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There are several options available for international students and immigrants seeking a credit card in the United States, even without a Social Security number or ITIN.
Understanding Credit Cards:
Though it can be challenging, it is possible for non-U.S. citizens living in the United States to get a credit card. One’s immigration status will dictate the number of credit card options available, but it's important to note that you don't necessarily need to have a Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in order to get a credit card in the United States. Many immigrants and international students may be able to apply for secured credit cards or become authorized users on someone else’s account.
Best credit cards for those without a Social Security number or ITIN
Below are our top options for credit cards you can get if you have neither a Social Security number nor an ITIN. These types of cards are great choices for international students and non-U.S. citizens residing in the United States that are looking to build up their credit without needing to pay an annual fee.
Best credit card for students with no credit history: Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students
- Receive one year of Amazon Prime Student on Deserve after your first purchase with your new Deserve EDU Mastercard (Lifetime Value of $59).
- Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases with your Deserve EDU Mastercard. Once approved, you'll automatically start earning cash back on all purchases.
- Feel secure with cell phone protection up to $600.
- No deposit required. No annual fees.
- No international transaction fees on purchases abroad so you can travel with confidence.
- No Social Security Number required for international students to apply.
- Refer A Friend Program: Refer anyone to Deserve using your personal referral code. Upon approval, card activation and use, you'll receive $30 and so will your referral. Referral bonuses are unlimited!
- Manage and track your spending, set automatic payments and securely freeze your card all through one easy to use app.
- See if you prequalify with no impact to your credit score in minutes.
- Deserve Mastercards are issued by Celtic Bank, Member FDIC.
- Enjoy Mastercard Platinum Benefits intended to make your life easier like Mastercard ID Theft Prevention™ and Master Rental®.
One great credit card option available to international students is the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students. This card doesn’t require a Social Security number to apply, which is especially helpful for international students and those with little to no credit history. This card has a $0 annual fee, no deposit requirements and allows cardholders to Earn 1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases.
To make this card even more lucrative, the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students also comes with some useful benefits, including Up to $59 in statement credits for Amazon Prime Student when you spend $500 within the first three statements. You'll also get cell phone protection up to $600 and the added benefit of no foreign transaction fees, making it easy to use your card whenever you visit home. These benefits make this card one of the best credit cards for students with no credit history.
Application process: You'll initially be asked whether you are a U.S. or international student. International students do not need to provide a SSN. You’ll need to fill in your personal details and source(s) of income or assets, such as a job, scholarship, grant or family savings. Note that if you do have a credit score, it may be factored into the bank's decision on your application.
- $0 annual fee or required deposit
- Cell phone protection up to $600
- Free year of Amazon Prime after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles
- No SSN required
- Earn 1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases
- Targeted specifically toward students, so not necessarily a great option for non-student immigrants
Best credit cards if you only have an ITIN
For international students and immigrants who have only an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) but no SSN, you still have a few solid options when it comes to finding a credit card.
Best for students without a Social Security number: Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
With the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One, you won't pay an annual fee or foreign transaction fees, and you have the ability to Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases; 0.25% Cash Back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time. Best of all, this card only requires applicants to have an ITIN, which is great for international students and people with little or poor credit history.
Not only does the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One offer stellar rewards for a student card, but it also includes a $60 streaming subscription credit, which allows you to earn $5 per month for 12 months on select streaming subscriptions when you pay on time (exclusions apply). Capital One will automatically consider you for a higher credit line in as little as six months.
- $0 annual fee
- Foreign transaction fees: None
- No SSN required, just ITIN
- Decent earning rate for a student card
- $60 streaming subscription credit
- Automatically considered for a higher credit line in six months
- High regular APR
- No sign-up bonus
Best for earning rewards without a Social Security number: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself BackSM, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 03/31/22.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
One of the best rewards credit cards out there happens to be available for those without a Social Security number. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card only requires applicants to supply their ITIN when applying for the card. This card offers a spectacular sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. It also allows cardholders to earn 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases.
