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Can New Immigrants Get a Credit Card?

Last Updated: May 21, 2023
4 min read

Table of contents

Key points about: credit cards for immigrants

  1. New immigrants to the U.S. don’t have to be citizens to qualify for credit cards.

  2. Some credit card companies may accept applications from immigrants without a Social Security number, but those cards may require an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN.)

  3. Immigrants who don’t qualify for a standard credit card may be eligible for a secured credit card or a student credit card.

Immigrants to the United States may face challenges in getting credit cards. Some immigrants come from countries where credit cards are less commonly used, so they may not have an established credit history recorded by U.S. credit bureaus. Other immigrants may not have all the documentation needed to apply for certain credit cards.

But, new immigrants to the U.S. may get a credit card if they meet the credit card issuer’s requirements. New immigrants should keep these points in mind when applying for credit cards:

What does an immigrant need before applying for a credit card?

While non-U.S. citizens may find it difficult to qualify for a credit card in the U.S., knowing the steps in the process could help make applying for a credit card as an immigrant easier.

Credit history

U.S. credit card issuers consider your credit report and credit score when deciding whether to approve you for a credit card.

Your credit score is based on your current debt, payment history, and other factors. But, due to differences in the credit reporting systems among different countries, new immigrants may not have a U.S. credit score yet. The good news is that there are credit card options with no credit history required, like secured credit cards.

If you don’t already have an existing credit card or another credit account — like a car loan or home loan in your name — that has been open for at least six months, you might not have any credit history in the U.S. credit reporting system. For immigrants, building a credit history is an essential step in getting established within the U.S. financial system. So, a credit card that requires no credit history to apply could help you start that process.

You can request a free credit report to see if you have a credit history or what’s recorded in your U.S. credit history.

Social security number or ITIN

While most credit card issuers ask for a Social Security number to verify your identity and check your credit history, applying for some credit cards without a Social Security number is possible. Some credit card applications may accept an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which the IRS may issue to individuals who are ineligible for a Social Security number. Still, according to Experian, even immigrants without either of these numbers may be able to apply for certain credit cards.

How to get credit cards for foreigners, non-U.S. citizens, and international students

Getting credit cards can be challenging for immigrants, but acquiring a credit card can be an important step to helping secure your financial future in the U.S.

Immigrants to the U.S. have several options for acquiring a credit card. What’s available depends on that person’s particular financial situation. Some of the more common credit card options for immigrants include:

Become an authorized user

According to Experian, one option to start building credit history would be to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card, as long as the creditor reports to the credit bureaus. Most credit card issuers may accept immigrants with Social Security numbers as authorized users, and some may accept applicants without a Social Security number. Remember that if the primary cardmember on this account (typically a family member or friend) fails to make payments on time, that adverse credit history may also be reflected on the authorized user’s credit report.

Secured credit cards

If you lack credit history in the U.S. or have a poor credit history and haven’t been able to qualify for an unsecured credit card, you could consider applying for a secured credit card. A secured credit card is a real credit card account that requires a cash deposit. With a Discover It® Secured Credit Card your credit line will equal your deposit amount, starting at $200.1

Did you know?

The Discover It® Secured Credit Card  helps you build your credit history.2 You can also get your deposit back after six consecutive months of on-time payments and maintaining good status on all your credit accounts, and if you qualify, we will increase your credit line.3

Learn more about Discover It® Secured Credit Card

Student credit cards

As an international student in the U.S., per the Department of Homeland Security, you may be eligible for a Social Security number and qualify for a student credit card if you meet the creditor’s requirements.

Unsecured credit cards

If you hIf you have a U.S. credit history, you may qualify for an unsecured credit card with rewards  such as cash back or miles, like the Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card.

Credit card rewards immigrants should consider

When comparing credit cards, new immigrants should consider whether they can earn rewards for their spending.

Cash back rewards

Some credit cards may offer cash back rewards, which let you earn rewards based on your spending. As a new immigrant, you may have extra relocation expenses, and redeeming your rewards as a statement credit can help you cover the costs.

Travel credit cards

Travel rewards credit cards may be especially appealing for new immigrants who make trips home. Foreign travel tends to be expensive. A card like the Discover it® Miles Card can turn Miles into cash. Or redeem as a statement credit for your travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more.4


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