Betty Yao

After completing her MBA at UC Davis, Betty worked at a startup called Pillow, where she began her career in the U.S. After a few years at Pillow, which was acquired by Expedia, Betty joined the Corporate Finance team at Google. Prior to her MBA, Betty worked at PWC.

Yoon Choi

After earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s in textile design, Yoon landed at Nike where she is a Footwear Concept Designer.

Jukka Strand

With a B.S. From The London School of Economics and a Fullbright scholarship to Columbia, Jukka shares how he managed to navigate the finance world as an international student.

Estefania Barnuevo

Hailing from Ecuador, Estefania is working on her MBA at Bentley University, after which she will join Novartis Pharmaceuticals in a Financial Development role.

Dr. Nazir Savji

As an international student, Dr. Savji navigated the US visa process throughout his training before becoming Cardiovascular Disease Fellow at Johns Hopkins University.

Best Credit Cards for International Students [and How to Get One]

For international students studying in the US, establishing a line of credit for the first time can be quite difficult. Any international student who has applied for student loans understands this fact well.Applying for credit cards often proves challenging as most financial institutions require a credit history as well as a Social Security Number as part of the application process. That means international students must solve two main problems: one of identity and another of credit worthiness.

Interstride has decided to make the process of choosing the best credit cards for international students a bit easier by providing a starter list of cards from which to begin the search.

Read on to learn how to access the United States credit system and see which cards might be the best for your needs. 

Credit Card Application Requirements

Whichever credit card you select, it is important to understand the standard application process. Credit card issuers (i.e. banks and other financial institutions) need to know who they are doing business with.

For that reason, applicants must show proof of their identity. For international students, that proof can come in many forms. Other common application requirements for credit cards are proof of address/residence, and proof of income.

International students can sometimes have difficulty satisfying application requirements due to their temporary nature of their status within the country.

Credit Card Application Options for International Students

Fortunately, there are a few workarounds for credit application challenges. Before looking at alternatives, however, be sure that the alternatives are needed.

Is An SSN Possible?

Depending on an international student’s status within the country, it is very possible that they can obtain a Social Security Number, also known as an SSN.

According to the IRS, most student and academic Visas allow for employment. Many nonimmigrant visas, including F-1, J-1, Q-1, M-1, or Q2, fall into this category. These Visa holders may apply for a regular SSN.

An ITIN Can Help

International students who fall outside of the above-mentioned categories can still apply for a credit card. However, they will need to apply to the IRS for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).

An ITIN is essentially an SSN for international guests. The number of digits is the same and the number comes in the same format. To apply for an ITIN, international students need to apply at the IRS using Form W-7.

Best Credit Card Features for International Students

International students on the lookout for a new (or first) credit card in the US should pay attention to a couple of key factors. The best credit cards for international students offer perks and bonuses aimed at student needs.

Top credit card options also allow users to apply for a line of credit with or without a Social Security Number. Each card is quite different in what it expects from and offers to its cardholders. So, it is always wise to do a bit of homework before making a final decision.

Top Features for International Student Credit Cards:

  • No, or low annual fees
  • No international transaction fees
  • Low, or 0% initial purchase APR
  • Cashback programs
  • Travel rewards and miles
  • Lower rates for academic achievement!

Interstride’s Best International Student Credit Cards

Here are some of our favorite credit cards for international students in no particular order.

#1 – Petal

Petal Card provides international students with a fantastic starting point int he world of credit. Not only does Petal forgo the usual SSN and ITIN requirements, but the company also creates a ‘money score’ for new applicants to determine credit worthiness.

That means international students with no previous credit should have no difficulty in getting the Petal Card as long as they have income, and their expenses are low.

#2 – Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students

Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students is the perfect solution for many international students. This credit card offers a low APR, no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and much more.

To get this card, students do not need an SSN and there is no credit needed to apply. Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students makes application decisions based on school, income, expenditures, etc.

 #3 – Discover it® Student Card

Discover it Student Card is another fantastic option for international students. While only international students with an SSN may apply for this card, it is one of the better ones on the list.

Some of the notable features of this card are no annual fees, no foreign transaction fees, a cashback bonus for good grades, and a solid cashback rewards program which gets better with time.

#4 – Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Journey Student rewards from Capital One is yet another good choice for international students. Journey offers a solid cashback program on spending, a $60 streaming bonus for on-time payments, no foreign transaction fees, and accurate credit tracking through the available app.

To apply, students must use an SSN or an ITIN.

