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Credit Cards

Can You Apply for a Credit Card Without a SSN?

Updated Sep 21, 2021   |   6 mins read

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When a person completes a credit card application, one of the things they have to enter is their Social Security number (SSN). However, there are some people who want credit cards, but don’t have a Social Security number. There are also people who prefer not to provide their Social Security numbers for security reasons.

So how does a person get a credit card without a SSN? It might be hard to do, but there are ways.

Obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

Not everyone in the United States has a Social Security number. While U.S. citizens and non-citizens who are authorized to work in the country can have Social Security Numbers, those outside of that category can obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). An ITIN is a nine-digit number just like a Social Security number, so it fits perfectly in the SSN field on the credit card application.

If a person doesn’t have a SSN, it’s most likely because they are not an American citizen. For non-citizens wishing to apply for credit, it’s important to know that foreign credit histories can’t be transferred to the United States. American creditors look at a non-citizen applying for credit for the first time in the U.S. the same way they look at someone with no credit at all.

Foreign Passports

There are some card issuers who accept foreign passports, which means an SSN or ITIN isn’t required. The options are much more limited, but getting a card is still possible. Other forms of identification and proof of income will need to be provided just like with any credit card application.

Personal Information

Another way to obtain a credit card without a SSN is to apply through a creditor that doesn’t require it or an ITIN. A person may be able to get by without a foreign passport when enough identifying information is provided to the creditor. A person who has lived in the United States for a while and has paid bills may have enough information on record to get certain types of cards.

If all else fails, then obtaining a secured credit card through a company that doesn’t require a SSN could be way to go. Once this credit history is established, it can be a little easier to establish credit. It’s best to try and acquire a secured credit card through a major bank because payment information is typically reported to all credit bureaus. Smaller credit card issuers may only report to one or two credit bureaus.

How to Get a Social Security Number or Taxpayer ID Number as a Student

Even though there are options for international students to get a credit card without a Social Security number, establishing credit for the long-term in the U.S may require you to get an SSN or ITIN. To get a Social Security number, you must first be an F-1 or M-1 international student with a Form I-20. You’ll need to take this information to a Social Security office, along with proof of age (e.g. a foreign birth certificate), a passport, and a completed application.

You may also need a certification letter from your school stating you are enrolled or plan to enroll.

Instead of getting a Social Security number as an international student, you may also apply for an ITIN. To get an ITIN, contact the Internal Revenue Service, either by visiting an office or by calling to request form W-7. You will then complete the form to request your ITIN.

Credit Cards for International Students Without a SSN

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

The Journey Student credit card does not require you to have a Social Security number, although you will need an ITIN. The card has no annual fee, and cardholders can earn cash rewards on all purchases. Applications can be submitted online; having minimal or no credit is not a disqualifier.

Deserve Edu Mastercard for Students

The Deserve Edu Mastercard for students does not require a Social Security number to apply, nor does it require international students to have an established credit history. There is also no requirement for a co-signer or deposit, and cardholders earn cash back on all purchases.

Citi Double Cash Back

With the Citi Double Cash credit card, international students do not need to have a Social Security number to apply. An ITIN may be required, however, and the card is more suited for those with established credit histories. The card also offers cash back on both purchases and payments.

Other Ways to Build Your Credit as an International Student

Building credit as an international student may seem daunting, especially if you are unable to get a credit card. However, there are several ways to create a credit history.

One of the most straightforward methods to establish credit is to have your rent payments reported to the three major credit agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Ask your landlord or property manager if this is something they do, and if not, consider a service that does this for you. 

In addition to getting on-time rent payments to count toward your credit score, other bills, including cell phone plans and utilities like gas and water, may be reported to credit agencies as well. Building credit takes time, but a combination of these methods along with a history of on-time credit card payments helps tremendously.

Bottom Line

Getting a credit card without a SSN can be challenging. However, working with the right credit card issuer to get a new credit card can make the process easier.

Be sure to check the requirements before applying for a new credit card so you know in advance what form of ID you’ll need to provide. If you are unable to get a credit card without a Social Security number, consider getting an ITIN or visiting a Social Security office to start the process of establishing one. Finally, think about other bills you can get credit for with the credit reporting agencies, and start to build credit in the U.S. this way.