The bottom line: A top-notch card for international students and a strong option for students with no credit history. If you have a Social Security number, though, other student cards offer richer rewards.
- No SSN required for International students.
- Available to students (enrollment verification is required).
- Amazon Prime Student on us (get reimbursed for subscription fees up to a lifetime total of $59).
Pros & Cons
Qualify with limited credit
No annual fee
No foreign transaction fee
If you have at least some credit history, better options may exist
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
Compare to Other Cards
14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR
12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR
0% on Purchases for 7 months
0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
For college students — and especially for international students — the $0-annual-fee Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is an excellent starter credit card.
Because of Deserve's alternative underwriting standards, it's possible to qualify for the card with no credit history. And international students can qualify without a Social Security number, which often isn't possible with traditional credit cards. There's also no security deposit requirement. The card further stands out with incentives like cash back and perks, rare benefits among cards for people without a credit history.
Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students: Basics and benefits
The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is different from other credit cards in that it relies on applicants' financial documents and a proprietary algorithm to measure credit potential. 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.
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:
Card type: College student.
Annual fee: $0.
Rewards: Unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases.
Interest rate: The ongoing APR is 20.24% Variable.
Foreign transaction fees: None.
Credit limit: Up to $5,000. Individual cardholders' limits are determined during underwriting.
Reports to two credit bureaus, TransUnion and Experian. Paying the card on time and borrowing responsibly could help you build your 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 Prime subscribers can already get a six-month free trial, and Deserve covers an additional 12 months up to $59 in the form of statement credit when you use the card to buy the subscription. Your account must be in good standing to get reimbursed.
First late fee waived.
Mastercard Platinum benefits. These include cell phone protection insurance and car rental collision waivers.
Nerd tip: Unlike other credit cards, this card doesn't offer cash advances. That means you can't use it to make cash withdrawals from ATMs. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though; cash advances generally come with high fees and high APRs. If you need a card that makes it easier to access cash when you're not near a bank branch, consider a debit card or prepaid card.
Why you might want the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students
no credit history Required
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. Among those factors reviewed are your U.S. bank account. You’ll have to link your bank account in order for it to verify your address and ability to pay.
Because a credit history isn't required, this could be a good card to get when you're building credit from scratch. While Deserve doesn't report to all three major credit bureaus — it reports to only Experian and TransUnion — it does help you establish credit reports with both those two bureaus, which can be used to generate credit scores. You can check your free credit report from NerdWallet at any time. You can also pull your credit report directly from each major credit bureau for free once every 12 months through the federally authorized site AnnualCreditReport.com.
International students don't need a Social Security Number
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.
If you apply without a Social Security number, you can still use this card to build credit — but you may have to complete a few more steps to get your credit report. For example, a credit bureau may ask you to submit a written request for your report and verify your identity with certain documents. If you get a Social Security number after applying for the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students, you can call Deserve to notify it and eventually skip the extra paperwork.
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.
After graduating from college, you can continue using the card and possibly get upgraded to the Deserve® Pro Mastercard credit card, which offers more rewards. Upgrading to another card — instead of closing the account — also preserves the length of your credit history, an important factor in your credit score.
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 up to $25 if you slip up while you’re getting the hang of this credit thing. And unlike secured credit cards, it doesn't require an upfront security deposit for collateral.
Why you might want a different card
Doesn't Report to all three credit bureaus
The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students reports to only two of the three major credit bureaus that record the information used to calculate your credit scores. It doesn't report to Equifax. Since you generally don't know what bureau a lender will check when you apply for credit, having your payment history reported to all three credit bureaus is a good way to cover your bases.
Many cards — including all the other cards mentioned in this review — report to the three major credit bureaus, but most don’t offer the same accessibility to credit that you’ll get with the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students. The $0-annual-fee Petal® Visa® Credit Card comes close, and it reports to all three credit bureaus. You have to be a U.S. resident with a valid Social Security number or an individual taxpayer identification number to qualify. Beyond that, you don’t have to be a student or have a credit history to be eligible. The issuer weighs income, savings and spending to evaluate creditworthiness.
No 0% APR PERIOD
Unlike the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students, the Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card offers an introductory annual percentage rate of 0% on Purchases for 7 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR. The card earns 2 ThankYou points per $1 spent at supermarkets and gas stations (for the first $6,000 spent per year) and 1 ThankYou point per $1 spent on everything else.
Rewards are rounded up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase. So if you buy a $3 college-ruled notebook, you get 10 points instead of 3. It has a $0 annual fee and offers a modest sign-up bonus: Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com. You’ll need a credit history and Social Security number to apply for this card online. Otherwise, you can apply at a Citi branch.
The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students offers solid rewards — but they're not as generous as those on the Discover it® Student Cash Back.
This card 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 12.99% - 21.99% 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. Also, you will need a Social Security number to be eligible for this card.
The Discover it® Student Cash Back will require a traditional credit check, and if you have bad credit, you may find it hard to get approved. But it's possible to qualify for the card with no credit.
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.
on Deserve's website
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