I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.See all posts Frank Gogol
Best 10 Credit Cards for Immigrants
Adjusting to life in the US is difficult. Everyday demands to survive are stressful enough, yet immigrants must face those demands on top of figuring out the ins and outs of a new culture.
Most immigrants arrive with no US credit history, and credit is essential for setting up a life in the US. Without credit, lenders will not consider you a viable candidate for just about any loan. Credit cards are a fantastic opportunity to build your credit and establish yourself in the US.
There are multiple ways to get a credit card as an immigrant but the most common ones are to:
- Apply for credit cards with companies that are specifically focused on immigrants
- Get a secured credit card with any major bank like Bank of America, Discover, etc.
Read on to learn more!
10 Best Credit Cards for New Immigrants in the U.S.
Below, you will find our picks for the best credit cards for immigrants in the U.S.!
Capital One Platinum Credit Card (Best for Fair Credit)
Ideal for immigrants with fair credit, the Capital One Platinum card offers a chance to build credit history without an annual fee. It also comes with travel accident insurance, which can be a plus for immigrants who travel.
Capital One Quicksilver Card (Best for Good Credit and Cash Back)
For immigrants who’ve established good credit, the Capital One Quicksilver card provides a simple cash back program on all purchases and has no foreign transaction fees, making it great for those who travel back home or internationally.
OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card (Best for Rebuilding Credit)
This is a secured credit card that doesn’t require a credit check, so it’s suitable for immigrants with poor credit or no credit history. A refundable deposit sets the credit limit. It can be an excellent tool to rebuild or establish credit in the U.S.
Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card (Best for Cash Rewards)
This secured card allows immigrants to earn cash back while building or rebuilding their credit. Users can earn higher cash back in categories of their choice, which is useful for tailoring rewards to spending habits.
U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Secured Card (Best for Cash Back)
A secured card that offers cash back on every purchase, with higher rates in categories you can choose, which is ideal for managing spending and earning rewards in areas that may be more relevant to an immigrant’s needs.
Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard (Best for Average Credit)
This card may be an appealing option for immigrants who have established some credit history in the U.S. and find themselves in the “average” credit category. It offers cash back rewards on everyday purchases, such as groceries and utilities, which can help with the costs of settling into a new country. Additionally, rewards don’t expire, providing flexibility in redemption.
Citi Rewards+ (Best for Good Credit)
Immigrants with good credit can benefit from the Citi Rewards+ card, which rounds up points on every purchase to the nearest ten and offers ThankYou points, which can be redeemed for a variety of rewards. This card also provides a bonus on points earned after spending a certain amount in the first few months, which can be advantageous for those making initial large purchases.
Wells Fargo Active Cash Credit Card (Best for High Cash Back)
For immigrants who have a strong credit history and are looking for straightforward high cash back rewards, the Wells Fargo Active Cash card is a strong contender. It offers a flat cash back rate on all purchases without category restrictions, making it simple and rewarding for everyday use. However, immigrants should be aware of any foreign transaction fees if they travel abroad.
Discover it® Student Chrome (Best for Average Credit)
While it’s tailored towards students, the Discover it Student Chrome could also be suitable for immigrants who are starting to build their credit history in the U.S. It offers cash back on gas and dining out, which can be beneficial for those who are commuting to work or school. Moreover, Discover is known for its U.S.-based customer service, which can be a significant advantage for those who may need assistance navigating their credit card terms.
Our Pick: Chase Freedom Rise Credit Card (Best Overall Credit Card)
Although this product doesn’t seem to be widely recognized as of my last update, generally, Chase Freedom cards offer cash back and bonus rewards in rotating categories. They are well-regarded in the credit card market and could be a good option for immigrants who have a Social Security Number and have managed to build a decent credit history.
What are the common ways to get approved for a credit card?
1. Become an authorized user
If you are new to the U.S. but have family members, relatives, or really close friends, you can become an authorized user on their credit card. This will help you kickstart your credit history. Many credit cards offer an option to add an authorized user without any extra annual fee. After you have built your own credit history, they can remove you as the authorized user.
You should remember 2 important things when asking to become an authorized user:
- The credit card provider may charge an additional fee for each authorized user. The fee is paid by the primary owner of the card.
- Not everyone is comfortable adding an authorized user because the primary owner is responsible for making payments. If you spend too much and don’t pay them back, they may be late on payments and it will impact their credit history.
2. Get a cosigner
Another way to get a credit card is to ask your relatives in the US to be your cosigner. They will need to have enough credit to act as a co-signer. If they are willing to be a cosigner, it will help you start building your credit history immediately. In this case, you will get your own credit card, maybe one for beginners, and will have a lower limit.
