12 Best “Study Abroad” Credit Cards for Students in 2018

12 Best “Study Abroad” Credit Cards for Students in 2018

credit card advice

Brittney Mayer
By: Brittney Mayer
Updated: July 13, 2018
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Site may be compensated through the issuer affiliate programs.

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.

With the right card, you can make purchases without worries of currency conversions or unfamiliar cash and coins, and pricey foreign transaction fees. Some options can even help you purchase like a local with chip & PIN security.

No Foreign Transaction Fees | Chip & PIN | Dining | No/Limited Credit

Best “No Foreign Transaction Fee” Student Credit Cards

The very first thing to look at when considering a 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

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter - no sign-ups needed. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
14.74% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Fair

The Discover it® Student chrome is a good option for making purchases abroad — and not just for its lack of foreign transaction fees. You’ll also earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, making it more affordable to explore your destination.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
14.74% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Fair

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 up to 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in category purchases each activated quarter.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

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 no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (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 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.

Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard® Review

at Barclays'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.3

OVERALL RATING

4.3/5.0
  • Enjoy a 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable 13.74% APR will apply
  • Low 13.74% variable APR on purchases and cash advances
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • International Chip and PIN
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
See Terms
13.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

While the Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard® doesn’t offer fancy rewards, it does offer a PIN-enabled experience with as few fees as possible. Along with a low regular APR of 13.74% Variable and no annual fee, the Barclaycard Ring® Mastercard® also charges no foreign transaction fees.

5. First Tech Choice Rewards World MasterCard®

Unlike most chip-and-PIN enabled cards, the First Tech Choice Rewards World MasterCard® is a PIN-first card, meaning it’ll default to PIN verification — just like native European cards — which lets you blend right in at restaurants and shops abroad.

First Tech Choice Rewards World MasterCard®

  • PIN-first credit card authorization for seamless transaction verification abroad
  • Earn 2X rewards points per dollar on every purchase
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees or annual fee

In addition to its PIN-first authorization, the First Tech Choice Rewards World MasterCard® is full of perks, including purchase rewards, no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and an introductory 0% APR offer.

6. Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students

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

Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students

  • Earn an unlimited 1.5X points per $1 in eligible purchases made with your card
  • No blackout dates or brand restrictions on redemption
  • Pay no annual fee

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 card.

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.

Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter - no sign-ups needed. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
14.74% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Fair

With 2% cash back at every restaurant, the Discover it® Student chrome can help you save on up to $1,000 in dining purchases every quarter. Plus, there are no annual fees or foreign transaction fees to eat into your rewards.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.74% - 24.74% 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 2X Ultimate Rewards® points on both dining and travel purchases. Points can be redeemed at a solid rate for more travel to help you get out and explore.

9. Uber Visa Card

The Uber Visa Card not only provides 4% cash back rewards on dining purchases, including most bars and pubs, but it also charges no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

Uber Visa Card

  • Earn 4% cash back on dining purchases, including restaurants, takeout, bars, and UberEATS
  • Earn 3% cash back on hotel & airfare, 2% for online purchases
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases

The Uber Visa Card can be a nice addition to your pocket here at home, too, with 4% cash back on UberEATS deliveries and 2% cash back on all online purchases.

Best “No/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 limited 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 establish and build their credit, all while offering the purchase rewards and low fees you want out of your card.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
14.74% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Fair

The Discover it® Student Cash Back not only offers great purchase rewards that can help you save on everything from restaurants to Amazon.com purchases, but also comes with no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and the chance to earn a Good Grades statement credit every school year.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

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 no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® is a solid choice for establishing your credit, as it encourages good credit habits by offering bonus rewards when you pay your bill on time. The card’s lack of an annual fee or foreign transaction fees also makes it a good addition to your study abroad supplies.

12. Deserve Edu Mastercard®

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.

Deserve Edu Mastercard®

  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all eligible net purchases made with your card
  • Deserve will pay for Amazon Prime Student, up to $49 lifetime total
  • Pay no annual fee

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 constant currency conversions or payment method problems.

Before traveling with your new card, however, be sure you contact your credit card issuer to make it known 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.