Can a Non U.S Citizen Get a Credit Card?

If you’re new in the United States because you’ve immigrated over and you’re not a U.S Citizen, you might be wondering whether a Non US citizen can get a credit card? We will explain the answer to this question in much detail below.

Can a Non US Citizen Get a Credit Card?

Whether a Non-U.S citizen can get a credit card depends on the immigration status of the immigrant, as well as whether he or she has a social security number. Credit card issuers will want to verify your identity when you open an account, and so some card issuers will only issue credit cards to holders of a social security number, while others may be willing to open credit cards for holders of an ITN. Other card issuers might be willing to open a credit card for you without a social security number so long as they are able to verify your identity.

That said, here is some information that will help you determine whether you can open a credit card as a non-U.S citizen:

  1. Legal permanent resident – Some card issuers will only offer credit cards to persons who are legal U.S residents or U.S citizens. So, for example, if you have a green card and a social security number, most card issuers will allow you to open a credit card account. However, if you’re an undocumented immigrant, you will have very few choices, if any.

  2. Social Security Number – Most card issuers will allow anyone who has a social security number to apply for and open a credit card. This is so because they can verify your identity easily if you have an SSN. That said, if you do not have a social security number, you should try to get an ITN, ITNs are used for persons who do not have a social security number to file for tax and obtain other government benefits. If you obtain an ITN, you will have more choices when it comes to opening a credit card because this offers card issuers a means through which to verify your identity. That said, you should keep in mind that not all card issuers and banks accept ITNs, so you may face some challenges obtaining a credit card with only an ITN.

    Card Issuer
    Allows Credit Card Application with ITN Only
    Bank of America
    Citi Bank
    Capital One
    American Express
    US Bank
    Wells Fargo

  3. No ITN & No SSD – If you do not have an ITN nor have an SSN, you can still apply for a credit card using identity documents such as your passport or government ID. That said, without a social security number, it will be quite difficult to open a credit card with any of the major credit card issuers.

  4. Credit History – Even U.S citizens who have a social security number often find it difficult to open a credit card if they do not have good to excellent credit history. This is so because card issuers and banks rely on a person’s credit history to assess whether or not the person is likely to repay the money they’re going to borrow on the credit card. That said, if you’re a U.S citizen or permanent resident with a social security number, it will definitely be easier for you to open a credit card because your identity is easily verifiable.

Permanent Residents With a Social Security Number

If you’re a permanent resident and you have a valid U.S social security number, you can apply for any credit card that you want and you have decent odds for being approved for an entry level credit card. If you apply and you’re rejected because you do not have sufficient credit history, you should consider applying for a secured credit card. Secured credit cards works the same exact way as do regular credit cards, however, the only difference is that you must pay a security deposit to obtain the credit card. Typically, the security deposit that you pay will set your credit card spending limit.

For example, if you apply for the Bank of America Secured Visa credit card, you may be required to place a minimum security deposit of $300. If you place a $300 security deposit, your credit limit will be set at $300, meaning you can spend up to $300 on the credit card. Secured credit cards build credit just as do regular unsecured credit cards. If you keep the account open for 12 months and you use the credit responsibly and make your payments on time, Bank of America and other banks may return your security deposit to you and convert your account into a regular unsecured credit card.

Undocumented Immigrant (Non U.S Citizen)

If you’re an undocumented immigrant, you probably do not have a social security number and therefore need to obtain a credit card that does not require an SSN and these gems are extremely difficult to find. If you’re undocumented, your best option is to visit your local credit union or community bank and ask them about your options. The major card issuers are unlikely to issue you a credit card because they will not be able to verify your identity. We have heard of some people living in communities with high populations of undocumented immigrants being able to open credit cards, so it is not impossible, but it will be very difficult. That said, there are no laws that prevent financial institutions and card issuers from issuing credit cards to undocumented immigrants. Card issuers often choose not to because it is very risky to issue a credit card to someone without being able to verify his or her identity. So, if you really need a credit card, you should ask immigrant advocacy groups for advice or you should visit your local community bank or credit union and ask them about your options.

Students in the U.S on Student Visa

If you’re a student in the United States and you’ve come to America on a student visa, there are plenty of student credit card options that you can take advantage of. For example, Bank of America will allow you to open a student visa credit card with only a copy of your passport, student visa, and immigrations forms. Many banks allow the practice and welcome students to apply for their credit cards. To obtain a student credit card, you’re often not required to have a social security number.

Becoming an Authorized User

If you are undocumented, you should consider becoming an authorized user on another person’s credit card. To become an authorized user, you need to find someone who has an open credit card account and ask them to become an authorized user on their account. If the person agrees, they can add you by either adding you to the credit card online via online banking portal, by calling the bank and having your name added to the account, or by visiting your local bank branch. You typically do not need a social security number to become an authorized user, it’s the easiest way to obtain a credit card.

Once added as an authorized user, you will be issued a credit card with your name on it. That said, the challenge with becoming an authorized user is finding a person who is willing to add you to their account as one. This is so because the main cardholder is responsible for the debt that you add to the card. So, if you do not pay, the account owner will be responsible for repaying the money spent on the card. Typically, this option works best if you’re added to a parent, brother, sister, son, or daughter’s account because there is some trust that you will not misuse the card.

What Will You Need to Apply for a Credit Card?

The application process to obtain a credit card is almost the same regardless of which bank or card issuer you’re applying at. Here is some of the common information that you must have in hand to apply for a credit card:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Physical address
  • Income & Employment Status
  • SSN or ITN
  • Citizenship
  • Country of citizenship
  • Monthly housing or rent payment
  • Whether you have a bank account
  • Visa (If you’re not a U.S citizen)

Once you have all of this information, you can fill out the form either online or by going to your local bank branch and applying there. After you apply, you will be notified whether you’ve been approved for the credit card. If your application is denied, you will be given a reason as to the denial.

Use Your Credit Card Responsibly

If you’re successful with opening a credit card, you should use your new credit card responsibly. Responsible use involves charging only as much as you can afford to pay off at the end of every month. You should strive to keep your credit card balance as low as possible, never exceed 30% of your available credit limit. Ideally, you want to keep your credit utilization below 10% and never to exceed 30%. Keeping your balance low is essential for building a good credit history.

Additionally, you should make your payments on time before the payment due date. Missing a single payment can cause significant damage to your credit score. So, make sure to make your payments on time. Signing up for online banking can make it much easier for you to make payments and be notified of upcoming credit card payment due dates.

If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below. We hope that we answered the question can a non-U.S citizen get or open a credit card. Feel free to share your experience of applying for a credit card while being an immigrant or non-U.S citizen.