The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Wednesday, October 5, 2022

11 Best “Study Abroad” Credit Cards for Students

Best Study Abroad Credit Cards

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer

Written by: Brittney Mayer

Brittney Mayer

Brittney is a Credit Strategist and Finance Expert who has spent years honing her knowledge of the credit industry both personally and professionally. Brittney applies her more than a decade of research experience to crafting in-depth consumer guides designed to help CardRates readers make better, more informed financial decisions.

Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Florida. Today, she edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Reviewed by: Ashley Dull

Ashley Dull

With more than a decade of experience as a content manager and marketer, Ashley has specialized in finance coverage since 2015. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media campaigns. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among others.

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Advertiser Disclosure

Perhaps one of the most exciting opportunities open to college students is the chance to study abroad and immerse yourself in a brand new culture.

Of course, as exciting as it may be, living in a foreign place — even temporarily — comes with its own challenges, not the least of which is navigating new currencies and payment methods. Luckily, a good credit card can solve both of those problems.

The best travel credit cards can help you make purchases without worries of local currency conversions or unfamiliar cash and coins, and pricey foreign transaction fees. Let’s take a look at some of the best study abroad credit cards on the market today, including cards with no foreign transaction fees, chip & PIN cards, cards with dining rewards, and cards for those with little or no credit history.

No Foreign Transaction Fees | Chip & PIN | Dining | Poor Credit

Best “No Foreign Transaction Fee” Student Credit Cards

The very first thing to look at when considering a student credit card to use while studying abroad is whether the card charges foreign transaction fees. These fees are charged any time the banks or networks need to convert currency, and they can range from 3% to 5% of every transaction.

The simplest way to avoid foreign transaction fees is to choose a card that doesn’t charge them at all. And that’s not a hard task, given that some of the best student credit cards come without foreign transaction fees (or annual fees, for that matter).

Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 15.99% - 24.99% applies.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
15.99% - 24.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

The Discover it® Student chrome is a good option for making purchases abroad — and not just for its lack of hefty fees like some other cards carry. You’ll also earn cash back on every purchase, including at gas stations and restaurants, making it more affordable to explore your destination.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 15.99% - 24.99% applies.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
15.99% - 24.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

If you want a little more bang for your buck, the Discover it® Student Cash Back offers quarterly rotating bonus categories that allow you to earn bonus cash back each activated quarter. This is a great way to earn more rewards at places many consumers shop frequently.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

4.2/5.0
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's misplaced, lost or stolen
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
28.49% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is a straightforward unlimited cash back card with no categories to track, offering a simple 1% cash back on every purchase — which jumps up to 1.25% cash back when you pay your card’s bill on time each month.

Best “Chip & PIN” Credit Cards for Those Studying Abroad in Europe

While your favorite chip-enabled credit card will work in many locations abroad, you may have the occasional hiccup, especially when trying to use unmanned terminals and kiosks in Europe. That’s because Europe uses PIN-based verification, rather than the signature verification commonly used here in the US.

To ensure you can use your card without issue while studying abroad in Europe, you can choose a PIN-capable credit card. There are a number of US credit cards that have the ability to use PIN verification, including several that charge no foreign transaction fees.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 25,000 bonus points ($250 value) if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere
  • No blackout dates or restrictions apply, and points never expire
  • 0% introductory APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 18 billing cycles, then a variable APR applies
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 Annual Fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 billing cycles
0% for 18 billing cycles
16.24% - 26.24% Variable
$0
None/Limited

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students is a PIN-enabled card with no annual fee, plus it charges no foreign transaction fees.

You can request your four-digit PIN by logging into your online Bank of America account, through the mobile app, or by calling the customer service number on the back of your Visa credit card.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's misplaced, lost or stolen
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

The Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card is one of the best travel companions an international student could hope for. You can call and request a PIN to use for purchases, it charges no foreign transaction fees, and pay flat-rate cash back on every purchase you make.

It also has several protection features to keep your account secure while abroad. One knock against this card is its high purchase APR relative to other student cards, but the APR can be avoided by paying your balance in full each month.

