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Video SRQ: What is the Best Credit Card for Students Studying Abroad?

March 24, 2013
6 min read
Video SRQ: What is the Best Credit Card for Students Studying Abroad?
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TPG Reader Karsten will be studying abroad in the near future and would like to know what credit card would be best to use while she is away:

"I am a current college student at Georgia Tech with 2 years remaining in school. I have 2 questions for you:

1) I will be studying abroad this summer (Mid May - End of July) and I was wondering if you had any suggestions on what credit card I should look into using while abroad?


2) I already have a USAA credit card as they are my bank, do you have any other suggestions on another credit card that would be good for a college student to earn rewards with?"

Great question, and one that more students who are studying abroad should be asking! If you're going to be spending a significant amount of time out of the country, it's critical that you get a credit card that doesn't carry foreign transaction fees.

I've written up a list of the top credit cards without foreign transaction fees before, but for those of you who don't know what they are, forex fees (for short) are 1-3% surcharges that most credit cards charge on all purchases processed outside of the US. A note of caution: if you ever purchase something and the vendor processes the charge outside of the US, you can also expect to get dinged with a fee.

Be sure to read your credit card's terms and conditions for the disclosure of foreign exchange fees.
Be sure to read your credit card's terms and conditions for the disclosure of foreign exchange fees.

Three percent might not seem like much, but if you're in Paris charging $3,000 on a week-long trip, that's an additional $90 just for using your credit card, wiping out the value of any points that would earn. To make sure that doesn't happen to you, and to verify whether your card does or doesn't levy these fees, call customer service, or look up the Terms & Conditions documentation on your card.

Also beware that many foreign vendors will ask you whether you want to charge the purchase in the local currency or in US dollars. It seems like a modern convenience to help you track your spending but I recommend choosing the local currency and letting your bank/credit card company process the charge using their foreign exchange rate, which is usually better than the one that you get through the vendor. When you allow the vendor to do it, you can almost be assured they are taking a cut of the action and will not give you the best rate.

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For a comprehensive list of the credit cards that don't charge forex fees, you can check out that post, but generally speaking, many of the Capital One cards don't, including the popular Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Credit Card cards, and the Citi Premier, as well as some of my other all-time favorites like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Amex Platinum Card - and all of those are great rewards cards. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is another good potential choice since it earns 1.5 points per dollar spent, carries no annual fee and has no foreign transaction fees.

As for what card might make sense for a college student - hopefully you've been doing a good job building your credit with your USAA card, which is a great, solid product for college kids starting out with credit.

Even if you can't get approved for one of the premium cards out there right now, there are still plenty of options. However, if you're just starting off with credit and you've been paying your bills off on time you might get approved for one of the premium cards because more important than your income is your history of good credit and if you've been responsible, you shouldn't have an issue. TPG readers, including college students who have been able to use their points to travel the world even at a young age.

The best piece of advice I could give you would be to start a relationship with banks now while you're young, starting with Chase, which has the most lucrative line up of travel credit cards out there that you'll likely want to apply for throughout the rest of your points-earning life. So for instance, now you could get the no-fee Freedom card from Chase and start racking up those Ultimate Rewards points on it, especially with those quarterly rotating 5x bonus spending categories, and then later on when you get the Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Bold or Ink Plus, you can combine your Ultimate Rewards points and transfer them to hte program's partners: British Airways, United, Southwest, Korean Air, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, Ritz-Carlton and Amtrak.

The Citi Forward card is another good cash-back card that earns 1 point per dollar on most purchases, but 5 ThankYou Points for every $1 spent at restaurants and on books, movies and music. When you just have the Forward card, you can redeem ThankYou points at a rate of 1 cent each for travel through the ThankYou rewards portal, but then later if you get the Citi Premier card, you can redeem them at a rate of 1.33 cents each - already a 33% bonus. The Forward card is geared toward young people building their credit, and offers special perks such as lowering your APR for purchases by up to 2% when you stay under your credit limit, and pay on time 3 billing periods in a row (they will reduce it 0.25% every quarter, a maximum of 8 times). So it's a good starter card, but don't use it abroad because it does charge forex fees.

Another option for you in terms of both building your own credit history, earning rewards and using a card that has no foreign transaction fees is to have your parents add you as an additional cardholder on one of their premium cards if they're willing to do so - just don't abuse it or you might be coming home earlier than expected!

Have a great time, and let me know what card you end up getting.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 5X points
5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Earn 150,000 points120,000 points
The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$695

Recommended Credit

670-850
Good, Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Apply for The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
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TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.