It’s not easy for for foreigners living in the United States to get a credit card. Depending on your immigration status, available options can be limited. Most immigrants and international students may be able to apply for secured credit cards or become an authorized user on a close friend or family member’s account. Below are a list of options available according to your status.
Best Option for International Students: SelfScore Mastercard
One unique option available to international students is turning to alternative scoring credit card companies such as SelfScore. The card has no annual fee and very average interest rates. Most importantly, it doesn’t require users to have a social security number which makes it one of the best credit cards for international students.
To apply, you need the following documents:
- US Visa
- Form I-20
Bank account information or the latest US bank statements
The card will help international students build up a credit score by reporting their payments to one of the three credit bureaus. It works as a great alternative to other options because it’s inexpensive. The Selfscore MasterCard doesn’t require a security deposit unlike some other options for non-student immigrants.
Options for Permanent Residents & Immigrants
If you’re a permanent resident or a temporary immigrant, you may qualify for a credit card if you have one of two things — a social security number or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). Unfortunately, not all banks in the U.S. will accept an ITIN as a substitute for an SS number.
|Issuer||Allows Credit Card Applications With ITIN?|
|Bank of America||Yes|
Without prior credit history, immigrants may also need to rely on secured credit cards. These products are intended to help individuals build up their credit score over time. These card requires the user to put down a security deposit. Once your credit score climbs to about 680, you can begin applying for better credit cards.
If you have a Social Security Number: Discover it Secured Credit Card
This is one of the best secured credit cards in the United States. It comes with a rewards program, which is unusual for cards this type. Users get 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and 1% back on all other purchases. As with all secured credit cards, you’ll need to put down a security deposit. The minimum for this card is $200. Your credit line will be equal to the amount of your deposit.
- 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and 1% back on everything else
- No annual fee
- Free FICO® Credit Score
If You Only have an ITIN: Capital One Secured MasterCard
Immigrants who only have an ITIN may want to consider signing up for the Capital OneSecured MasterCard. The card comes with no annual fee and a flexible credit line. Making the minimum required security deposit of $49 can get you an initial credit line of $200. The more you deposit the higher your credit line will be. This is better than most other secured credit cards that often only give you a credit line at a 1:1 ratio to your security deposit. Unfortunately, this card doesn’t come with any cash back or rewards program.
- No annual fee
- Flexible credit line
- CreditWise® allows you to monitor your credit score
Before Searching For Options Beware of Predatory Lending
Immigrants searching for a credit card need to be vigilant and carefully examine any contracts or cardmember agreements before applying. Take extra care to understand all the fees and charges associated with a new account. Immigrants and international students are at an increased risk of being targeted by predatory lenders. Historically, economically disadvantaged people have been offered extremely high interest rates and fees. In some cases, these extra charges were violating federal law.
As a general guideline, you should not accept credit cards with purchase APR higher than 29%. A card may come with an annual fee, though 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.