Deserve Edu Review: A Credit Steppingstone for Students

Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases with no annual fee. Students can qualify with no credit history. A Social Security number isn't required for international students.

Melissa LambarenaApril 27, 2018

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Our Take


NerdWallet rating 

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.

Best Credit Card for International Students

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

on Deserve's website

Annual Fee


Regular APR

18.74% Variable

Intro APR


Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons


  • Qualify with limited credit

  • No annual fee

  • No foreign transaction fee

  • Earns rewards


  • High APR

  • 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

Annual Fee


Annual Fee


Annual Fee


Regular APR

18.74% Variable

Regular APR

12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR


Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

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.

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

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 startup company 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 18.74% Variable.

  • Foreign transaction fees: None.

  • Credit limit: Up to $5,000. Individual cardholders' limits are determined during underwriting.

  • Other benefits: 

    • Reports to three credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax 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 after you spend $500 in the first three billing cycles.

    • 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. Deserve reports to all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These companies compile the information used to calculate your 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

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.

Decent 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.

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.

Low cost

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

A Potentially higher credit limit

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students offers a potentially generous credit limit if you can qualify for it, but you might be able to do better with the $0-annual-fee Petal 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card. It offers a credit limit of up to $10,000 for those that are eligible and it also reports to all three credit bureaus. You'll have to be a U.S. resident with a valid Social Security number or an individual taxpayer identification number to qualify for the card. Beyond that, you don’t have to be a student or have a credit history to be eligible. The company weighs income, savings and spending to evaluate creditworthiness.


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% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR 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.


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