credit for a 12-month Amazon Prime Student subscription. Enjoy free two-day shipping, access to Prime movies and TV, and more. New subscribers already can get a six-month free trial, and Deserve covers an additional 12 months in the form of a $49.99 statement credit when you use the card to buy the subscription. Your account must be in good standing to get reimbursed.
    • Referral bonuses. Get $30 in statement credit every time you refer a friend who qualifies for the card. Your friend also gets $30 for joining. There’s no limit to the number of friends you can refer. You also get a $200 bonus for every 10th referral.
    • First late fee waived.
    • Mastercard Platinum benefits. These include price protection, extended warranty coverage, travel assistance and car rental collision waivers.

Why you might want the Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

You can apply with no credit history

If you have a credit report, Deserve will screen it for delinquencies or other negative marks. But if you don’t have a credit history, Deserve uses its own underwriting process to evaluate your application. The company relies on applicants’ financial documents and a proprietary algorithm to measure credit potential. It evaluates your school, your major and your likelihood to graduate and get a job. The issuer also looks at U.S. bank account balances to determine your ability to pay. Your contact information — physical address, email address and phone number — is also a factor. Deserve looks at how that information has changed over the years to determine whether it can reach you easily.

Social Security number not always required

International students don’t need a Social Security number to apply, but they will have to provide a student visa, passport ID and school documents such as an I-20 form or DS 2019. Domestic students generally have a Social Security number, and they will have to include it in their applications.

You earn rewards

A cash-back rate of 1% is low compared with a lot of cards, but it’s generous for someone with no credit history. Once your cash-back total reaches $25, it’s redeemed automatically for statement credit if your account is in good standing. Rewards won’t expire as long as your card is active.

the card keeps Fees in check

The annual fee is $0, and you won’t pay foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad. That’s extra money to put toward late-night food and coffee during midterms or finals. The first late fee is waived, saving you $25 if you slip up while you’re getting the hang of this credit thing. The card also doesn’t require an upfront security deposit for collateral.

Why you might want another card

The Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students can be an appealing choice for certain applicants, but there are a couple of drawbacks to consider:

  • No cash advances. Not having access to cash advances will save you money in fees and interest, which often run high for cash advances. If you’re low on cash, though, it’s an option you might miss. This can be the case especially for international students without U.S. bank accounts.
  • You might qualify for a better option. While the Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students is an excellent starter card for people with no credit history, you might qualify for a traditional student credit card if you have at least some established credit, income and a Social Security number. In that case, you might find better options.

For those who qualify for a regular student card, these options offer standout features:


The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students offers an introductory annual percentage rate of 0% on Purchases for 7 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.49% - 26.49% Variable APR. The card earns 2 ThankYou points per $1 spent on dining at restaurants and entertainment, and 1 ThankYou point per $1 spent on everything else. It has a $0 annual fee and offers a modest sign-up bonus: Earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening (This offer is no longer available on our site).


The Discover it® Student Cash Back offers 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, and 1% on all other spending. There’s an introductory APR period: 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.   At the end of the first year, Discover matches all cash back earned dollar for dollar. You can also earn a good grades reward: a $20 statement credit every school year that your grade point average is 3.0 or higher, for up to five years. However, Discover’s limited acceptance abroad might be a deal breaker.

These student credit cards will require a traditional credit check. If you have bad credit or no credit, you may find it hard to get approved. Secured credit cards may also be an option, but unlike the Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students, those cards will require a security deposit.

Is the Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students right for you?

If you’re a student looking to establish credit, the Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students may clear some obstacles from your path while also earning you cash-back rewards, a rare opportunity when you have no credit record. Just try to avoid carrying ongoing balances so interest charges don’t pile up, and make all of your payments on time.

After graduation, you can continue using the card and possibly get upgraded to the Deserve® Pro Mastercard.  credit card, which offers more rewards. You’ll also get to preserve the length of your credit history, an important factor in your credit history.