How to Get a Student Credit Card Without an SSN

ByRajiv Baniwal
Reviewed byBrett Holzhauer, CPFC

Updated: March 21, 2024

ByRajiv Baniwal
Reviewed byBrett Holzhauer, CPFC

Updated: March 21, 2024

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

Getting a student credit card without a Social Security Number (SSN) may seem daunting, especially for international students new to the United States. However, it's a feasible goal with the right information and approach. A student credit card can be a practical tool to manage expenses and build a credit history, which can be beneficial in the future.

If you don't have an SSN, several alternative pathways can lead you to holding a credit card in your name. It may require a bit of extra effort, such as securing an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or finding credit card issuers that don't require an SSN.

We'll help simplify the process by highlighting the key steps involved in obtaining a student credit card without an SSN. By following these guidelines, you'll enhance your comprehension of the requirements, bringing you one step closer to achieving financial independence during your years as a student.

mglogo icon

Acquiring an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) can significantly smoothen the path toward obtaining a student credit card without an SSN. Some credit card issuers have specialized offerings or partnerships with universities to accommodate the financial needs of international students. Utilizing secured credit cards or finding credit card programs with lenient eligibility criteria can aid in building a credit history and achieving financial independence during your study period in the U.S.

What’s an SSN?

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a nine-digit number from the Social Security Administration. It tracks individuals' earnings and helps with collecting Social Security benefits.

Having an SSN can significantly simplify the process of obtaining a credit card. Credit card issuers use this number to review your credit history, which helps them determine your creditworthiness. A positive credit history indicates a lower risk for the issuer, often leading to better terms and lower interest rates on the credit card.

Are International Students Eligible for Credit Cards?

Yes, international students can be eligible for credit cards in the U.S. However, international students may face some additional steps compared to domestic students due to their lack of SSNs. With some preparation, international students can successfully apply for and obtain a credit card, which can be a valuable financial tool during their study period in the U.S.

Some credit card issuers accept the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) as a replacement for the SSN. Others might have special provisions for international students or individuals without a credit history in the U.S. Additionally, certain credit card companies have partnerships with universities, making it easier for international students to obtain a credit card.

Can an F-1 Student Get a Credit Card?

Students with 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, 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. 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.

MORE: Best Student Credit Cards

How to Apply for a Student Credit Card Without an SSN

Securing a credit card without an SSN might initially appear complex, but by taking the right steps, it's quite manageable. Here are some practical strategies to help you navigate the application process.

    signupBonus icon

    Apply for an ITIN

    An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) can be used instead of an SSN for credit card applications. It's a number the IRS gives to people who need a tax ID in the U.S. but can't get an SSN.

    To apply for an ITIN, you must fill out form W-7 and submit it along with proof of identification to the IRS. Once you have your ITIN, you can use it on credit card applications where an SSN is requested.

    wallet icon

    Have a Source of Income

    Having a source of income can significantly bolster your chances of securing a credit card, even without an SSN. Credit card issuers are keen on knowing that you have a reliable stream of income to pay off any incurred charges. While you may be a student, having part-time employment, an internship or a stipend can qualify as sources of income.

    If you have a steady income, it's important to provide proof on your credit card application. This could be recent pay stubs or a letter from your employer. For those with stipends or allowances from parents, some credit card issuers might accept these as income, so it's worthwhile to inquire with the issuer beforehand.

    fairCredit icon

    Build Credit History

    Building a credit history is a gradual process, but it's essential for securing a credit card with better financial terms in the future. If you're starting with a secured credit card, consistent and responsible use is key.

    Make sure you pay your balance in full every month and keep your credit utilization low. Over time, these actions will contribute to building a positive credit history, which may open doors to unsecured credit cards and better terms.

    creditCard2 icon

    Look for Cards That Don’t Require SSNs

    Some credit card companies have tailored offerings for individuals without an SSN, including international students. These cards often have lenient eligibility criteria and may accept ITINs or other forms of identification.

    Additionally, looking at credit card issuers who have partnerships with educational institutions could also lead you toward programs designed for international students. We recommend researching issuers with flexible application requirements and contacting them directly to understand what's needed for a successful application.

mglogo icon

You may also want to consider being an authorized user on someone else's credit card. You can easily pay them for your monthly charges, which is an easy way to begin building your credit. Brett Holzhauer

Factors to Consider in Student Cards

When on the lookout for a student credit card, especially as an international student, some specific features and terms can provide added benefits and ease your financial management. Here are some critical aspects to consider:

  • Low or no annual fees: Look for student credit cards with low or no annual fees. It's essential to keep costs down while you're focusing on your studies. A card with no annual fee means one less expense to worry about, and it allows you to keep the card open longer, which can benefit your credit score over time.
  • Reasonable interest rates: While the goal should always be to pay off the balance in full each month, there could be times when you might carry a balance. In such cases, a card with a lower APR can save you money on interest charges.
  • Foreign transaction fees: If you're an international student, a card with no foreign transaction fees is crucial. It allows you to make purchases abroad or online with foreign vendors without incurring additional charges. This feature can save you a significant amount over time.
  • Reporting to credit bureaus: Ensure that the card issuer reports to the major credit bureaus. This feature is vital for building a credit history in the U.S., which will be beneficial for your financial future in the country.
  • Rewards programs: Some student credit cards have rewards programs that allow you to earn points or cash back on purchases. These rewards can be a nice bonus and can help you save money on future purchases.

Next Steps

Securing a student credit card without an SSN is plausible, with various pathways to navigate this requirement.

Applying for an ITIN, seeking credit card issuers that cater to international students or starting with a secured credit card to build your credit history are all viable steps towards achieving this goal. This journey not only provides you with a financial tool to manage your expenses but also initiates the process of building a credit history in the U.S.

As you take these steps, remember that responsible credit usage is key to establishing and maintaining a positive financial footprint during your academic journey and beyond.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Student Credit Cards Without an SSN

Obtaining a student credit card without a Social Security Number (SSN) can often raise many questions, especially for international students. We respond to some frequently asked questions to help you better understand the process.

Can I apply for a student credit card without an SSN?
How do I get an ITIN, and can it replace an SSN for credit card applications?
Are there specific credit card companies that cater to international students?
How can having a source of income impact my credit card application?
Are there other options if I can’t get a student credit card without an SSN?

About Rajiv Baniwal

Rajiv Baniwal headshot

Rajiv Baniwal is a journalist who has been covering financial topics for over 15 years. Meticulous in his research, he provides accurate and up-to-date information. His expertise includes mortgages, loans, credit cards, insurance and international money transfers.

    *Rates, fees or bonuses may vary or include specific stipulations. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting/last updated date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. We recommend visiting the card issuer’s website for the most up-to-date information available.
    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.
    Advertiser Disclosure: MoneyGeek has partnered with and for our coverage of credit card products. MoneyGeek, CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. To ensure thorough comparisons and reviews, MoneyGeek features products from both paid partners and unaffiliated card issuers that are not paid partners.