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How to Choose the Best Student Card for Study Abroad

Published May 24, 2024
6 min read

Key points about: Credit cards for students studying abroad

  1. Credit cards are available for students traveling abroad with little to no credit history.

  2. These credit cards offer reward points that can be used for travel expenses.

  3. The best credit card for studying abroad depends on how widely it’s accepted, the associated fees, and the security features it provides.

What are the best travel credit cards for students? Choosing the right credit card for studying abroad can empower students to enjoy the benefits of a credit card while upholding good financial habits across the globe. Here are key features to look for.

Student credit card overview

What is a student credit card? Essentially, it’s a type of credit card intended for young adults with little to no credit history who want to manage their expenses. The rewards granted can be used by students while traveling. Learn more from these student credit card FAQs.

How are student credit cards different from travel cards

A travel credit card offers rewards for spending, such as discounts on airfare, lodging, and dining purchases. Often, these cards contain benefits like Miles programs. These cards are generally designed specifically for people who travel.


A student credit card also provides rewards, but is designed specifically for students with a limited credit history. A student credit card offers cardmembers great rewards, like 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter with Discover it®️ Chrome for Students.1 Students can accumulate rewards from their credit card use, which can be redeemed to offset costs associated with traveling, such as dining, car rentals, or transit passes.

How credit cards work abroad

Using a credit card while studying abroad works similarly to a domestic credit card. While most credit cards are accepted globally, acceptance may vary depending on the card issuer and country. Users may also expect to pay foreign transaction fees and dynamic currency conversions, depending on the card issuer.


It is crucial to notify your bank or credit card issuer of your upcoming travel dates and destinations to prevent your transactions from being mistakenly flagged as fraudulent. Failing to do so could result in your card being frozen, leaving you unable to use it while abroad. This step ensures that your financial institution recognizes your spending patterns as you travel, providing you with uninterrupted access to your funds.

Choosing the best student credit card for study abroad

What is the best credit card for study abroad students to have? Choosing the right student credit card for your travels depends on your individual needs, spending habits, and travel plans. It’s essential to compare different options and select the one that aligns with your financial goals and lifestyle decisions. Here are some things to consider when choosing the best credit cards for study abroad.

International acceptance

Before traveling, it's important to verify that your credit card is widely accepted in your destination country. By confirming the acceptance of your card's network in advance, you can avoid any inconvenience and ensure you have reliable access to your funds throughout your travels.


Discover users can use their credit cards abroad. Contactless payment is fast and easy, and available in countries that utilize the Discover network. Try our international use tool to determine whether Discover is accepted in your destination country.

Are there foreign transaction fees?

A foreign transaction fee is a charge that covers the processing costs of purchases made in a different currency. Some credit cards charge roughly 3% for each transaction initiated in a country with a different currency.


Not all credit cards charge foreign transaction fees. For example, there is no foreign transaction fee with any Discover card. Make sure you find a card with fees that fit your destination and your budget.

Travel expenses

Student credit cards offer the flexibility of redeeming cash back on a wide range of purchases. With cards like the Discover it® Student Cash Back, students can earn significant rewards on their everyday spending. This card allows students to earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, you earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.


The cash back earned can then be redeemed in various ways, including as a statement credit that can offset travel-related expenses or any other purchase, offering students versatility in how they use their rewards. This flexibility makes student credit cards a valuable tool for managing expenses, both during travel and in daily life. Explore the options to find the student credit card that best suits your financial needs and lifestyle.

Security features

Most credit cards in the U.S. come with a special chip for extra safety. When you buy something, you usually sign your name. But in places like Europe, you might need to use a Credit card PIN—a special number—every time you use your card. It's important to have a card that works everywhere. If your card only uses a chip without a PIN, you might run into trouble using it at some places that ask for a PIN.


Having greater peace of mind can make your travel experience much more enjoyable. Discover offers a $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee. With Discover, you’re never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover Card account.2

Earn top-tier rewards and build your credit history3 with a Discover student credit card

Discover it credit card

Benefits of using a credit card as a study abroad student

Why use a credit card when studying abroad? Students can use these cards to:


  • Build credit with responsible use3
  • Take advantage of rewards and incentives
  • Gain access to emergency funds
  • Protect against fraud
  • Eliminate the need to carry cash


It’s important to compare the rewards and benefits of each card before choosing a credit card to use while studying abroad. Remember to choose a credit card that suits your needs, whether it’s for rewards, low fees, or convenience.

Tips for healthy spending habits while studying abroad

Just because you’re studying overseas doesn’t mean you’re on vacation from good financial habits. Try to use your credit card wisely and monitor your credit card balance.


Here are some tips to help you cultivate strong spending habits:



  • Set a monthly (or even weekly) budget
  • Automatically deposit money into savings
  • Create an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses



    Learning how to use a credit card responsibly may help you prevent overspending. It may also keep you from accumulating credit card debt, possibly impacting your credit score.

    Final thoughts about student cards for study abroad

    Life is an adventure, and studying abroad is a great way to broaden your horizons while making memories you’ll cherish forever. The best credit card for studying abroad depends on your specific needs and goals. By following the tips above, you can find a card that will help you get the most out of your experience while preserving your financial health.

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    1. 2% Cash Back at gas and restaurants: You earn a full 2% Cashback Bonus® on your first $1000 in combined purchases at Gas Stations (stand-alone), and Restaurants each calendar quarter. Calendar quarters begin January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1. Purchases at Gas Stations and Restaurants over the quarterly cap, and all other purchases, earn 1% cash back. Gas Station purchases include those made at merchants classified as places that sell automotive gasoline that can be bought at the pump or inside the station, and some public electric vehicle charging stations. Gas Stations affiliated with supermarkets, supercenters, and wholesale clubs may not be eligible. Restaurant purchases include those made at merchants classified as full-service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, fast-food locations, and restaurant delivery services. Purchases must be made with merchants in the U.S. To qualify for 2%, the purchase transaction date must be before or on the last day of the offer or promotion. For online purchases, the transaction date from the merchant may be the date when the item ships. Rewards are added to your account within two billing periods. Even if a purchase appears to fit in a 2% category, the merchant may not have a merchant category code (MCC) in that category. Merchants and payment processors are assigned an MCC based on their typical products and services. Discover Card does not assign MCCs to merchants. Certain third-party payment accounts and digital wallet transactions may not earn 2% if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details or a qualifying MCC. Learn more at See Cashback Bonus Program Terms and Conditions for more information.

    2. $0 Fraud Liability: An “unauthorized purchase” is a purchase where you have not given access to your card information to another person or a merchant for one-time or repeated charges. Please use reasonable care to protect your card and do not share it with employees, relatives, or friends. Learn more at

    3. Build credit with responsible use: Discover reports your credit history to the three major credit bureaus so it can help build your credit if used responsibly. Late payments, delinquencies or other derogatory activity with your credit card accounts and loans may adversely impact your ability to build credit.

    • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.