Widely considered to be one of the best travel cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has $0 foreign transaction fees and offers cardholders access to varying types of travel insurance. With this card you'll also have the ability to redeem your rewards with Chase Ultimate Rewards' many transfer partners. If you have an ITIN, we would definitely recommend taking advantage of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
- $0 foreign transaction fees
- Excellent travel perks
- VIP access to events and experiences
- Travel insurance
- Stellar sign-up bonus
- High rewards rates
- Ability to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards
- $95 annual fee
Best secured credit cards for international students and immigrants
Applying for a secured credit card can be a great way for international students, immigrants and people with little, poor or no credit history to build and repair their credit. Building credit is an important step towards upward mobility when newly arriving in the United States.
Best credit card if you have a Social Security number: Discover it® Secured Credit Card
The Discover it® Secured Credit Card is often considered to be one of the best secured credit cards in the United States. This is mainly because it includes a rewards program — and a good one, at that — which isn't typical for secured credit cards. The only downside here is that you do need to have a Social Security number in order to apply for this card, and Discover doesn’t accept ITIN.
Some of the Discover it® Secured Credit Card's more noteworthy features include 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically. With Discover's Cashback Match program, you'll also get an Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match. This card requires you to put down a refundable security deposit, which will be equal to your initial credit line. The minimum initial deposit for this card is $200. Discover will also report your credit history to all three major bureaus, which can help you build good credit when you consistently pay your bill ontime.
- $200 minimum security deposit
- Discover isn't widely accepted abroad
- Need an SSN to apply
Best starter credit card: Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card is a great credit card for immigrants and permanent residents who have an ITIN or Social Security number. Though this card doesn’t offer any type of rewards program, paying your bill on time consistently will help you build your credit and eventually graduate to an unsecured card.
There is a $0 annual fee, but this card requires a refundable minimum security deposit of either $49, $99 or $200 which will earn you an initial credit line of $200. However, if you deposit more money before your account opens you are eligible to get a higher credit line. You will also automatically be considered for a higher credit line after six months from account opening.
- $0 annual fee
- Flexible credit line
- No SSN necessary, ITIN accepted
- Automatic credit line reviews
- Requires a refundable minimum security deposit
- No rewards program
Compare the best credit cards for international students and immigrants 2022
ITIN or SSN required?
|Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students||No||1% unlimited cash back on ALL purchases||$0|
|Journey Student Rewards from Capital One||Yes - ITIN accepted||1% Cash Back on all purchases; 0.25% Cash Back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time||$0|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Yes - ITIN accepted||5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases||$95|
Why is it challenging for international students to get a credit card?
International students may have a difficult time getting approved for a credit card for a variety of reasons:
- Lack of a credit history: One of the struggles plaguing most students, international or not, is that students often have little to no credit history — this can make it challenging to be approved for a credit card. The most important step for anyone newly applying for a credit card is to establish a good credit history. For international students, the best option for doing this is often by selecting a secured credit card for students.
- No SSN or ITIN: International students may not have a Social Security number or ITIN — which, as we have outlined in this article, severely limits the options available when it comes to taking out a credit card.
One option for building credit without a Social Security number or ITIN is becoming an authorized user on someone else's account who has a strong credit history.
Banks that accept ITINs for credit cards
For permanent residents, temporary immigrants and international students who don't have an SSN but do have an ITIN, there are more options available for taking out a credit card, though you still may face some challenges. Unfortunately, not all banks in the U.S. will accept an ITIN as a substitute for an SSN.
The importance of building credit
The number one most important step for being eligible to get a credit card is to establish a good credit history. Establishing a positive credit history is essential for building a life in the United States: From buying a house or renting an apartment, to buying a car and taking out a loan, everything requires a decent credit score.
Unfortunately for international students and immigrants, your international credit history doesn't always follow you to the United States. That's because foreign banks typically don't report to the three major U.S. credit bureaus. Most newcomers to the U.S. will be starting from scratch when it comes to building a credit history, and using credit cards responsibly is a great start.