Best “Dining Rewards” Cards to Use Abroad

Although every destination has its own sights and attractions, few things can compare with the ability to experience new foods and drinks as we travel.

To make the most of your foodie adventures, consider taking along a credit card that offers bonus rewards for your restaurant purchases. With the right cash back or points card, you can save on every culinary curiosity and perhaps make a little extra room in the budget for a second helping.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), with 1% on all other purchases
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's misplaced, lost or stolen
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

The Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card offers generous cash back rewards on dining purchases with no foreign transaction fees to negate the rewards you earn.

If your card is lost or stolen, you can lock your card in the Capital One mobile app to prevent fraudulent purchases. And if they do occur, you’ll never be held liable for unauthorized charges.

Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 15.99% - 24.99% applies.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
15.99% - 24.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

You’ll earn cash back rewards on every purchase with this card, with an elevated cash-back rate for dining purchases, making this a great choice if you’re looking to earn while you eat.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

While not for the credit card novice, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a solid card for any trip abroad, offering 3X Ultimate Rewards points on dining purchases. Points can be redeemed at a solid rate for more travel to help you get out and explore.

Best “Poor/Limited Credit” Cards to Use Abroad

While it’s all well and good to look for a credit card with great rewards and low fees, the primary thing on your mind as a college student with a poor credit history may just be getting accepted.

But that may not be the challenge you fear. Many credit card issuers offer cards specifically designed to help students build their credit while offering the purchase rewards and low fees you want out of your card.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Building your credit? Using the Capital One Platinum Secured card responsibly could help
  • Put down a refundable security deposit starting at $49 to get a $200 initial credit line
  • You could earn back your security deposit as a statement credit when you use your card responsibly, like making payments on time
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
28.49% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad

The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card doesn’t offer rewards, but you can get this card with as little as $49 down, even with bad credit. There’s no annual fee, and you can have your deposit refunded when you consistently make your monthly payment on time.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • No credit score required to apply.
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200. That means a $200 deposit for a $200 credit line. Or a $500 deposit for a $500 credit line. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit, and the security deposit equals your credit limit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 7 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • NEW! Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. Activate by mobile app for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
25.99% Variable APR
$0
New/Rebuilding

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is a solid choice for rebuilding or establishing your credit. You may be able to transition to an unsecured Discover card in as few as seven months. The card’s lack of an annual fee or foreign transaction fees also makes it a good addition to your study abroad supplies.

Deserve® EDU Mastercard Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★
4.4

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases + Amazon Prime Student on us for 1 year
  • Cash back earned is automatically redeemed as a statement credit in $25 increments
  • Cellphone protection up to $600
  • Prequalify in just seconds with no impact on your credit score
  • Collision Damage Waiver through Mastercard
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
20.24% (variable)
$0
None/Limited

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard is specifically designed for students who need to build their credit. The card offers 1% cash back on all purchases, and a credit limit of up to $5,000, depending on your creditworthiness.

You can take the Deserve Edu Mastercard® on the road and abroad, all without worrying about paying foreign transaction fees on your purchases. The card also comes with fraud protection for extra peace of mind.

Immerse Yourself in Local Culture with the Right Card

Studying abroad is one of the greatest perks of being a college student, not only offering the chance to explore a new culture — but to get college credit for it, too.

And while immersing yourself in a foreign land can have its challenges, being prepared is more than half the battle. Taking along the right credit card, for instance, can help you avoid the hassle of local currency conversions or payment method problems.

Before traveling with your new card, be sure to contact your credit card company to make it known that you plan to travel abroad with your card. This will help prevent your foreign purchases from being flagged as fraud and your card being frozen at an inopportune time.

Also, don’t let your adventure abroad cause financial trouble when you get home. Always make all of your necessary credit card payments on time — keeping time zone differences in mind — so you aren’t welcomed by expensive late fees or, worse, credit damage, when you get back.

Additionally, be sure to keep track of your budget as you go. While you may not have to make currency conversions yourself as you pay with hard money, you should still always be aware of how much you’re spending to avoid any painful surprises when your card bill arrives and you see your total in American dollars.

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