Note that you will be responsible for making payments and if you are delayed, it will negatively impact the credit score of your co-signer. Once you establish enough credit, they can be removed as a co-signer.
3. Sign a lease with roommates
If you are going to stay with roommates and the roommates can rent an apartment, you can become a signer on the lease. If your rental company reports monthly payments to the credit bureaus, you will start building credit history.
The only thing to make sure of is that your rental company actually reports to credit bureaus. In many cases, a small landlord or a local rental company does not report to credit bureaus. If that’s the case, you will not be able to build credit by signing a lease with roommates.
6 Reasons US Immigrants Should Get a Credit Card
A credit card can help you spend more than you have so that you can get what you need now, and pay back the rest later. By putting purchases on a credit card, and successfully paying off the debt later, you begin building a reputation as someone who is good with credit.
Here are six more reasons for getting a credit card:
1. Rewards and Points
When you use your card to make purchases, most credit card companies offer points depending on how much you spend. As you make purchases on your credit card and those points accumulate, you can trade in those points for gift cards or special cataloged items.
Paying with your debit card or with cash does not offer this side benefit, and this is just one of the many ways a credit card can add value to your purchases.
2. Cash Back
Some credit card companies offer cash back; Discover was the first to offer a 1% rebate on purchases, for example. And as mentioned in the previous point, using cash or a debit card will not offer you savings on your purchase. Then, whatever you save while building up your credit score is a bonus — money that can go towards other things, or reduce the debt you have to pay off.
There are bonus incentives for using a credit card, like cash back and points. While these may not be earth-shattering, they do add up, and every bit of value one can get when starting life in a new place is helpful.
3. Air Miles
In the 1980s, American Airlines came up with the idea of giving away air miles with their associated credit cards. Like cash back or a point system, this offers incentives for those who use the American Airlines credit card. Depending on your needs, air miles and the potential for free flights may even be more valuable than rewards or cash back.
In a country of fifty-two states, the possibility for discounted (or free!) travel is enticing. Being able to take flights across the country means more economic opportunities. If you are new to this country, one of its benefits is access to all fifty-two states. It may be overwhelming getting a footing in the US, but there are tremendous advantages to having made the move to America.
4. Fraud Protection
If someone takes your debit card and makes a purchase, the money comes directly out of your account. Any form of direct payment is harder to protect from theft and fraud. Once you make a transaction, that money must be retrieved. Investigating cases of fraud can take some time, during which your credit score will unnecessarily take a hit. On the other hand, a credit card is not a direct payment. You can alert your credit card company that a theft has taken place, and if they consider it valid, they remove that payment from your account.
It is much easier to protect against fraud when no money has left your account.
5. Universally Accepted
You cannot book hotel rooms or rent a car with a debit card. Hotels and rental car companies want the added guarantee of being able to charge someone in the rare that you incur damages. If you’re planning on traveling, a credit card is practically necessary: the mobility you’re afforded in the United States is greatly hampered if you’re unable to rent a car or a hotel.
Almost any online vendor takes credit cards, whereas some do not take debit. It’s frustrating to want to purchase something online, only to find that your debit card is not accepted. With a credit card, that worry becomes an afterthought, because all online vendors accept major credit cards.
6. Buy Now, Pay Later
Sometimes life’s demands are greater than your existing budget — this is why a credit card can be extremely useful. If you know that you can pay for your purchases at a later date, particularly if you are starting a new job in a new place, then you can set yourself up before your paychecks start coming in.
If you know how much debt you can take on, then you can safely use this advantage to get things you need before having to pay for them.
So, Which is the Best Credit Card for Non-U.S. Citizens?
The answer to this question really depends on the needs of the non-citizen. If you’re looking for a lower amount credit line to establish a credit history in the U.S., you might want to apply for CapitalOne Secured Mastercard. If you’re looking to earn some rewards for your credit use, then the Discover It Secured Mastercard might be the best option for you.
Once you know what you’re looking for in a credit card, you can determine which is the right fit for you!
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Being an immigrant in the US can be extremely overwhelming. You’ve got to do what you need to do to survive while adjusting to a new culture. Major purchases like homes and cars take financing, and financing is provided to those with a good credit history — and as a new arrival to the US, you’re likely to have no credit history — or even worse, bad credit history.
That’s why it’s important to get a credit card and start building your credit reputation. Along with building your credit history in the US, there are many additional benefits to getting a credit card. And as long as you can manage the amount of debt you take out, getting a credit card is one of the best first steps as an immigrant to building a strong financial foundation here in the United States.