Building credit in a new country is difficult, but these credit cards can help.
You may have a dazzling credit score in your home country, but that history doesn’t follow you when you arrive in the US. That’s because there’s no international credit report agency — it’s all country-specific. While many of these countries rely on the same factors to weigh someone’s credit, the scoring system may be vastly different than here in the US.
So, the earlier you start building credit, the better. Over time, you can build a strong credit score, which can help you get approved for housing, credit and more.
Our pick for immigrants to the US
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
A secured Visa® credit card that helps you build your credit quickly.
- $35 annual fee
- 19.64% variable APR
- $200 minimum deposit
Build credit with a secured credit card
You build credit by making debt repayments on time. Here’s the problem: Few lenders will approve you for a loan, and few card providers will approve you for a credit card. However, your situation is not hopeless, and your best option is a secured credit card.
With a secured credit card, you put down a security deposit — typically $200, but you can find lower deposits — before opening an account. Your deposit then becomes your credit limit. Because this money serves as collateral, your card provider is guaranteed to get your money even if you fail to repay your debt.
For this reason, secured cards are much easier to get than unsecured credit cards. Once you obtain a secured card, you gain a great opportunity to build credit. With timely payments, you could steadily increase your credit score.
Compare secured credit cards
How to choose a secured credit card
Without a credit history, you could still be denied for a secured card. Also, each time you apply for a card, the respective lender initiates a hard pull on your credit report.
To avoid too many hard pulls, apply for one card at a time. Also, apply with card providers who are likely to approve you. Here are considerations to review when choosing a secured credit card:
- Does the card require a credit check? Those that don’t check your credit history will prove much easier to obtain as a new immigrant.
- What is the required security deposit? Choosing a card with a low minimum security deposit could help you start building credit without hurting your savings.
- Does the card report to all three credit bureaus? Using a secured credit card that reports to all three bureaus is the fastest way to build your credit score.
The following cards are relatively easy to be approved for. The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card and Green Dot primor® Visa® Classic Secured Credit Card are especially accessible, as neither comes with a credit check.
DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card
- No annual fee; easy approval with soft credit check.
- The DCU Visa® Platinum Secured Credit Card comes with a low 13.5% variable APR for purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. It also has no balance transfer, cash advance or foreign transaction fees. You can get this card by joining the Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU). To do that, just join Reach Out for Schools for $10 when you open a DCU account. Then fund your DCU savings account with a minimum of $5. To start using your secured card, you’ll need to make a deposit of at least $500.
SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card
- No annual fee; easy approval.
- The SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card has a low 14.24% variable for purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. It also offers point rewards on all purchases. To get this card, you must become a member of the State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU). To do that, you can join the American Consumer Council for $5. You also must open an SDFCU savings account with a minimum of $1.
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
- $35 annual fee; no credit check.
- The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card has an annual fee, but it doesn’t require a credit check. You have a great chance of being approved as long as you put down a security deposit of at least $200.
Green Dot primor® Visa® Classic Secured Credit Card
- $39 annual fee; no credit check.
- The Green Dot primor® Visa® Classic Secured Credit Card costs $39 a year, but it has a relatively low purchase APR of 13.99% fixed.
What languages can Customer Service representatives speak?
Most lenders will offer English or Spanish speaking options for over the phone customer service. Larger companies such as Visa or Mastercard may be able to offer a wider range of languages since they’re based throughout the world.
However, if you’re in need of another language option, your best bet is to have a translator.
If worried whether you can qualify for an unsecured credit card for new immigrants, a secured credit card can help you build credit so long as you spend responsibly and pay your balance in full each month.