If you’re coming to the US as an international student, you’ll want easy ways to manage your money so you can make everyday life simple. For some, a specialist credit card is a great way to keep on top of your finances, while accessing good rewards and perks, and building a US credit history.
This guide takes a look at the Citi credit card options which may work for international students. We’ll also highlight the multi-currency account and debit card from TransferWise - an alternative way to make and receive low fee international payments while you’re studying abroad.
The Citi Rewards+ Student card was a popular choice for students with a strong existing credit score, as it allowed customers to earn rewards with no annual fee, and while continuing to build a credit history. Unfortunately this card is no longer available for new Citi customers.
Citi also used to have another option called the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students. This card has also been discontinued for new users - but the good news is that there are still plenty of strong choices out there for international students looking for a student credit card.
International students who are relatively new arrivals in the US may struggle to get a regular credit card. Having little or no local credit history could prove problematic - and some cards may not be suitable because of the range of documentation needed to get started. If you’ve just recently come to the US for school you might not be able to quickly find all the paperwork requested by some card providers.
One option which might work for international students is the Citi Secured Mastercard.¹ This guide will focus on the features and benefits of this card, as well as highlighting an alternative as a comparison - the multi-currency account and debit card from TransferWise.
If you’re an international student in the US, a secured credit card can be a good way to build credit and spend easily. Here’s what you need to know about the Citi Secured Mastercard.
Although it’s possible to apply online for a Citi Secured Mastercard, international students may need to visit a branch to get started.
That’s because online applications require a social security number (SSN). If you don’t have an SSN, you can use your individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) instead but this is likely to mean you need to visit a branch to submit your application as the online system may not accept your ITIN automatically.
As part of your application you’ll also need to provide personal information, details of your income and debt, and any credit you already have. This is to assess your creditworthiness as part of your application.
If your application is approved, you’ll then have to pay a security deposit which is a minimum of $250. Your credit line will be equal to the security deposit you provide.
Here are a few of the fees and charges you’ll need to think about when using your card:²
|Regular APR for balance transfers and purchases||22.49% - this can vary based on the prime rate|
|Penalty APR||Up to 29.99% - may be applied if you miss a payment, and can remain your default APR indefinitely|
|Transaction fees||Balance transfers - $5 or 3% of the balance, whichever is greater Cash advances - $10 or 5% of the advance, whichever is greater Foreign purchases - 3% of the USD fee|
|Penalty fee||Late payment penalty up to $40|
One of the common uses of a secured credit card is to build a strong credit score so you can move onto a better value card in the future. You can do this by using your secured card responsibly - not using the full credit amount you’re given, making regular repayments and avoiding late fees, for example. You’ll be able to track your credit score month by month to watch how it grows.
As an international student you may decide that having a strong US credit score is not so important. Credit history is usually only used within one country, so building a strong score in the US may not help you access better credit when you return home after studies. On the other hand, if you’re planning on spending a longer period in the US, building a good credit score can help in many ways in future, including better access to credit and rental properties.
As we mentioned above, building a credit history is not necessarily the most important thing for an international student. If you decide this isn’t crucial, you may choose to have a great value debit card instead of a credit card while you’re studying.
With a debit card you can only spend money you have in the account, which cuts the risk of running up unexpected fees and charges. You won’t need to lock away a security deposit as you do with a secured credit card either - although it’s important to note that debit cards can not help you build credit history.
If you’re an international student looking for a great value way to manage your money, check out the multi-currency account and debit card from TransferWise. You’ll be able to hold dozens of different currencies in the same account and spend easily using your linked debit Mastercard. Because you can only spend what’s in the account, there are no surprise overdraft charges, and no hidden fees to worry about.
If you plan to travel, or receive payments from friends and family overseas, you can convert currencies within the account using the mid-market rate and just a low transparent charge. It’s then free to spend any currency you hold using your card.
Even if you choose to get a secured credit card to help build credit history while you study, it’s worth looking at TransferWise for low cost international transfers if you need to send or receive payments from abroad. All cross border payments use the mid-market exchange rate with no markup, and a low fee which can work out much cheaper than using a regular bank.
No matter how you decide to manage your money as an international student, you don’t want to pay more in fees and charges than you really have to. See if you can save with TransferWise today.
Sources checked on 15 June 2020
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