#5 – Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card

As with the other options on this list, the Chase Freedom Student Credit Card is built with students in mind. International students can apply using an ITIN and there are many benefits that come from this offer from Chase.

An initial $50 bonus starts things off. Good Standing Rewards, credit line increases, and no annual fees adds to the reasons international students might be interested in the Chase Freedom Student card.

Final Thoughts

Whether in the US for a long time, or just a year or two, there is no question that a credit card can make a world of difference. Students are able to order their materials online, shop for food, pay bills, and support themselves in a world that is increasingly dependent on digital payments and credit.

Choosing the right card can help in many ways, just as choosing one that doesn’t compliment student needs can hinder a student’s financial progress and success. New credit card users especially should take care that their credit cards add value to their lives.

Josef Auboeck

As an international graduate student, Josef navigated the complicated U.S. visa process that led to his current role at a U.S. based private equity firm.

Best Student Loans for International Students

The decision to study in the United States can be a difficult one. There are so many things to take into consideration to successfully make the move to the US and succeed at school.

Figuring out how to pay for university is one of the many puzzles to solve but getting an international student loan might be easier than you think.

Can I get a student loan as an international student?

Yes, you can get an international loan as an international student.  You have several options to apply for an international education loan. Many of the available options are based on visa status and the desired school.


How can I get a loan to study in the US?

The process that goes into getting a student loan as an international student can look different from person to person. However, the biggest differences usually come down to whether a borrower in an eligible noncitizen.

Eligible noncitizen options

Depending on your status within the United States, you may qualify for student loans as an eligible noncitizen. Eligible noncitizens can apply for the same types of student loans that local students access.

These student loans include both private and government loans. For private loans, lenders should be contacted directly as many have unique rates and qualification requirements. Eligible noncitizens applying for federal student aid should open an account at FAFSA and follow the steps provided.

Examples of eligible noncitizens are:

  • Green Card holders
  • refugees and asylum seekers

Other noncitizen options

Many international students do not fall into the eligible noncitizen category. Fortunately, there are many other options for education loans for international students.

Foreign applicants not in the eligible noncitizen category should look at their private student loan options. There are many lenders who will provide a loan to cover education expenses for foreign students as they study in the US.

Each lender offers different rates and repayment terms. The various private student loan providers also lack a universal standard for how they accept applicants. Most lenders, for example, require a cosigner while others do not.

With a Cosigner

International students applying for a personal student loan with a cosigner option will have the “pick of the litter” when it comes to which lender suits their needs the best. As long as the cosigner has a credit rating above 640, the loan should have a reasonable interest rate and repayment term.

Without a Cosigner

Education loans offered without the need for a cosigner are few and far between. However, they do exist, and we have a couple of favorites to introduce you to.

Supported Schools

An important part of applying for education loans is to make sure that the loan that you are applying to is applicable for the school that you wish to attend. Many loan programs will have a ‘covered schools’ list and it is always good to check it before committing time to the application process.

Interstride’s International Student Loan Picks

As there are many options for foreign students looking to finance their education, we have decided to provide a list of some of our favorites.

#1 – MPower Financing

MPower Financing is one of the few lenders that do not require a cosigner. In fact, the lender doesn’t require collateral, or a credit history in the United States, either. MPower supports more than 350 schools in North America and offers a full scholarship program as well. The student-focused lending approach makes this lender quite popular.

#2 – Ascent

Ascent Funding is another top choice for international students looking for student loan options. Ascent works with MPower to provide loans with and without cosigner requirements. The lender also offers loan options that are either based on credit history or ‘future potential’ which is the model used by MPower Financing. In addition to student loans for eligible schools, Ascent also offers loans for training programs and career development education.

#3 – Prodigy Finance

Prodigy Finance is another top-rated lending firm for international students. Prodigy Finance focuses on graduate studies and provides loans based on a ‘future potential’ model similar to MPower and Ascent. In Prodigy’s case, however, the predictive credit model used to determine credit worthiness is a bit more complex. Students do not need a cosigner or a credit history in the US to apply for a loan from Prodigy Finance.

#4 – Discover

Many consider Discover as one of the better choices for international student credit card providers. As a lender, Discover offers international students with many choices depending on the type of study they are planning. Discover offers student loans specific to undergraduate and graduate studies, as well as degrees in business, health, law, and much more. To take advantage of Discover’s student loans, a cosigner or Green Card is needed.

Related Questions

How do international student loans work?

