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June 30th 2023

How to apply for a credit card without a Social Security number (SSN)

You may not have a social security number. Read how to apply for a credit card without an SSN to build your credit. Learn all you need now!

Nova Credit is a cross-border credit bureau that allows newcomers to apply for U.S. credit cards, phone plans, and loans using their foreign credit history.

Nova Credit receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but this content is not provided by them. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

Louis DeNicola
Personal Finance Writer

It can be difficult to take part in the U.S. financial system without a Social Security number. Many financial institutions require an SSN on an application for a new account, so not having one can make it difficult to get a credit card, open a checking or savings account, or get a loan.

Fortunately, some banks and credit card issuers open up their applications to residents who do not have an SSN. The key is knowing where to look and how to apply.

If you want a credit card without an SSN, here are some of the top options:

Apply for American Express credit cards without an SSN

If you are a newcomer to the U.S., an international student or another noncitizen without an SSN, American Express might have you covered.

If you do not yet have an SSN, American Express allows you to use your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in the application for American Express Personal Card.

Make sure to enter your ITIN in the field asking for your SSN and to check the box that says “I have had a credit card or loan in Australia, Brazil…”  If you do not have sufficient U.S. credit history, this may prompt American Express to ask you to use your foreign credit history later in the application. You can learn more about the application process in our guide. 

American Express accepts foreign credit history from all of the following countries: Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, UK, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Nigeria, Switzerland, South Korea, and the Philippines. Even if you are not from one of these countries, Amex still accepts ITINs as part of their applications.

You must have an SSN or an ITIN to apply. You can learn more about the application process in our guide. 

Also, you do NOT need a Social Security Number to start your U.S. credit history.

Experian and TransUnion will track and attempt to match your name, birth date, and address to your credit history. However, specified personal information like an SSN and ITIN make it easier for credit bureaus to report information accurately.

American Express also reports to all 3 major credit bureaus (Transunion, Experian and Equifax), so you should start building U.S. credit history if you are approved for a card and use it responsibly.

Recently moved to the U.S.?

Put your foreign credit score to work in the United States

Check if you're eligible to use your foreign credit history to apply for a U.S. credit card.

To choose a card, consider how you want to use the card, your normal purchasing habits, and your lifestyle. Here are a couple of our featured picks:

American Express Blue Cash Everyday®

If you’d prefer to avoid an annual fee, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express might be a good choice for you. 

Here's why the card is awesome:

  • Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.

  • No Annual Fee.

  • Balance Transfer is back! Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from the date of account opening. After that, 19.24% to 29.99% variable APR.

  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%.

  • 3% Cash Back on U.S. online retail purchases, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.

  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations, on up to $6,000 per year, then 1%.

  • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit or at Amazon.com checkout.

  • Thinking about getting the Disney Bundle which can include Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+? Your decision made easy with $7/month back in the form of a statement credit after you spend $9.99 or more each month on an eligible subscription (subject to auto renewal) with your Blue Cash Everyday® Card. Enrollment required.

  • Enjoy up to $15 back per month when you purchase a Home Chef meal kit subscription (subject to auto renewal) with your enrolled Blue Cash Everyday® Card.

Terms apply

However, depending on how you’ll use your credit card, you may be able to earn more rewards with other cards that have an annual fee.

American Express Platinum Card®

If you frequently travel and want to enhance your experience, the Platinum Card® from American Express could be a good fit. 

Unlike typical credit cards, this card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all. While the Platinum Card® from American Express has a high $695 annual fee, you can:

  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.

  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.

  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, The New York Times, Peacock, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.

  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With complimentary access to more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more airport lounge options than any other credit card issuer on the market. As of 03/2023.

  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Save on eligible delivery fees, shipping, and more with a Walmart+ membership. Use your Platinum Card® to pay for a monthly Walmart+ membership and get up to $12.95 plus applicable taxes back on one membership (excluding Plus Ups) each month.

  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card®.

  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only. Terms Apply.

  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: CLEAR® Plus helps to get you to your gate faster at 50+ airports nationwide and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Card. CLEARLanes are available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues.

  • Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 year period for TSA PreCheck® application fee for a 5-year plan only (through a TSA PreCheck® official enrollment provider), when charged to your Platinum Card®. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.

