5 Ways U.S. Immigrants Can Get Approved for a Credit Card

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

credit card without ssn

When Helen Dale emigrated from England to the United States, she opened up a business of her own. A seasoned hair stylist, she built a solid reputation and a loyal clientele at her salon.

Despite being a legal permanent resident in the U.S., she often feels like she’s operating a business with her hands tied behind her back. Thanks to regulations, she has limited credit options because she doesn’t have a Social Security number (SSN).

“My bank has a rule that says you must be a citizen to get a credit card, no matter how high your credit score is,” she said. “Without a credit card or a line of credit, it’s more difficult to buy new equipment or build up my business.”

Dale’s situation isn’t unusual. According to the Migration Policy Institute, over 1.1 million people legally immigrate to the U.S. each year. Those immigrants can face big financial hurdles, even though they do everything by the book.

Getting a credit card without a SSN or U.S. credit history can be difficult, but thankfully, it’s not impossible.

A lack of credit history leads to problems

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, credit reporting agencies can’t create a credit profile on new immigrants because there’s not enough information about the person’s financial behavior in the U.S.

“Most credit card companies deny me due to a low credit rating because I don’t have any credit history,” Dale said.

Even if they have accounts in good standing in their home countries, that data doesn’t transfer over. Immigrants in the U.S. who are starting from scratch face a conundrum: They can’t get credit without a credit history, but they can’t build their credit history without getting credit.

That issue can put people into a tough spot. For entrepreneurs like Dale, lack of credit options makes it difficult to grow their businesses. Even for those who don’t own their own companies, not having a credit card can make it hard to pay bills.

5 ways to get a credit card without a SSN

Can a non-U.S. citizen get a credit card? Thankfully, the answer is yes. It might take some extra homework and research, but it can be done. Use these five strategies to get a credit card:

1. Find a cosigner

Some credit card companies allow you to add a cosigner to your application. This person acts as a guarantor for the debt. A good cosigner — typically a relative or trusted friend — has a strong credit history, and must cover the payments if you fall behind.

A cosigner reduces the credit card company’s risk of you missing payments, so they might be more likely to issue you a card. If you have a relative with a strong U.S. credit history, consider asking them to cosign your credit card.

2. Become an authorized user

Similarly, another way to build your credit is to become an authorized user on another person’s account. You can use the card and make payments, and your activity is added to your credit report — which helps you build a positive credit history.

However, adding someone as an authorized user is a big decision. The original cardholder is responsible for making payments even if the authorized user makes purchases the cardholder didn’t approve. Make sure you both understand what charges are allowed and how you will repay them.

3. Utilize secured credit cards

A secured credit card can be a stepping stone to a regular credit card. With a secured card, you make a deposit to your account and that amount acts as your credit limit.

For example, if you deposit $500, you can charge up to $500 worth of purchases before you hit your limit. After that, you can’t make any more purchases until you make a payment.

Secured cards don’t give you the same buying power as a regular credit card, but using one can help you build your credit history and qualify for another card in the future.

4. Look at credit card companies designed for immigrants

As immigration numbers continue to increase, some companies are offering options specifically created just for immigrants. These companies have lower credit score requirements and might not require a cosigner, increasing your chances of getting approved for a credit card. Two companies to look at are Deserve and CreditStacks.

Deserve offers several different cards that are designed for those with little to no credit history, including recent immigrants. The Deserve Edu card — an international student credit card — doesn’t even require a SSN. The interest rates are higher than some other cards and there is an annual fee, but if you pay off your balance in full each month, a Deserve credit card can be a great starter card.

CreditStacks was founded by a U.S. immigrant who struggled with finding a credit card himself. The company offers a credit card for new immigrants, which come with a higher credit limit than many entry-level cards and do not require a SSN.

5. Ask if the credit card issuer will accept an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

Although some credit card companies ask for a SSN, many financial institutions, including banks and credit unions, will accept alternative forms of identification. One of the most common types is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), a number the IRS issues to nonresident and resident immigrants.

Making the most of your new credit card

Whether you have no credit history or can’t get a credit card without a SSN, it’s important to use your new card with care. Always make the minimum payments on time and, if possible, pay off your balance in full each month. Being diligent with your card will help boost your credit score and make it possible to get more credit lines later on.

If you need to improve your credit score before applying for a new card or loan, this guide can help you get where you need to be.

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1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal LoansFixed rates from 5.49% APR to 14.24% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.365% APR to 13.365% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of April 11, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.365% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.88% plus 3.735% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.99% – 16.24% (4.99% – 16.24% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates shown are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
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8.00% - 25.00%$5,000 - $35,000
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4.99% - 16.24%2$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
5.99% - 35.89%$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
5.25% - 14.24%$2,000 - $50,000Visit Earnest
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.