International student loans work the same way traditional student loans do. The borrower goes through an application process that determines eligibility, credit worthiness, and many other factors. International students can apply for a student loan with or without a cosigner, and loans are available through private and government lending programs.

Can international students get student loans without a cosigner?

The short answer is, yes. Foreign students can get student loans without a cosigner. There are some private lenders who will verify a student’s eligibility based on their own set of rules. If an applicant passes the application process, a loan is granted. Getting student loans without a cosigner through both FAFSA and private lenders is also possible for international students with a Green Card.

Taxes for International Students

If you are an international student studying in the US, or you are considering becoming one, it is helpful to know how tax laws work for foreign students in the United States.

For a full list of rules and requirements regarding US tax laws affecting international students, further reading on the IRS website can be found, here. However, we’ll summarize the main points for you here to save you some time.

Tax Requirements for International Students

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines international students as both nonresident aliens and resident aliens.

Depending on your visa type, you may fall into either category at the time of filing your taxes. The IRS outlines a separate set of rules for resident and nonresident aliens. However, the IRS also views international students through a different lens than other types of nonresident aliens. Therefore, some unique conditions apply to international students.

As such, to understand which income sources to report, as well as what can be deducted, you must first be sure about your tax filing and visa status.

Income Reporting Requirements

One of the first things international students should know about reporting requirements is that all international students and scholars should file. Even if they have made very little US-sourced income.

International students should file and pay their taxes if:

  • they have received a grant or scholarship that is considered taxable,
  • or if they received any income from work or any other source.

An important note about capital gains tax for international students:

International students in the United States for longer than one year should file and pay taxes if they have made money in the stock market, or by selling any other physical property (such as a boat, house, or car). The IRS enforces a 30% capital gains tax.

Many international students do not have to file taxes if:

  • their income is from another country,
  • they earn interest from a bank or investment account,
  • or if they received a grant or scholarship that is tax free.

It is important to note that there is no minimum income trigger that the IRS uses for international students. That means all earning count towards the filing requirement, even those that are very small.

Treaties and Special Circumstances

Apart from the general set of rules outlined by the IRS for how international students should be taxed, there are also many treaties and special circumstances that can be considered.

Most notably, the United States maintains several treaties with countries around the world. Each of those treaties outlines separate set of rules for taxation of nationals of those countries.

It is always a clever idea to check the list of treaties before seeking tax advice. Most sources of information that you will find will give generalized information that may not pertain to your situation.

Start with page 19 of the Treaties document from the IRS and look for ‘Students and Apprentices’.

Specific Taxation Rules Depending on Visa Type

Depending on your field of study, level of education, and time spent in the United States, you may have one of several student visa types that exist.

The three most common student visas are F1, J1, and M1, though many students also have H-1B visas and Green Cards. Tax rules for each are different and knowing the differences can save you a lot of time, money, and energy.

Here are some general rules for each of the listed visa types:

  • F-1 – This visa is meant for academic studies. Most international students have an F-1 Visa, and these students are allowed to do limited, part-time work. The visa is a nonimmigrant visa and the applicable tax rules apply.
  • J-1 – This visa is meant to provide international students with an opportunity to complete paid training in their field of study. It is a nonimmigrant visa and shares tax rules with F-1 status visas.
  • M-1 – This visa type is for international nonimmigrants who wish to attend training programs or vocational schools in the US. M-1 holders are not allowed to work in the US, and therefore do not pay taxes.
  • H-1B & Green Card – International students with immigrant visas, whether they hold an H-1B Visa, a Green Card, or are transitioning from an H-1B to a Green Card, must follow the same tax rules as US citizens. Students with these types of visas include but are not limited to graduate students and professionals continuing their education. Resident aliens must report all earned income.

Final Thoughts

The US tax system is certainly complex, but it does not have to be difficult to understand. The first step is to learn how international students with your particular visa type are taxed. Then, check to see if you are exempt from any of the rules associated with that visa type by checking the treaties document on the IRS website.  Once you are sure about your tax situation, it is time to decide how you would like to file your taxes.

Related Questions

When should I file my taxes in the US as an international student?  

International students should file taxes before the annual tax deadline. Usually, students should send their tax returns by May 17th. Sometimes, there are extensions that can push the date back.

Can international students file their taxes for free? 

Yes. International students can file their taxes for free. There are a number of resources available. International students can download and fill forms directly from the IRS website, or use a tax preparation service that offers free services.

Do international students need a Social Security Number to file taxes?

International students must have their Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) when filing taxes.