Understanding how to get a credit card can already be overwhelming, and the process can seem even more daunting as an international student. However, this is not an impossible feat. There are ways available, and some of the most common include obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN), an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), or becoming an Authorized User on someone’s account. other. Access to credit is important for small conveniences like making purchases when cash is not always at hand and can be a key step in establishing yourself in the United States.
Can international students get a credit card?
In short, yes, although there are notable factors that influence how international students obtain credit cards. When applying for a credit card, whether you are an international student or not, most issuers will check the credit history of the applicant. Most applications will also require an SSN, although some issuers will accept an ITIN or even a visa. The Credit CARD Act of 2009 is a major credit card law in the United States that prohibits students under the age of 21 from being the primary holder of a line of credit unless they have a co-signer adult or they cannot prove their ability to repay their debts. You can usually demonstrate your ability to repay by getting a job, such as a part-time job on campus.
Tips for getting a credit card as an international student
As an international student applying for a credit card, you may need different application documents including your student visa, ITIN, and unexpired ID. However, you still need to prove that you are creditworthy, so here are some additional tips for getting a credit card as an international student:
Open a US bank account: A big part of being approved for a credit card is being able to prove that you have a source of income. Establishing a monetary base in the United States by opening a checking account is a positive signal for lenders.
Build credit with new credit report tools: Once you have a U.S. bank account, you can use tools like UltraFICO™ and Experian Boost to report positive account activity to the credit bureaus, such as utility bills, subscriptions, and rent payments. which can help you increase your credit score.
Get a part-time job: Depending on your student visa, you may be able to get a part-time job, which will qualify you for an SSN and serve as proof of income for obtaining a credit card as an international student.
How to get a credit card without SSN
Although most credit card apps require it, here’s how you can get a card without an SSN:
Request an ITIN. Some credit card issuers will accept this number for a credit card application if you don’t have an SSN. You can apply for an ITIN through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Become an authorized user. If you know someone who is willing to let you become an authorized user on their card, then you will have access to credit that way. Your primary cardholder should understand that they are primarily responsible for all debts you incur.
Get a bank-issued credit card. It may be easier to apply for a credit card issued by the bank you are opening an account with – the established financial relationship works in your favor and your chances of approval may be higher.
Credit card options for international students
As an international student, you have the choice to apply for a credit card. Some of the most common are:
- Student Credit Cards: These cards are designed with student-centric needs in mind, offering modest rewards on spending categories such as dining, entertainment, and streaming services that are popular among students. There are also lower barriers to entry when it comes to credit requirements, meaning you can be approved with limited or no credit history. Student credit cards are best suited for international students who already have a stable income and plan to stay in the United States longer.
- Secured credit cardsA secured card is a card that is backed by collateral and generally requires the cardholder to post a security deposit. This deposit will often serve as the card’s credit limit, protecting lenders from certain risks. These cards can be a great credit-building tool over time as you work to establish a credit history in the United States.
- Prepaid credit cards: With a prepaid card, you won’t need to have a bank account linked to the card in any way, as you’ll load funds directly onto the card whenever needed, similar to how you would use a gift card . The amount you need to spend on the card will always be the amount you deposit. Prepaid cards are best suited for international students looking for a short-term card option who don’t have an interest in opening a US bank account or building up a credit history.
How Undocumented Immigrants Can Get a Credit Card
It is possible to access credit cards for undocumented immigrants. There are no laws that prohibit lenders from offering lines of credit to undocumented immigrants, and like international students, these people can use proof of employment or an ITIN to apply if they find a bank. who is willing to work with them. While some banks will work with undocumented immigrants to grant access to a credit card, you can increase your chances of getting a card by getting a driver’s license or obtaining other forms of identification like an SSN. or a passport.
The bottom line
It may take some work, but you can access credit cards as an international student or undocumented immigrant. Leveraging other forms of identification such as ITINs, passports and visas is essential. International students can open a US bank account, sign up for a prepaid card, or become an authorized user on someone else’s card. Some banks will work to provide credit cards to undocumented immigrants and you can increase your chances of approval by obtaining a driver’s license or other form of identification. With a few solid workarounds, there is a way for most people to access these credit-building tools.