Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students review: An easy starter card for students from the U.S. and abroad

This starter credit card with easy, no-fuss application requirements is a solid way for students to start building credit

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Snapshot

2.5

Bankrate rating
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Bottom line

This accessible, flat-rate student card is one of the best starter cards for international students studying in the U.S. and other students that want a streamlined first credit card — but more rewarding student cards are available.

Deserve Image
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Apply now

on Deserve's secure site

Best for students with no credit history

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Rewards rate

1%

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Regular APR

20.99% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History 

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students overview

Deserve Mastercards are issued by Celtic Bank, Member FDIC

The Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students makes it easy for students to start building credit. Applicants don’t need a credit history and international students don’t need a Social Security number, both of which can be serious barriers for people seeking their first credit card. While very little information is needed to approve an application for a Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students, applicants are required to at least have a checking account.

This easy-access approach for a starter credit card is valuable in its own right, and the Deserve EDU card sweetens the deal with its quality roster of additional features—including 1 percent cash back on all purchases, cell phone protection, a student-oriented welcome offer and Mastercard Platinum benefits—which rank it among the best student credit cards.

Granted, it isn’t a top contender in the student card race, but it’s a solid option that equips students to build their credit while learning the ropes of responsible credit use and enjoying student-centric perks.

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

Best for students with no credit history

  • Rewards rate: 1 percent cash back on all purchases
  • Welcome offer: Up to $59 of Amazon Prime Student subscription reimbursement after spending $500 in the first three months of card membership
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 20.99 percent variable

Current welcome offer

Students who make purchases totaling $500 within the first three statement cycles of card membership qualify to have their Amazon Prime Student subscription reimbursed for up to $59 in statement credits.

Depending on how you choose to pay for your Amazon Prime Student membership, you’ll receive your statement credit(s) differently. Your reimbursement begins after your six-month Amazon Prime Student free trial ends, but you can either receive the one-time maximum $59 statement credit if you pay for a whole yearly membership (which covers the whole year) or nine monthly $6.49 credits if you pay by the month. Since the monthly payment approach only reimburses you up to $58.41 and you’ll still owe $19.47 on your first year of Amazon Student Prime, we recommend paying the $59 yearly membership cost upfront.

Many student credit cards don’t provide welcome offers, but the Deserve EDU card’s roughly $60 intro value is on par with the few bonuses you’ll get among other student cards. For example, the Chase Freedom® Student credit card poses a $50 cash bonus after your first purchase within the first three months. The best student card sign-up bonus you can earn in your first few months is the $200 cash bonus from the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days, but you’ll need to have already established good to excellent credit (a 670+ FICO score) in order to qualify for that card. If you have a limited credit history, the Deserve EDU card’s intro offer is a good value all things considered.

Rewards rate

Students spend a significant amount on school supplies, textbooks and gear each year—costly categories that typically don’t earn rewards—and the Deserve EDU Mastercard earns flat-rate cash back on these expenses plus more.

How you earn

Cards with bonus categories to track may be a lot for a new credit card user to juggle while learning the credit card basics. The Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students may be a more streamlined choice since it earns unlimited 1 percent cash back on all purchases.

As with most lenders, there are some transactions that aren’t eligible for flat-rate cash back, such as gambling-related purchases and account costs like interest payments.

How you redeem

At the end of the billing cycle, your cash back is calculated at a rate of 1 percent of every qualifying purchase. This amount is then automatically credited back to your statement in increments of $25, meaning it might take a few months to see a return if your everyday spending is low.

Although automatic statement credits are an easy redemption method for credit newcomers, some student cards do offer more cash back redemption choices, such as direct bank account deposits, gift cards and more.

How much are rewards worth?

Like other cash back programs, your Deserve EDU cash back is calculated based on a percentage of dollars back on your total purchase. This card’s flat 1 percent cash back rate means you’ll get 1 cent back for every dollar you spend.

Other cardholder perks

By providing cash back to students, the Deserve EDU card is already miles ahead of other credit cards designed for applicants with no credit history. But the card also brings a few other benefits to the table that will reward cardholders.

No Social Security number required

If you’re an international student studying in the U.S. and have a checking account, you might qualify for this card since a Social Security number isn’t required. Just be sure to have your passport number handy when you’re completing the online application.

Cellphone protection

The Deserve EDU card is one of the few cards designed for limited credit to offer cell phone protection, which can be an especially helpful perk for students. If you charge your cellphone bill to the Deserve EDU Mastercard, you’ll be covered up to $600 per claim (minus a $50 deductible) if your phone is stolen or damaged. You can receive up to $1,000 coverage across two potential claims per year.

Auto rental damage and collision damage waiver

This is a game-changer for students who initiate and pay for a rental car with their Deserve EDU Mastercard since car rentals and insurance can be quite expensive if you’re under 25 years old. Your coverage applies as secondary coverage reimbursement up to the cost of the vehicle in the event of physical damage or theft (as long as you’re in an eligible territory).

Mastercard Platinum benefits

Cardholders have access to additional Mastercard benefits with this card, such as ID theft protection and the Mastercard Airport Concierge (15 percent off meet-and-greet services to assist you at airports during your travels).

Rates and fees

Like many entry-level unsecured credit cards, the APR is a bit high at 20.99 percent variable, so try to avoid carrying a balance. It’s not a bad ongoing rate since that’s only slightly above the current average credit card interest rate, and several student cards have variable APRs upwards of 26 percent.

