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Various leading banks provide credit cards for international students, doing away with the need for a Social Security number (SSN). Examples include the Deserve EDU Card, Bank of America’s student credit cards and the Capital One Journey Student Card. In addition, credit cards meant for students don’t require lengthy credit histories.
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Get an ITIN before applying for a credit card, as very few cards let you apply without an SSN or an ITIN.
Get a secured credit card to start building your credit.
Consider applying for an SSN if you hold an F-1 or a J-1 visa.
Some of the links will take you to one of our partner's sites, where you can compare and apply for a selected credit card.
Are International Students Eligible for Credit Cards?
Yes, international students may qualify to apply for credit cards, although their options are typically limited compared to those of U.S. citizens. Some student credit cards let you go through the application process even if you don’t have an SSN, as long as you have an ITIN. You may apply for the Deserve EDU card and Bank of America’s student credit cards without either an SSN or an ITIN.
If you’ve held an American Express credit card in a foreign country and have moved to the U.S. as a student, you may consider applying for the no-annual-fee Blue Cash Everyday Card. While this is not a student credit card, you may qualify for it based on your existing credit history with American Express in another country. You may even consider applying if you're not an existing American Express cardholder, as Amex can access the credit histories of applicants from select countries.
Most student credit cards require that you have some credit history in place. However, card providers understand that students might not have extensive credit histories, which is why they consider applications from students who have limited credit histories. If you don’t have any credit history, you may consider applying for a secured credit card that is backed by a security deposit. A handful of credit cards make way for applications from people who have no credit histories at all.
Can an F-1 Student Get a Credit Card?
Students who hold F-1 or J-1 visas may apply for SSNs through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Once you have an SSN, a credit history and income in place, your road to getting a student credit card becomes relatively simple.
Given that you get to work legally on an F-1 visa as long as you meet certain conditions, the income you earn increases the possibility of your getting approved for a student credit card. This is because card providers take your existing income into account during the underwriting process as well.
Until you qualify for a student credit card, you may consider using a secured credit card such as the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card or the Citi® Secured Mastercard®. These cards require that you pay a deposit, and the same functions as your credit limit. Since these cards report your payment history to the top credit bureaus, they give you the means to build your credit. Building good creditworthiness improves your odds of qualifying for a credit card in the future.
How to Apply for a Student Credit Card Without an SSN
You may consider applying for a student credit card without an SSN by following different measures. If you’re in the U.S. on an F-1 or a J-1 visa, you may consider applying for an SSN to increase your options. If not, you have these alternatives:
Apply for an ITIN
No matter your student visa status, you may apply for an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). Some credit card issuers let you use your ITIN instead of an SSN during the application process.
If you are 18 to 21 years old, you need to show that you earn adequate independent income to repay any possible debt or get a co-signer to apply with you. If you’re over 21 years old, you may show income from different sources, including money you regularly receive from your parents.
Build credit history
Since most student credit card providers look at applicants’ credit histories, international students might have problems dealing with this aspect. With no credit history at all, you may consider applying for a secured credit card and using it to build your credit history. You may then consider applying for a student credit card by using your ITIN.
Look for cards that don’t require SSNs
Look for credit cards that don’t require an SSN during the application process and make do with your ITIN instead. Some let you go through the application process without both.
Look for a suitable card that does not require an SSN by relying on our ranking methodology through which we have analyzed 80 student credit cards and an array of secured cards.
Which Credit Card Is Best for International Students?
Some of the best credit cards for international students who don’t have SSNs but have ITINs include the Deserve EDU Card, the Capital One Journey Student Card, the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards for Students Card, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students Card, the Petal 2 Visa Credit Card, the Oportun Visa Credit Card and the Tomo Credit Card. The Citi Rewards Student Card used to be a good alternative as well but is now unavailable for new applicants.
If you don’t have an SSN or an ITIN, you may consider applying for the Deserve EDU Card, any of the student cards from Bank of America or the Oportun Visa Credit Card.
Credit cards you may qualify for with limited credit history include the BankAmericard for Students, the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards Card for Students, the Discover Student Cash Back Card, the Petal 2 Visa Credit Card, the Tomo Credit Card and the Oportun Visa Credit Card. The last two require no credit history at all.
International students who have existing credit histories in their home countries may consider applying for credit cards from American Express, provided they meet other eligibility criteria. This is because Amex can access credit reports of applicants from different countries.
You may also consider applying for a secured credit card. Some of your top alternatives include the Discover it Secured Credit Card, the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card, the OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card and the Citi® Secured Mastercard®.
You may also want to consider being an authorized user on someone else's credit card. You can easily pay them for your charges each month, and is an easy way to begin building your credit. — Brett Holzhauer
Other Questions You May Have About Student Credit Cards
Here are answers to other commonly asked questions about getting credit cards for students without SSNs.
Now that you're aware of the credit cards you have access to as an international student without an SSN, compare your options well. Once you receive your new card, make sure you use it in the right manner so you may build a positive credit history.
Compare & Review Credit Cards
The MoneyGeek editorial team continually analyzes spending trends of students across the U.S. based on data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The team has gone through 80 student credit cards so that we can provide just the information that readers are looking for to narrow down on suitable credit cards.
Learn More About Student Credit Cards
Experts at MoneyGeek make sure they remain up-to-date on the latest credit card-related offers and regulatory changes. They offer factually accurate and thorough responses to common questions surrounding aspects such as how credit cards work, the different types of cards on offer and how to build credit.
About Rajiv Baniwal
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Students and Employment." Accessed September 30, 2021.
- Homeland Security - Study in the States. "OBTAINING A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER." Accessed October 1, 2021.
- JPMorgan Chase Bank. "How we protect you." Accessed October 1, 2021.
- American Express. "Join Our Global Community." Accessed October 1, 2021.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses and recommendations are the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. Learn more about our editorial policies and expert editorial team.
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