How to build a good credit history
- Once approved for a credit card, be sure to pay your bill on time and in full for the best long-term effects on your credit history.
- Consider starting with a secured credit card. Though they may not come with as many bells and whistles as other credit cards, they're a great way to establish a positive credit history that can propel you towards an unsecured card. Secured cards are generally easy to get if you don't have any previous credit history, or if your past credit history is poor. Aside from your initial deposit, they usually won’t burden you with a ton of ongoing fees.
- Make sure your credit card reports your activity to at least one of the three major credit bureaus to ensure you're actually building your credit history.
- Use your credit card frequently, but avoid making purchases you can't afford to pay off on time and in full. In order to build a solid credit history, you should use 30% or less of your credit card limit.
Beware of predatory lending
Immigrants searching for a credit card need to carefully examine any contracts or cardmember agreements before applying — you should understand all the fees and charges associated with a new account. People with low credit scores and limited credit histories are often targeted with extremely high interest rates and fees.
- Don’t accept credit cards with a purchase APR higher than 29%.
- If a card comes with an annual fee, it should be less than $50.
- Other types of fees are not common. Origination, monthly membership or upkeep fees are generally a sign of a card being a so-called fee harvester, and should be avoided.
- Look out for other surprises in the card’s terms and conditions (for example, the lack of a grace period for interest).
Becoming an authorized user
Another option for building your credit history is to become an authorized user on someone else's credit card account who already has a high credit score. The way this works is:
- Someone with an open credit card account can add you as an authorized user on their account (typically for a small fee).
- From there, you’ll be issued your own credit card with your name on it that's linked to their account, and you'll be able to make purchases on the card.
- The issuing bank will typically report your name to the credit bureaus, which can help build your credit when the account holder pays off their card on time and in full each month.
The major challenge here is that you'll need someone willing to take on the risk of making you an authorized user. The primary account holder will be solely responsible for all debt posted to this account, even if you’re the one making the purchases. In most cases, authorized users tend to be the primary account holder's spouse or family member.
FAQs about credits for immigrants and international students
Can I get a credit card as an international student?
Yes, it is possible to get a credit card as an international student. Even if you don't have a Social Security number or an ITIN, there are still options for getting a credit card in the US. One example of a great first time credit card for students is the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students, which is targeted specifically towards students and doesn't require an SSN to apply.
Which credit card is best for international students?
The best credit card for international students depends on whether or not you have a Social Security number or ITIN. If you have neither, the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is a great option. If you have an ITIN, there are lots of good credit cards for students. The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is another great option for international students.
Can a non-U.S. citizen get a credit card?
Yes, non-U.S. citizens can get a credit card, though you may have to jump through a few hoops to make it happen. If you have a Social Security number or ITIN, you’ll have a lot more options available to you. If you lack an SSN or ITIN, however, you might try opening a secured card to build your credit history or becoming an authorized user on someone else's account.
Can you get a credit card without a Social Security number?
Yes, you can get a credit card without a Social Security number. It's much easier to get a credit card if you have an ITIN, but even if you don't, there are still options available to you. If you don't have an SSN or an ITIN, the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students can be a great choice for you. The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is also one of the best starter credit cards for students.
What is the best credit card for immigrants?
The best credit card for immigrants depends on whether or not you have a Social Security number or ITIN. If you only have an ITIN but no SSN, there are still lots of great options for getting a credit card. If you have an ITIN, we recommend the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card to help you best build your credit history.
Recap of the best credit cards for international students and immigrants of 2022
- Best credit cards for those without a Social Security number or ITIN: Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students
- Best credit cards if you only have an ITIN: Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
- Best credit cards if you only have an ITIN: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Best secured credit cards for international students and immigrants: Discover it® Secured Credit Card
- Best credit cards if you only have an ITIN: Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
The information related to Journey Student Rewards from Capital One, Discover it® Secured Credit Card and Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.