Fortunately, there are no annual fees, over-the-credit limit fees or foreign transaction fees on this card, but there are a number of other fees to keep track of.

The late payment is up to $25, while the returned payment is up to $37. Balance transfers and cash advances are not available.

How the Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students compares to other student cards

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard is a decent option for students, but other student cards may offer more lucrative rewards and student-centric card perks. Keep in mind, however, that these cards come with their own drawbacks, such as higher APRs (though high APRs are typical of cards catering to students).

Deserve Image

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

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2.5
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Apply now

on Deserve's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

1%

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Discover Image

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

Cashback Match™

Rewards rate

1%–5%

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Capital One Image

Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$100

Rewards rate

1.5%–8%

Recommended credit

Fair to Good(580 - 740)

Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students vs. Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

As far as student reward cards go, flat-rate cash back cards are the simplest options if you want to focus on credit-building rather than maximizing rewards. The Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card, however, is perhaps the strongest overall flat-rate cash back student card on the market. It beats the Deserve EDU card by offering a higher 1.5 percent cash back rate on all purchases and richer benefits. The Quicksilver Student card stacks valuable purchase protections and travel perks like extended warranty protection, price protection, virtual credit card numbers and complimentary concierge services on top of the rental car insurance it also offers. Students nurturing their credit score may also benefit from the automatic review for a higher credit line that Capital One offers after only six months of on-time payments and responsible credit use.

Both cards waive any annual or foreign transaction fees, but the Deserve EDU does edge out the Quicksilver Student card in terms of its welcome offer (the Quicksilver Student doesn’t carry one) and its lower ongoing APR (the Quicksilver Student poses an intimidating 17.99 percent – 27.99 percent variable APR). The Deserve EDU Mastercard is also more accessible for first-time cardholders since the Quicksilver Student card requires at least a fair to good credit score (580 to 740 FICO score) to be eligible. However, Capital One’s student Quicksilver card is the stronger option if you’re able to obtain it.

Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students vs. Discover it® Student Cash Back

If you don’t mind putting in a little more elbow grease for your cash back, the Discover it® Student Cash Back card might be a more rewarding and lower-cost card that doesn’t require a credit history to qualify. Activating its rotating bonus categories each quarter allows you to earn 5 percent cash back (up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1 percent) on a variety of everyday student expenses using Discover’s 2022 cash back calendar. For instance, you’ll earn boosted cash back at grocery stores and drugstores from January to March and at popular online retailers like Amazon.com from October through December.

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Bankrate insight

If managing bonus categories isn’t an issue for you, several student credit cards offer more cash back on average than the Deserve EDU Mastercard. Based on an average $15,900 yearly spend and Bureau of Labor Statistics spending data, the Deserve EDU card would earn you an average of $159 per year while the following cards could earn you much more cash back:

The Discover it Student Cash Back doesn’t offer cellphone protection, but it does offer a few other fantastic features. The Discover it Student Cash Back’s first-year Cashback Match bonus can also be a much more rewarding welcome offer (as long as you spend more than $1,180 in your first year) since it essentially doubles all of the cash back you earn in your first 12 months. Plus, you may qualify for a higher credit line after Discover automatically reviews your account for responsible credit use after eight months.

Considering the Discover it Student Cash Back card’s minimal rates and fees, it’s hard for the Deserve EDU Mastercard to compete unless you’d prefer a more streamlined starter card experience. The Discover it Student Cash Back doesn’t charge an annual fee, a foreign transaction fee, a penalty APR or a late fee on the first late payment (then up to $41) — plus it carries a six-month 0 percent intro purchase APR, a six-month reduced 10.99 percent intro balance transfer APR and a potentially lower ongoing 15.99 percent to 24.99 percent variable APR thereafter.

Best cards to pair with the Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students

Building credit should be your primary focus when using your credit card rather than applying to multiple credit cards for maximum rewards spending. However, a student credit card with bonus categories that can earn boosted rewards on some of your biggest expenses — such as the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card or the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students — would be the best card to pair with your flat-rate Deserve EDU card.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Pros

  • 1 percent cash back on all purchases
  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fees
  • No credit score or Social Security number required, making it a great choice for international students
  • Mastercard Platinum benefits, including cell phone protection up to $600 per claim (up to $1,000 across two claims per year)
  • Get reimbursed on your Amazon Prime Student membership (lifetime value of $59) for one year when you pay with your Deserve EDU Mastercard after spending $500 in the first 3 billing cycles
  • No deposit required
  • Once you a refer a friend and they activate their card, both of you will receive a $30 referral bonus

Cons

  • You won’t be able to make balance transfers or withdraw cash advances on this card
  • 20.99% variable APR, which can be relatively high compared to some student cards
  • Late payment fee of up to $25

Bankrate’s Take—Is the Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students worth it?

The Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students provides an easy way for students to start building credit while taking advantage of a few student-friendly perks—all with no annual fee or foreign transaction fees to worry about. Not all student credit cards are available with no credit history or no Social Security number, so its unlimited 1 percent cash back on all purchases, Amazon Prime Student reimbursement intro offer and other benefits round out a solid overall package designed around student needs.

However, several other student credit cards offer higher rewards rates and beefier benefits, so the Deserve EDU Mastercard is probably best served as a starter card for international students studying abroad in the U.S. or students that just want a simple first card.

All information about the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions