12 Credit Card Options for International Students Without an SSN

12 Credit Card Options for International Students Without an SSN

Being an international student in the United States can be tough. First, you need to understand the foreign system you have just gotten yourself into (including the foreign system of credit history) and then proceed to learn how to navigate it without the perks of being a resident or U.S. Citizen.

Getting simple things like a credit card, a loan, or an apartment can become complicated without a Social Security Number (SSN) – a nine-digit number that is only assigned to U.S. residents and citizens by the U.S. government.

The government uses this number to keep track of each person’s earnings and years of work. As an international student, you aren’t given an SSN, which can be a problem when you want to get a credit card. We are going to go over how you can overcome this barrier and get the credit card you need in the United States.

Can International Students Get an SSN?

Generally, only those who are U.S. citizens or authorized to work in the U.S. can get an SSN. If you are neither of the above mentioned, you can still get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). International students can get this number, which follows the same nine-digit format as that of SSN. So how do you get one?

How to Get a Credit Card Without an SSN

One of the main reasons banks ask for your SSN is so they can check up on your credit history. They need to know that they can trust you before they authorize any type of credit. Unfortunately, if you have good credit back home, this foreign credit history can’t be transferred to the U.S., so that is not a viable option.

Luckily, your SSN isn’t the only way they can check up on your credit history. Your credit history is attached to your name, birthday, and address meaning international students can still apply for credit cards.

Though it may seem like more of a challenge, it’s a challenge that is important for any student to overcome. Getting a credit card may seem like something simple, but it can be the key to many future problems.

By getting a credit card, you begin to build a relationship with the bank where you show them how responsible you are. This way, if you end up applying for citizenship or residency, having a credit card will help with something like a future loan for a house.

12 Credit Cards for International Students

The information mentioned above is important to know when considering a credit card. And although not having a social security number seems like the source of all your problems, there are still ways for you to get a credit card without one.

Many major banks offer a credit card for international students, and, depending on the bank, you can apply with your passport or your I-20 form.

Check out the options below!

1. Deserve Edu

Seeing that many international students have stumbled upon the same issue as yourself, Deserve Edu has made an international student card that doesn’t ask for your SSN and doesn’t dissect your credit history before giving you a chance.

2. Bank of America Cash and Travel Rewards Cards

Luckily most banks have already taken students into consideration and know that students don’t always have the longest credit history to back up their credit chances.

Bank of America also has two types of credit cards that you can apply to without an SSN; Cash and Travel Rewards cards. Both of these cards allow you to apply even if you don’t have a credit history. Their Cash Rewards card is a better choice for those who are getting a credit card for the first time.

3. Citibank

Citibank has resulted in a good option thanks to the easy process it provides for international students. Citibank offers a credit card for international students and doesn’t charge you any extra fees. They also have a great Global Transfer service that makes it easier for you to move money back and forth between international accounts, which is a plus.

These three banks offer excellent options for international students without SSN. There are many other banks that offer student cards but need you to give them an SSN, an ITIN in the application process.

4. Capital One Journey Student Credit Card

Capital One offers a Journey Student Credit Card that is a great option for international students. They don’t charge any annual fees and give a 1% cash-back on any purchase you make. They do require an ITIN if you don’t have an SSN.

5. Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Capital One also offers a Platinum Credit Card that is very good for those who are just starting out. This offer also includes no annual fees.

What is great about this credit card is it is offered to those who have no credit history. For this reason, this card is a great option even if you aren’t a student. The Platinum Credit Card doesn’t offer any rewards and also requires an ITIN.

6. Capital One Quicksilver Card

The Capital One Quicksilver Card is yet another good option for international students who don’t have an SSN. This card is meant for those who don’t have amazing credit. You do get rewarded for every purchase including a 1.5% cash-back on your purchases. This cash-back is slightly higher than their Journey Student Card, but this card charges an annual fee of $39. This card is worth it if you have a more substantial income. All Capital One credit cards require an ITIN.

7. Barclaycard

Barclaycard provides multinational credit card and payment services. Barclaycard does accept some cases where students have no SSN. This credit card is really hard to obtain since the application process is tough and rarely approved. We do not recommend this being anyone’s first, go-to option.