  • Shop Saks with Platinum: Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases in Saks Fifth Avenue stores or at saks.com on your Platinum Card®. That's up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.

  • Unlock access to exclusive reservations and special dining experiences with Global Dining Access by Resy when you add your Platinum Card® to your Resy profile.

  • $695 annual fee.

Terms Apply.

Sometimes, your circumstances dictate which cards you should consider. If you’re in the United States for school, a student card might be best. Or, if you don’t have a credit history in the US (and aren’t applying with a card issuer that considers your credit history from your home country) you might want to try for a secured credit card. To open a secured card, you’ll need to give the card issuer a refundable security deposit. 

No matter the type of card you want, consider:

  • The card’s fees: Cards may come with a variety of fees. Such as an annual fee that you’ll have to pay to keep the card open or a foreign-transaction fee on purchases outside the US or in non-US dollars. Think about how you expect to use your card when reviewing the fees.

  • The benefits: Many credit cards are part of a rewards program and allow you to earn cash back or travel rewards when you use your card for purchases. Cardholders may also receive additional perks, such as extended warranties on purchases, travel insurance, and statement credits to offset certain purchases. 

  • The interest rate: You may have to pay interest if you revolve part of your credit card’s balance. A lower interest rate and annual percentage rate (APR) will lead to less interest accruing. However, if you pay your bill in full each month you won’t have to pay any interest.

How to apply for credit cards without a Social Security number?

With this context in mind, there are typically three key steps as you plan to apply for a credit card without an SSN.

1. Understand the benefits and requirements.

Some issuers, like American Express, will let you use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead of an SSN on your application. An ITIN allows people who don’t qualify for an SSN to file a tax return in the U.S. You may qualify for one if you’ve worked in the U.S. (including as a contractor) or receive a taxable scholarship. You can apply for an ITIN when you file a tax return or in-person at IRS-authorized locations.    

Once you have an ITIN, you may be able to use it in place of an SSN for some credit card applications. A few issuers will also accept a passport if you apply over the phone or at a branch. 

Some credit card issuers also offer credit cards to those without an SSN such as international students or professionals relocating to the U.S. for work. They allow you to apply using other forms of identification, such as your passport and visa information.  

2. Submit the application

Once you’ve decided which card you want, you’ll have to submit the official application. Often this can be done online and only takes a few minutes, but obtaining a credit card without an SSN may require jumping through a few hoops. However, if you have an ITIN, you may be able to put this in place of the SSN and submit your application. If you don’t have an ITIN or SSN, you may be able to apply using other identifying documents, such as your passport.

If you’re unsure of how to apply online, call the card issuer and ask to speak with a representative or visit a local bank branch. 

3. Meet the credit card issuer’s requirements

Being able to apply is important, but you’ll also need to qualify for the card, which can be more difficult with no SSN. Credit card companies consider a variety of factors when reviewing your creditworthiness, and the best credit cards may require a good credit history and low debt-to-income ratio. 

You may be able to get approved for a student card (assuming you’re a student) or for a secured credit card even if you don’t have a credit history in the US and aren’t scoreable by FICO or VantageScore. However, card issuers may still consider your income as they want to know that you can afford to pay the credit card bill.

If you have a good credit history in your home country, some international banks and card issuers may be able to review that credit history when considering your application.

The takeaway

You can have a credit history and credit scores in the U.S. regardless of whether you have an SSN or are a U.S. citizen because the major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — don’t require an SSN to create and build a U.S. credit history. 

Once you open credit cards and loans in the U.S., your payments can be reported to the credit bureaus. The bureaus can then generate credit reports by matching you with your accounts based on identifying information, such as your name and address. Credit scores can also be created based on those credit reports. 

If you’re still in the early stages of building credit in the U.S., you could still benefit by using your credit history from your home country. Nova Credit helps you bring your credit history with you, and creates a Credit Passport® that lenders, card issuers, and property managers can use to review your application based on your foreign credit history.

In addition to credit cards, Nova Credit helps newcomers apply for phone plans, student loans, and more using their hard-earned credit history from back home—rather than starting from scratch.

Use your foreign credit history to start your U.S credit history

New to the U.S.? Check if you can use your country's credit history in the U.S. to apply for credit cards and start your U.S credit history using Nova Credit.

More resources:

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