Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
While most major credit card issuers will ask for a Social Security number (SSN) when you apply for a card, there are alternative forms of identification that might be accepted. Not having an SSN can prevent consumers from easily applying for many credit cards. We have compiled information about how to apply for a credit card and what products are available if you don't have a Social Security number.
- Getting a Credit Card Without an Social Security Number
- Which Credit Card Issuers Can You Apply to Without an SSN?
- Why Social Security Numbers Are Important for Credit Card Accounts
Getting a Credit Card Without a Social Security Number
If you are not eligible to receive an SSN, you may apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) by the IRS, which can be used to apply for credit cards. If you are a nonresident who is filing a tax return or a dependent/spouse of a U.S. citizen or visa holder, then you are required to have an ITIN. This number follows the same nine-digit format as a SSN and can sometimes be used in place of a SSN when applying for a credit cards online, depending on the card issuer.
Even if you are able to apply for a card using an ITIN or some other form of identification, you may not be eligible for most cards because of a lack of U.S. credit history. Credit history from another country cannot be transferred to the U.S., and the major credit bureaus typically use your SSN to track your credit information. This is why card issuers often require a SSN when applying for a card. Many of the cards with higher rewards rates will be unavailable to consumers without a credit history. However, secured cards may help people with no SSN or credit history build credit in the U.S.
Credit cards aimed at international students who don't have an SSN or credit history are the best options for foreign students looking to build their credit. These cards often accept a passport number as proof of identification and require a valid U.S. residential address. While these cards often offer little or nothing in terms of rewards value, they provide an opportunity for users to build credit history without an SSN.
Those who want a credit card but have no SSN might want to consider getting one if they are eligible. Individuals who can legally work in the U.S. are usually eligible to receive a SSN. Often, applying for a Social Security number involves visiting a Social Security office, filling out an application, and providing documentation of your work authorization status and identity. Getting an SSN will not only make you eligible to apply for more credit cards, but it also makes it easier for credit card issuers to track your credit and therefore easier for card issuers to process your application as well.
Which Credit Card Issuers Allow You to Apply Without an SSN?
Of the seven major credit card issuers that we researched, five will allow you to apply for a credit card without an SSN. They are: American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase and Citibank. The most common form of alternative identification that is accepted is an ITIN, however, this may vary by issuer or card. Keep this in mind: Just because a card issuer will accept an application with an ITIN or some other form of identification does not mean it will approve an application. The issuer will still need to consider your credit history.
|Obtaining a Credit Card Without an SSN|
|American Express||You can use an ITIN to apply online.|
|Bank of America||You can use an ITIN if you apply in a branch office but not online.|
|Capital One||You can use an ITIN to apply online.|
|Chase||You can use an ITIN to apply online.|
|Citibank||You can use an ITIN over the phone, but the process will be delayed.|
|Wells Fargo||SSN required (except for the secured card).|
Chase, Capital One and American Express allow online card applicants to enter an ITIN when asked for an SSN. These card issuers provide the easiest route for consumers seeking to apply for a card online, and they're a good place to start when looking for credit cards if you don't have an SSN. Some of these cards may be difficult or impossible to qualify for without adequate credit history.
Citibank will allow you to apply for a credit card without an SSN over the phone, and they will contact you later to request additional information in order to confirm your identity. Similarly, Bank of America will allow you to apply for their credit cards using an ITIN only if you visit a branch office. In both of these cases, applicants can expect a delayed processing of their applications.
Discover requires its applicants to provide an SSN for their all cards. Wells Fargo requires an SSN to apply for all but one of their cards: the Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card, which is marketed toward temporary U.S. residents. You can apply for this card online with an ITIN.
Why Social Security Numbers Are Important for Credit Card Accounts
Federal law requires that financial institutions verify the identity of anyone seeking to open an account. This means that anyone seeking to open a savings or checking account or apply for a credit card is required to provide adequate identification. Here, "adequate identification" is ultimately defined by the bank. The minimum requirement is set by the U.S. government and includes the name, birthdate, address and identification number (such as SSN, ITIN or passport number) of an applicant.
If you're getting a credit card to build credit history, it may be difficult for the credit bureaus to accurately track your credit history. Experian and TransUnion track the credit history of consumers without an SSN, using information like name, birthdate and address to match an individual to their credit history. However, the more specific personal information (like an SSN) will make it easier for the credit bureaus to report information accurately.