Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
If you’re a college student and planning to study abroad, you’re in for a real treat. There’s nothing like living outside the U.S. and immersing yourself in another culture — traveling and exploring different cities virtually every weekend.
But this adventure doesn’t come cheap. Studies show that the average student spends anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 during a four-month semester abroad in Europe.
The good news? If you’re using a credit card, you can earn some serious rewards on your study abroad expenses. Plus, the right card will help you save money on fees and protect you if your travel plans go awry.
Here’s what you need to know to choose the best credit card for study abroad.
What to consider when choosing a card for study abroad
As you get ready for your adventure, look for these qualities to help you choose your best credit card for studying abroad.
Look for a card that offers a welcome bonus. The extra spending you’ll do on your semester abroad is a great way to meet the minimum spend requirement to earn a bonus on a new credit card.
Foreign transaction fees
Choosing a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees is the easiest way to save money while you’re abroad. If you use a debit card or a credit card that charges them, you’ll have an additional fee of up to 5% on every purchase you make.
Avoid this extra expense by getting a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
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Now more than ever, you want to be protected against travel delays, cancellations and other mishaps. Look for a credit card that comes with travel protections that cover you when something goes wrong.
Become an authorized user
You may not have enough credit to qualify for one of our favorite travel rewards cards yet. If that’s the case, consider becoming an authorized user on a loved one’s account. This will allow you to benefit from the card’s protections and can have the added benefit of boosting your credit score at the same time.
Best credit cards for students studying abroad
The information for the Discover it Student Cash Back card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Welcome bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus miles after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months. This bonus is worth $280 according to TPG valuations.
Annual fee: $0
What makes the card special: The VentureOne (see rates and fees) doesn’t carry an annual fee and earns an unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases. You can redeem your miles as a statement credit for travel purchases or book travel through the Capital One Travel portal. But what sets this card apart is that you can also transfer your miles to any of Capital One’s 14 hotel and airline partners, which is likely your most valuable redemption option.
You’ll also get travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, purchase security and extended warranty protection as card perks.* No foreign transaction fees means you can use it abroad without paying extra to do so.
There aren’t many no-annual-fee cards with the ability to transfer miles to travel partners, so this card is definitely worth a second look for students studying abroad.
* Benefits are only available to accounts approved for the World Elite Mastercard card. Terms apply.
Apply here: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Welcome bonus: Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after spending $1,000 within the first three months from account opening.
Annual fee: $0
What makes the card special: The SavorOne from Capital One (see rates and fees) is a great way to earn cash back on all your purchases. With it, you’ll earn 3% back on dining, at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), streaming and entertainment purchases as well as 1% back on all other purchases. You’ll also earn 5% back on hotels and rental cars when you book through Capital One Travel.
This card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees and is a good choice if you don’t want to pay an annual fee. While the $200 welcome bonus isn’t lucrative, it has a relatively low spending requirement. And when you’re looking at the expenses of studying abroad, every little bit helps.
Apply here: Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards
Related: Capital One SavorOne review
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Annual fee: $95
What makes the card special: There’s a reason (or 10) everyone you know has this credit card.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred may be out of range if you are just getting started on your credit card journey, but it’s certainly one to set your sights on if you’re eligible. It’s a great starter card if you want to get into points and miles because it earns you 3 points per dollar on dining and 2 points per dollar on travel — so every time you book a flight on Ryanair or end up at Wok to Walk again, you’ll rack up on fully transferable points.
The sign-up bonus is solid, too: 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. There’s a $95 annual fee, but perks like trip delay coverage, trip cancellation insurance, purchase protection and baggage delay insurance easily make up for it.
And when you’re ready to redeem the points you’ve earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you have some great options. Most simply, you can use your points to purchase airfare, reserve hotel rooms and even rent a car at a rate of 1.25 cents per point through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
But you can get even more value from your rewards by taking advantage of the card’s ability to transfer points to any of Chase’s airline and hotel partners. This route takes a bit more time and energy to figure out, but it can help you unlock some incredible value from your rewards.
Apply here: Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Platinum Card® from American Express
What makes the card special: If you have a loved one who is a cardholder of The Platinum Card® from American Express, you might have hit the jackpot. They can add you as an authorized user for an additional $175 per year (see rates and fees). Although this may seem steep, you can easily make this up (and then some) through the valuable benefits that you’ll unlock.
As an authorized user, you’ll enjoy access to American Express Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges and Delta Sky Clubs (though the latter only applies when you are traveling on Delta). You’ll also receive a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit to breeze past lines before and after your trip, as well as receive Marriott and Hilton Gold elite status. Enrollment is required.
You won’t be eligible to earn the 80,000-point welcome bonus (after you spend $6,000 on purchases in your first six months of card membership) as an authorized user, but these travel perks will easily upgrade your study abroad game.
Apply here: The Platinum Card from American Express
Discover it Student Cash Back
Welcome bonus: Get all of the cash back you earned during your first year matched.
Annual fee: $0
What makes the card special: This is a student-targeted card with no foreign transaction fees.
With the Discover it Student Cash Back card, you’ll get 5% cash back on your first $1,500 in purchases on quarterly rotating categories after you enroll your card, and then 1% cash back on everything else. The downside? These bonuses apply to purchases made with U.S. merchants only.
Students studying abroad can still get value out of this card since all earnings during the first year are doubled. The card also has no annual or foreign transaction fees, so you can use it abroad to your heart’s content without being penalized.
Plus, you’ll get a little extra bonus in the form of a $20 statement credit for each school year your GPA is a 3.0 or better. This bonus can be earned for up to five years.
And you won’t have to worry about redemption minimums, so you can cash out your rewards at any time and get that money working for you again.
Studying abroad is undoubtedly going to be a significant expense, but with these tips in mind, you’ll be able to offset some of the cost of it — and might even score yourself some free flights or hotels in the process. Hopefully, you’ll find your best match in this roundup of best credit cards for students studying abroad and make your adventure that much sweeter.
For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
Additional reporting by Samantha Rosen.