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Updated on Friday, July 17, 2020
For college students juggling courses, exams, papers and career planning, building credit may seem like the least of your worries. But now is the best time to build a good credit score, since it will help you when renting an apartment, applying for a car loan and perhaps even applying for certain jobs.
Student credit cards are designed specifically to help you do that.
The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is a solid choice for college students looking for their first credit card — in particular, for international students studying in the United States, because this card doesn’t require a Social Security number (SSN) to apply.
We break down how this card stands out and where it falls short, as well as some tips on how to build credit while in college.
- What is Deserve?
- Applying for the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students
- Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students fees, rewards and more
- Is the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students right for you?
- How to build credit while in college
What is Deserve?
Deserve is a fintech company with the goal of providing credit to underserved people, particularly millennials and Gen Z with little to no credit history.
Founded in 2013, Deserve’s original purpose was to help international students obtain credit, and since then, the company has expanded to target all college students in the U.S. The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students offers straightforward terms and a good opportunity for students to build credit from scratch.
Applying for the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students
Students at U.S. colleges and universities, whether U.S. citizens or permanent residents or international students on a visa, are eligible to apply for the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students. Unlike many other credit cards, an SSN is not required to apply. However, be aware that you won’t build credit history until you’ve linked a valid SSN to your Deserve account.
Because this is a student credit card, applying with a .edu email address may allow for speedier application processing than using a personal email. However, you can apply using a personal email. You’ll also need to provide the following:
- Contact information and address
- Employment and income information
Potential sources of income may include:
- A full- or part-time job
- An allowance from family
- A trust/inheritance
- An investment account
Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students rewards, fees and more
Rewards: Cardholders earn 1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases. While there are cards offering 1.5% or even 5% back, bear in mind this is a student card meant mainly to build credit.
$0 annual fee: There is a $0 annual fee for this card, allowing you to reap the rewards of the cashback program and build credit without paying to carry the card.
No foreign transaction fee: Both international students visiting family back home or U.S. students studying abroad will benefit from this card’s foreign transaction fee – which is none.
Amazon Prime Student reimbursement: Pay for an Amazon Prime Student membership with your Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students and get up to $59 in reimbursement for it. Note that an annual student membership costs $59 while a monthly subscription costs $6.49.
Reasonable interest rate: This card’s interest rate is 18.74% variable APR. When compared with competing cards, which may have APRs higher than 20%, this is quite reasonable. However, we always recommend paying off your card’s balance in full to avoid incurring interest charges.
No deposit required: Many of the cards available to those with no credit history or limited credit history are secured cards, requiring a deposit in the amount of your credit limit. The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is an unsecured card, meaning it doesn’t require a deposit.
Up to $5,000 credit limit: The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students offers a potentially high credit limit. However, you’re not guaranteed the maximum — and Deserve doesn’t allow cardholders to request higher credit limits. The company does review each cardholder’s behavior from time to time, and if you get a credit limit increase, you’ll be notified by email.
Is the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students right for you?
The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is a good first credit card that can help you build an excellent credit score (if you’ve linked a valid SSN). However, there are more generous cashback student cards on the market. You’ll likely need a SSN to apply though, so for applicants who don’t have one yet, the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students offers an accessible option.
How to build credit while in college
Following these best practices can help build an excellent credit score:
- Always pay on time. Paying on time is the most important factor in building and keeping a good credit score – it accounts for 35% of your FICO Score. If your card allows it, setting up autopay is a good way to ensure that you never miss a payment.
- Pay in full every month. It’s better to pay your statement off in full every month rather than just making the minimum payment due, so that you don’t let your balance creep up. Plus, by paying in full, you can typically avoid interest charges and thus save money.
- Keep your utilization low. Your utilization is how much of your credit limit you’re using, and accounts for 30% of your credit score. As an example, if you spend $200 on a credit card with a $1,000 credit limit, that’s 20% utilization. Keeping your credit utilization at or below 30% will help build a good credit score. In other words, don’t max out your card.
- Don’t apply for too many cards. It may be tempting to apply for new cards with exciting rewards and benefits, but each application pulls a hard inquiry from your credit report. Too many inquiries makes it look like you’re desperate for credit.
- Check your credit score. Many issuers provide your updated credit score for free on a monthly basis; if not there are sites that provide it for free. Checking your score regularly is a great way to stay on top of any credit changes and track your progress.