Can You Apply for a Credit Card as a Non-Resident in the U.S.?

Non-citizens living in the United States are often seeking financial opportunities and security. For many, obtaining a credit card represents an important step in achieving that economic stability. 

There are good reasons that people seek credit cards, including the ability to:

  • Cover an unexpected or emergency expense. 
  • Build credit to show lenders you’re reliable.
  • Ability to pay for large purchases over time. 
  • Rent a car or put a hold on a hotel room. 
  • Send money internationally with a credit card.
  • Reverse charges in the event of a mistake or a scam.

So, can a non-U.S. citizen get a credit card? And what’s the best way to go about it? 

Consider each of the following options to decide what will work best for you. 

Get a Secured Credit Card

If you’re trying to get a credit card as a non-U.S. citizen, it might be harder to earn trust with a lender. That’s because you may not have a solid credit history in the country. 

A secured credit card removes this risk. Credit card companies that offer secured cards will require a deposit from you. This lets them know they’re covered if you ever try to default. In some cases, you may get a credit line higher than the security deposit you provide. 

A secured card can be a stepping stone to a bigger line of credit once you make enough timely payments, too.

Apply for an ITIN

Applying for credit without a Social Security number, or SSN, is still possible. In fact, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) states that banks and credit card companies might ask for an SSN, but “you generally aren’t required to provide one if you don’t have one.” 

Many of these banks and lenders will accept an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security number. For example, if you have an ITIN, you can submit a credit card application to: 

You’ll often need to list an address, income details, and bank account information. Fortunately, opening a U.S. bank account doesn’t have to be difficult. 

Keep in mind that many of these requirements will also apply to secured credit cards.

For more about how to apply for an ITIN, check out our guide.

Become an Authorized User on another Credit Card

If you’re a non-U.S. citizen seeking a credit card, you might consider turning to a friend or family member. Why? Because you can build credit when you become an authorized user on someone’s credit card. 

If you have a friend or family member who already has a card, they can grant you access to use their line of credit. This requires trust, of course, and plenty of good communication between the parties. 

Reach Out to Advocacy Groups

For some immigrants, even if they have an ITIN, it might feel overwhelming to apply for a credit card. 

Reaching out to an advocacy group can be helpful. You can find a list of organizations in your area on the Immigration Advocates Network

Get a Co-Signer

Even if a loved one isn’t ready to add you as an authorized user on their card, they may be willing to co-sign your application. By doing this, they’re essentially telling the card provider that they’ll take responsibility for any debt incurred. 

Bank of America and U.S. Bank are the major institutions that allow co-signers

Find an Alternative Credit Card

Can a non-resident get a credit card without a cosigner? Absolutely, but if they can’t get a secured card and don’t know anyone who will make them an authorized user, there’s at least one more option. 

There are several lenders that now use alternative credit score models to determine a person’s creditworthiness. 

These models will vary between companies, but they typically consider factors like income, access to a bank account, employer, and educational history. These are some of the most popular alternative credit card options: 

If you’re an international student, a Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students is an option designed for others in your circumstances. The important thing is to know all your options and decide which will work best for you.   

The Takeaway

61% of Americans had at least one credit card as of July 2020. It’s a fact of modern life for many families. When you’re able to access credit, your possibilities expand. 

You can now make important repairs around your home, rent a truck for work, or handle an emergency bill when it arises. And if you need to send money abroad, you can often use a credit card, too.