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Credit cards for new immigrants

You can get some credit cards without a credit history or Social Security number.

As a new immigrant to the US, getting a credit card can be a problem. The biggest road block: a lack of US credit history.

Luckily, you have options. Some card providers don’t require credit histories for card approval, and you may not need a Social Security number either. In time, you can build a credit profile and qualify for better products.

Compare credit cards for new immigrants

If you’re new to the country, here are some of the credit cards available that can help you find your footing. Click on “View details” for more in-depth information about each card.

Name Product Filter values Minimum deposit required Purchase APR Annual fee Minimum Credit Score
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
$49, $99 or $200
26.99% variable
$0
New to credit
A no-annual-fee secured card that separates itself from the pack with a $200 credit limit after making a more affordable than average deposit of $49, $99 or $200.
Cleo Credit Builder card
N/A
$180
500
A card made with your credit score in mind
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
N/A
26.99% variable
$39
580
Get unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase with no limit on how much you can earn, and no changing categories.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Can I use my non-US credit score when applying?

It depends. In late 2019, Amex announced a partnership with Nova Credit that lets users from select international countries use their existing credit histories for Amex personal-card applications. This means you won’t need a Social Security number to apply, though you’ll still need a US-based address.

As of this writing, these countries include Australia, Canada, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Amex and Nova Credit say they’ll add more in the future.

If you’ve recently moved from one of the countries listed above, you may now have many more cards to choose from. Amex currently offers nearly 20 personal credit cards, and you’ll find many excellent products in that mix.

Contact your current bank for US credit card offers

If you already have a relationship with a financial institution in your home country, check if it offers credit cards in the US. Since you’re already a customer, you may be able to open a card without a US credit history.

American Express and Barclays are two companies that might lend a hand for your move. Each company will check your existing payment history to see if it can extend credit to you in the US.

Do I really need a credit card if I’m a new immigrant?

Consider these factors before deciding whether or not you really need to get a credit card in the US:

  • What will your spending look like?
    If you’ll be making frequent or large purchases in the United States, it makes a lot of sense to get a credit card. Otherwise, you might simply stick with simpler options such as debit cards and cash.
  • How long will you stay in the US?
    If you’re staying in the country for just a short while, it might not be worth applying for and maintaining a new credit card.
  • Are you ready to use credit responsibly?
    While you don’t have established credit in the United States yet, you won’t help your credit if you don’t make payments on time or if you rack up high levels of debt.

How to choose the best credit card for new immigrants

These factors can help you decide on your new credit card:

  • Do you live in a country such as Australia, Canada, India, Mexico or the United Kingdom?
    You may be able to use your existing credit history to apply for a personal Amex card.
  • Do you feel you have potential red flags, such as low income or high existing debt?
    If you feel you might have trouble getting approved for an unsecured card, consider secured cards such as the the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card.

What do I need to apply for a credit card in the US?

Required information for your card application depends on your credit card provider. It might include:

  • Permanent address. A mailing address for the provider’s records.
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). You can apply for one with the IRS and use it in place of a Social Security number.
  • Source of income. Most likely, a provider will ask about your employment and annual income.
  • Bank account. A provider may ask for your bank account details so it can evaluate your income, spending habits and other risk factors.
  • Immigration documents. After you apply, your provider may ask you for some immigration documents, such as your visa.

Establishing credit history as an immigrant in the US

When you have a good credit score it does you much more good than boosting your chances at being approved for a credit card. It can help you secure housing, give you a lower interest rate on a loan, make you a more attractive candidate for a job and more.

By using your credit card responsibly, you’ll slowly build a credit history.

What about secured credit cards?

Getting a secured credit card is another great way to build credit. Because you can only get this type of card by putting down a security deposit, more providers are willing to offer it to consumers without credit histories.

Bear in mind that secured cards tend to have smaller maximum credit limits, typically tied to your security deposit. They also tend to have fewer perks and features. But if you don’t mind these limitations, a secured card is just as good as an unsecured card at building your credit score.

Bottom line

Card providers like CreditStacks and Deserve welcome applications from immigrants, and look beyond your credit score when deciding whether to lend to you. Also, consider one of the top secured credit cards, among which there are many choices.

Frequently asked questions

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