Credit cards are a useful financial tool that can help you navigate modern life more easily. However, if you’re an international student, a new immigrant, or a noncitizen for other reasons, you probably don’t have a Social Security number (SSN), which can be a barrier to getting a card.
Thankfully, there are ways for people without an SSN to get credit cards. We’ll introduce the best credit cards without SSN requirements in 2022 and walk you through how to secure one of those cards as smoothly as possible.
Table of Contents
- Best credit card without SSN for bad credit
- Best credit card without SSN for no credit
- Best credit card without SSN for fair credit
- Best rewards credit card without SSN
- Best credit card without SSN for students
- How to get a credit card without a Social Security number in 4 steps
- Alternative options if you can’t get a credit card with no SSN
Best credit card without SSN for bad credit
Best credit card without SSN for no credit
Best credit card without SSN for fair credit
Best rewards credit card without SSN
Best credit card without SSN for students
How to get a credit card without a Social Security number in 4 steps
Getting a credit card when you have no SSN can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible. Just follow these steps:
1. Get an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN)
If you don’t have an SSN, you can still apply for a credit card by using your taxpayer identification number (ITIN). This is a tax processing number that’s issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to individuals that need to file tax returns but aren’t eligible for an SSN. 1
Not all credit card companies will accept an ITIN in lieu of an SSN as an alternative form of identification, but many major ones do, including American Express, Bank of America, and Capital One.
Use one of the following three methods to apply for your ITIN: 2
- Mail relevant documents (i.e. your W-7, tax return, and proof of foreign status) to the address listed on the IRS website.
- Apply in the US or abroad through a Certifying Acceptance Agent that’s authorized by the IRS.
- Apply at a local designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.
After you’ve applied for your ITIN, all that’s left to do is sit back and wait for a confirmation letter from the IRS. You can expect to hear back from them within approximately 7 weeks if your application went through successfully. 2
How to get a credit card as an international student without an SSN
It can be difficult to apply for a credit card in the US as an international student. Fortunately, it’s not impossible. If you’re not eligible to obtain an SSN, you can still apply for an ITIN, no matter if you’re on an F1, J1, or M1 visa. You can then use it to apply for a credit card as we’ve mentioned.
If you’re struggling to get an ITIN, there are credit cards you can look into that accept other documentation, such as your visa, passport, or certain school documents.
How to get a business credit card without an SSN
You can get a business credit card with an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you don’t have an SSN.
Similar to an ITIN, an EIN is issued by the IRS for tax purposes. To apply for an EIN for your business, you’ll likely need to get an ITIN (or SSN) first, especially if you’re applying online. 3
Having your EIN added to your credit card application as well as providing additional collateral can significantly increase your chances of getting approved for a business credit card.
2. Pick a bank that accepts an ITIN or alternative identification
You may have fewer options applying for a credit card with an ITIN or an alternative form of identification, such as your passport or a government-issued ID. However, by doing some research on different credit card companies’ policies, it’ll still be possible to find a card without SSN requirements that’s suitable for you.
Bear in mind that if you’re applying with your passport or secondary form of identification, credit card issuers might ask you to provide proof of income during the application process.
3. Review your credit
In addition to your identification information, your credit is another important requirement for applying for a credit card. The better your credit history and credit score are, the more credit card options you’ll have.
Even if you don’t have an SSN, you may still have a credit report, which you can get a free copy of every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com. If you spot any inaccurate information on it, make sure to dispute the item immediately so that it won’t drag down your credit score.
Bear in mind that credit scores typically won’t show up on your free credit reports. To check your credit score, you can try looking it the following three places:
- A credit monitoring service
- Your bank’s website
- FICO’s website or a credit bureau’s website (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion)
If you think your credit card application may get denied because your credit report has an insufficient credit history or you have a bad credit score, then it may be worthwhile to spend some time building your credit beforehand.
Don’t worry that your lack of a credit card will prevent you—there are plenty of ways to build credit when you have none.
Can I transfer my foreign credit history to my US credit report?
No, you can’t transfer your foreign credit history to your US credit report. That’s because every country has its own laws that regulate credit reporting. Additionally, the technologies used in different countries to manage consumers’ credit histories can be a barrier to transferring information. 4
4. Apply for a credit card
Once you’ve prepared all the documents you need, picked out the credit card you want to get, and checked your credit, then you can go ahead and apply for your credit card.
You can apply however you want:
- In person
- Over the phone
- Through the card issuer’s website
Your credit score may take a small dip when you apply because most card issuers will check your credit report, which will trigger a hard inquiry that will take a few points off your credit score. This effect is relatively small and should diminish considerably within a few months.
If your credit card application is successful, congratulations! All you have to do is wait until you receive your new card in the mail and follow your issuer’s instructions to activate it. Make sure to use it responsibly so that you can build your US credit history and enjoy the benefits of having good credit.
Alternative options if you can’t get a credit card with no SSN
If all of the methods above fail, you have two remaining options:
1. Get a prepaid card
If you’re struggling to get a credit card without an SSN, a prepaid card might be a good alternative.
While a prepaid card (also known as a prepaid debit card or a stored-value card) won’t build your credit history, it will offer many of the same conveniences as a regular credit card.
Additionally, you can buy a prepaid card without undergoing a credit check and spend however much money you load on that card. However, keep in mind that many prepaid cards charge fairly high fees. 5
2. Become an authorized user on someone else’s card
Becoming an authorized user on a credit card means that you’ve been added to that card as a secondary user. You’ll receive your own credit card and have access to the same line of credit as the primary cardholder.
More importantly, their credit history will be added to your own credit report, whether for better or for worse. This means that being an authorized user affects your credit score, which makes this a great method if you’re trying to build credit in the US—as long as the primary cardholder uses their card responsibly.
After being an authorized user boosts your score, you can try again to qualify for a card of your own.