8. American Express

If you don’t have either an SSN or ITIN, you could get a credit card like American Express by getting a friend to co-sign thus showing they know you are trustworthy and vouch for you if anything goes wrong. Though this is an option, I would recommend you try getting one on your own or resort to the secure card before dragging a friend or family member along.

Secured Credit Card Options for International Students

If you have less luck with getting a regular credit card, there is always the option of getting a secured credit card. This isn’t treated exactly like a credit card, but it is a great way to start building your credit before applying for another credit card. Continue reading to see what secured credit cards are available for you.

9. Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card

The Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card requires a minimum of $300 security deposit. The security deposit number is the same as your credit availability; the more you deposit the more credit you have. They only offer this card to those that already have a savings or checking account with their bank and charge an annual fee of $25.

10. Primor Secured Visa Gold Card

The Primor Secured Visa Gold Card accepts applicants that don’t have the best credit history which can work to your advantage. They also have a large range of credit you can choose from; from $200-$5,000. Their fixed interest rate of 9.99% is pretty high, but they don’t penalize you for your late payments. Their application process is also pretty easy.

11. OpenSky Secured Credit Visa Card

When you apply for the OpenSky Secured Credit Visa Card, they don’t even check your credit history. This basically guarantees your chances of getting this secured card. Like all other secured cards, your security deposit decides how much credit you are allowed to use.

If you apply for this secured credit card, a minimum deposit of $200 is required and they do charge an annual fee and have ongoing APR of 18.64%.

12. First Progress Platinum Select MasterCard 

No credit check is necessary for this secure card either. The application process is easy and you can get this card really fast. They charge a $39 annual fee and a regular rate of 13.99%. This is a commonly used option, but it’s not the most recommended card for international students.

How Do I Build My Credit?

If you manage to get a credit card, you can start building your credit by:

  • Making payments on time
  • Paying your balance in full at the end of each month
  • Keeping balance lower than 30% of your credit card limit
  • Using your card!

Banks can use your personal information to see your credit history, but this doesn’t guarantee your chance of getting a credit card. So in some cases, you might not be able to get the credit card you want.

If you are an international student, this might be harder to prove since you can’t transfer your foreign credit history. But this doesn’t mean all hope is lost. There are still ways you can build your credit before getting a card.

  1. You can start building your credit by opening a debit or savings account here in the U.S. If you already have an account that you trust back home, then look to see if they have a branch here where you can open an account. This could end up being very useful to you anyways; making it simpler to pay things while you are in the U.S.
  2. When you open a checkings and savings account together, you can show that you have healthy spending habits by transferring a monthly amount to your savings and paying everything, such as your utility bills on time.
  3. If your credit history isn’t enough to get you a credit card, you can get something called a secured credit card to help you build the credit while learning how a credit card would work. Secured credit cards require a deposit, usually starting at $200.
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How Secured Credit Cards Work:

The money you deposit in a secured credit card doubles as the credit you owe on the secured card. Secured credit cards protect the issuer in the event you can not make a payment. This is a great option and can also help international students start out building their credit. The secured credit card serves as a practice credit card and since the balance is much lower, it is safer.

You can apply for a loan. Student loans are easier to get as a student, especially if you don’t have a credit history to back you up. When you get the loan, make sure to pay everything on time. This way, you can start showing how responsible you are with debts.

Getting a Loan Without a Cosigner

If you need to take out a loan but don’t have a credit history, many banks offer you the opportunity of getting a loan with a cosigner. This can seem great, but it’s a very large responsibility to leave your co-signer with since they are affected by any mistakes you make.

Try to get a loan without a cosigner. Though many banks would rather you sign with a cosigner, getting a loan without a cosigner is possible. There are some tricks you can follow such as borrowing less money and showing you have a good enough income to pay it back.

Although you might be an international student, there are still plenty of opportunities to get a loan when you don’t have a credit history.

Build Your Credit First to Get Your Credit Card

Building credit takes time and unfortunately, not everyone has that luxury. If what you are looking for is a quick way to get money consider looking into Stilt loans.

Finding someone to loan you money is only a temporary solution which should encourage you to apply for credit cards in the future. Building your credit history is very important so don’t let a challenge like not having an SSN stop you from growing your credit history.

Lastly, building credit history is necessary, especially if you are planning on creating a life after college in the United States. Let us know what your concerns are and what has worked for you in the past so we can continue to help international students build a better life.

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