Best Credit Card for International Students: SelfScore
If you’re working towards a future that involves a nice house with a car (or two) in the driveway, then one of the tools that will help make that happen is good credit.
Even if you plan on buying a car with cash or renting all your life, establishing credit can be valuable in many different ways. Building a strong credit history serves a variety of purposes throughout your career:
- Earning a low interest rate for a future car purchase
- Earning a low mortgage rate
- Qualifying to buy a house
- Being eligible to rent an apartment
- Being considered for a job opportunity
SelfScore is one of the first companies to come along with the goal of appealing primarily (but not exclusively) to international students attending college in the United States. Nearly 20 percent of international students who attend college in America end up staying beyond graduation. That accounts for millions of people who are looking to build a life and career off their own hard work.
One of the pillars to building that life is creating and maintaining good credit. That has always been one of the most difficult things for international students to achieve because they don’t have the options when it comes to building a credit history.
How to Build Credit from Scratch
Building a strong credit history from nothing is one of the greatest challenges that young people face, especially considering all the pitfalls along the way. Falling behind on payments, only making the minimum balance, and having bills go to collection can all damage credit before it even begins. That’s why there are a variety of safer options to build a credit score when you’re getting on your feet:
- Apply for a secured credit card
- Take out a credit-building loan
- Have a co-signer on your loan
- Pay your bills in full and on time every month
- Become an authorized user on a credit card
- Create positive spending and savings habits
But what if you’re an international student who doesn’t have the same options available to build a credit history in the U.S.? Every time the subject of building credit comes up, the discussion always comes around to credit cards. They are one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. The ability to build, maintain and manage a credit card comes down to individual responsibility.
Credit cards also offer tremendous pitfalls. Nothing can ruin your finances when you’re starting out like falling behind on credit card payments and suddenly finding yourself in a mountain of debt. That’s why so much weight is placed on the ability to manage credit card spending in a responsible way. And until now, that has always been out of reach for international students looking to build a life in the U.S.
Using SelfScore to Build Credit for International Students
SelfScore sets out to be the first credit card for international students. What that means is that you don’t need a social security number in order to apply. It is a safe and secure way to build credit so you can prove to lenders that you’re worthy of larger loans down the line. Your habits are reported to the three major credit bureaus, and it’s an excellent way for international students to build their FICO credit scores.
Up until now, international students always had to look for untraditional resources to build credit. One of the easiest ways – a credit card – was always out of reach. SelfScore is looking to change that. It provides a small credit line that allows international students to establish themselves as responsible spenders.
What Do You Need to Apply?
SelfScore is different from every other credit card in that you don’t need a social security number. You also don’t need to plop down a big chunk of cash. Instead, you need to meet these requirements:
- Be 18 or older
- Have a passport or visa to show that you’re studying in the U.S.
- Be enrolled in a qualified education program in the U.S.
SelfScore will use this information to determine your ability to handle a credit card and what your limit should be. It will examine what school you are attending and the financial potential that comes with that field of study. It is just like any line of credit. They are taking as many factors into account as possible to see how likely you are to repay the money. If you have a solid proof of identity and are in a reliable program, then you’ll be more likely to repay any debt.
Credit Limits, Fees and Interest Rates
Most people approved for the SelfScore credit card will be issued a credit line of anywhere between $500 and $1,500. It isn’t a ton of money, but it should cover the expenses that a college student will face. Things like meals and going out can fall within the credit range. And if you are serious about building your credit, then you’ll pay the card in full every month.
The card has no annual fee, which is a great perk. However, there are also no rewards for this card. Non-international students might want to look elsewhere if that is part of the appeal.
The variable rate APR is 19.24% – which is lower than a lot of similar products – and there is also no late fee on your first incident. After that, it’s $25 every time it happens. The best way to handle this card, like any credit card, is to pay it in full every month.
Students who are studying in the U.S. on an F1, J1 or M1 visa are eligible to apply for the SelfScore scholarship, which was worth $5,000 towards academic expenses in 2016. The application period last year opened in September. You can get added to their mailing list so you’re notified when the 2017 application opens up.
You have to submit a valid I-20 or DS-2019 form, be accepted at an eligible college, and score in the top 15% of a standardized U.S. college entrance exam with a 3.0 GPA or higher. The scholarship is a great feature that you rarely – if ever – find on a student credit card. Six undergraduate and six graduate winners are randomly selected from the pool of eligible applicants.
SelfScore is an excellent option for what it offers. When it comes to international students looking to build credit, SelfScore is highly recommended simply because it’s now possible to use a credit card to make that happen. Using a credit card comes with tremendous responsibility but when done well, it can open up a lot of doors. This is the first time it’s been fully possible for international students. The addition of a scholarship and financial literacy resources make it go even further.
Establishing your responsibility with the SelfScore card has helped people buy cars, find jobs and get apartments. But ultimately it’s on the borrower to pay the balance back. The best way to do that is to pay the entire balance in full every month. If you’re able to do that, then this is absolutely the right card for you. If you are susceptible to credit card debt, then consider a safer method, like a secured credit card.
It’s a great addition for a market that needed to be served. It’s definitely worth consideration if you’re an international student looking to build a healthy line of credit.