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How to get Credit Cards for non-U.S. citizens in 2023
This article walks through some of the best credit card options for non-U.S. citizens, which you can even apply for before you have an SSN or a U.S. credit history.
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.
Whether you’re temporarily moving to the U.S. for school or work, or making a longer term transition, you may be interested in opening a U.S. credit card. This will help you earn rewards as you spend on day-to-day items and can also help you to build a U.S. credit history.
However, it can be difficult to get a credit card for a non-U.S. citizen if you don’t already have a credit history in the United States.
Fortunately, you can now apply for any American Express Personal Card using your foreign credit history from select countries. This makes American Express cards a strong option for non-U.S. citizens who are looking to get started with a great credit card from day one.
With that in mind, here’s our list of the best credit cards for non-U.S. citizens:
Our pick for dining and groceries: Gold Card® from American Express
Our pick for luxury travel: Platinum Card® from American Express
Our pick for family spending: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Our pick for international grad students: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Another option: ask your current card issuer or employer
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.
Our pick for dining and groceries:
American Express® Gold Card
Why we chose it: If you prefer dining out or are frequently on the road, the American Express® Gold Card may be an excellent choice for you. You’ll earn 4X Membership Rewards points for purchases at restaurants and supermarkets, which you can redeem in a variety of ways, such as for cash back, gift cards, or to book travel.
You should be aware of the $250 annual fee and the terms of the $10 monthly restaurant credit (i.e. which limited restaurant chains qualify), but this is an all-around excellent option for those who plan to spend a lot on dining or groceries on the card.
Our pick for luxury travel:
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Why we chose it: The Platinum Card® from American Express is one of the company’s most well-known cards and it was one of the first premium cards on the market.
It offers a suite of benefits that appeal to frequent travelers, such as 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar when booking flights, no foreign transaction fee, and access to The Centurion® Network of 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations in airports worldwide. It also offers savings on Uber rides, cashback on Equinox subscriptions, airline-fee statement credits, among other perks.
Because of all of these perks, it does have a high $695 annual fee. Even with the statement credits and perks, you might not get enough value out of the card to justify spending $695 each year.
Our pick for family spending:
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Why we chose it: Of all of American Express’ cash back credit cards, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card offers bonus cash back earnings in categories that could appeal to younger adults and families. For instance, the card offers one of the highest earnings rates at supermarkets and its streaming service bonus category is particularly attractive if you subscribe to streaming services.
While the annual spending cap for cashback at U.S. supermarkets may be limiting for large families and the 2.7% foreign transaction fee may not work for non-U.S. citizens who travel abroad often, this is an all-around great rewards card. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express has a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 annual fee.
Our pick for international grad students:
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Why we chose it: American Express offers several credit cards that do not have an annual fee, which could be a good fit if you don’t plan to regularly use the card or redeem perks. The Blue Cash Everyday® Card is a particularly good option for students who often shop at supermarkets and commute by car, since it has 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets and gas stations.
While the Blue Cash Everyday® Card does not have as many travel perks as some of the other cards on this list, it is an excellent first credit card in the U.S. for students just getting started.
Another option: ask your current card issuer or employer
You may have years of credit experience in your home country, or be moving to the U.S. with a high-paying job lined up. Your current financial relationships and employer may be able to help you get approved for a new card in the states.
Several card issuers and banks, including American Express, BNP Paribas, Citi, and HSBC have transfer programs for their relocating customers. Additionally, some employers in the U.S. have relationships with local credit unions or banks. You could ask your company’s human resources department, or whoever is helping you with the relocation, about options.
If you don’t currently have a credit card and there aren’t any employer-based options, consider one of the cards listed above.
How to get a credit card without a Social Security number
Many credit card applications will ask you for a Social Security Number (SSN). However, you don’t necessarily need an SSN to complete an application or qualify for a credit card as a non-U.S. citizen.
Some issuers are very clear about being able to apply without an SSN. American Express, for instance, also allows you to use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in the application if you do not have a Social Security number (SSN).
Even if you don’t have a SSN, you can still build credit in the U.S. if you have a credit card, loan, or another credit account that’s reported to the credit bureaus.
The major credit bureaus can use your name, address, and other identifying information to create a credit profile and tie your accounts to your credit reports. Your credit profile can also be tied to your SSN if you get one in the future.
How to apply with your foreign credit history
As mentioned above, American Express enables newcomers from supported countries to use their foreign credit history when applying for any of AmEx personal card—no U.S. credit history required.
Supported countries include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, South Korea, Switzerland, or the U.K.
Important note (for all Amex cards): On the American Express application page, you will have the option to click "I don't have credit history in the U.S." in the Social Security Number (SSN) field of the application page. This will prompt American Express to ask you to use your foreign credit history later in the application.
Beyond credit cards, Nova Credit also lets you use your foreign credit history to apply for other essential products and services from our partners, such as phone plans from Verizon, auto loans, and more.
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