Get a Credit Card Without Social Security Number?

Posted by CreditCardGuru

Q: Can you apply for a credit card without a social security number? How can immigrants/non-citizens legally get one?

A: Not too long ago someone on the forum from Canada was asking this same question. But whether you are from Canada, Mexico, or another country… this is a dilemma you are going to face.

Is a Social Security number required for a credit card?

To answer your first question, generally you cannot obtain a credit card in the United States without a Social Security number or equivalent. However this is a grey area because here is what is says on the Social Security Administration’s website, Publication No. 05-10096:

“Although many companies, such as banks and credit companies, may ask for your Social Security number, you are generally not required to provide one if you don’t have one.”

So according to SSA you are “generally not required” if you don’t have one. But what’s not specified on that document is whether or not it’s legal to require an alternative from of identification. Well, since we’re knee deep in government regs here let’s turn to the Patriot Act to answer that…

SEC. 326. VERIFICATION OF IDENTIFICATION.

(b) STUDY AND REPORT REQUIRED- Within 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary, in consultation with the Federal functional regulators (as defined in section 509 of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) and other appropriate Government agencies, shall submit a report to the Congress containing recommendations for–

(1) determining the most timely and effective way to require foreign nationals to provide domestic financial institutions and agencies with appropriate and accurate information, comparable to that which is required of United States nationals, concerning the identity, address, and other related information about such foreign nationals necessary to enable such institutions and agencies to comply with the requirements of this section;

(2) requiring foreign nationals to apply for and obtain, before opening an account with a domestic financial institution, an identification number which would function similarly to a Social Security number or tax identification number;

That last sentence basically makes clear that if you don’t have a Social Security number, you need something equivalent. But what might that be?

A possible alternative: Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

This is a tax payer ID number that is considered to function similarly to a Social Security number. It won’t entitle you to Social Security benefits, but rather its purpose is for federal income taxes, but can prove that you are at least a resident alien. Here is what the IRS says about them:

IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

ITINs are issued regardless of immigration status because both resident and nonresident aliens may have a U.S. filing or reporting requirement under the Internal Revenue Code.

Once you have a ITIN number, you should legally be able to apply for a credit card without a social security number.

How to get a credit card using an ITIN

Keep in mind that you will be starting with a fresh slate once you get your ITIN, so you will probably have to start out with a secured credit card. This is a credit card where you put up a security deposit, thus offsetting any risk to the card issuer when they are unable to gauge your credit quality. The card issuer then will provide you with a credit line equal to this security deposit. The deposit is analogous to collateral for a regular type of loan. They often involve fees, as well but usually they aren’t too onerous. But on a positive note, secured credit cards typically offer guaranteed approval even if you have no credit history (but you will still need your ITIN to qualify). After you have managed the account responsibly for a year or so, you might be able to qualify for something better – a regular unsecured general use credit card that does not require a deposit and has no annual fee.

If you have an ITIN, a bank does have a right to deny your credit card application if you have no credit history yet (in the same way a bank is allowed to deny applicants using a Social Security number who have no credit history). However, a card issuer or bank does not have a right to refuse acceptance of your application for using an ITIN instead of a Social Security number. If you get hassled for applying under an ITIN here are some things you can remind them…

  • Inform them you have terminated your SSN legally in accordance with 20 CFR 3 A7 404.1905, or you do not have one period.
  • Inform them that the bank can not be held legally responsible by anyone for failing to obtain a SSN from you if other valid identification (like an ITIN) is provided, pursuant to 31 CFR 103.34(a)(1).
  • Inform them that pursuant to 26 CFR 301.6109-1(c) they are under no legal federal or state obligation to specifically obtain a SSN from you, and doing so is actually against federal SSA policy.
  • Inform them that 42 USC 408 makes it a felony to use threat, duress, or coercion to try and force a person by fear or deceit to provide a SSN.

Without a social security or ITIN?

Lastly, if you want to apply for a card without a Social Security number and without a ITIN, then you will be out of luck. Re-loadable prepaid debit cards will also require a Social Security or ITIN. If you really, really must have plastic to buy things online or offline then your only option would be a gift card issued by Visa, MasterCard or American Express. These can be purchased in various fixed amounts up to $500 either online or from retailers like Walmart, Target, Walgreens or CVS for a nominal fee ($4.95) and used for purchases anywhere Visa/MasterCard is accepted. These gift cards are not re-loadable, though, so you would need to buy new ones when they were used up.

Last updated on July 30, 2014


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38 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. Miguel August 24, 2014 at 12:26AM

    I got my ITIN over 16 years ago… And now I have a 2 credit cards from Capital-One, 1 Visa and 1 Master.

    I also have a Bank if America Visa Credit Card, a Discover Credit Card and 2 American Express Credit Cards… and my score is 752

    You can do it, it is easy… all you need to do is, first get your ITIN at any IRS office, then open a checking and a saving account… then apply for a credit card!

    Do not forget to NEVER get behind on your payments and keep working your credit cards (spend-pay) they will increase your limit and also other banks will offer you credit cards!

    Good luck to you all!

  2. David August 16, 2014 at 11:05PM

    I just got approved 3 unsecured credit cards in BofA and I don’t even live here, I come like once every year for tourism. I have had a checking and savings account for 2 years though.

    You have to go to an agency to apply, as they ask for your SSN in the application. I’m not sure if filling the field with 9 zeros will do it.

  3. Jochem August 6, 2014 at 5:37PM

    Get a western Union debit card. you just type zero’s as your SSN in the application and it will work!

    • Abhi August 16, 2014 at 12:43AM

      Hey does this really work… I just want a reloadable card cause i need to buy some small things like subscriptions sometimes and dont want it on my real credit card/don’t want to share my real card with the sites.

      Will the SSN be a problem putting 0′s?

  4. Youknowwho July 16, 2014 at 1:34PM

    I’m having similar pains at the moment, except I have an SSN. In my case, I can’t open a savings account because… my SSN is too NEW!!!! What a crock of sh.. – either the rule is, you need an SSN, or it’s that you need to have it for a certain amount of time.

    Yet I have a checking account, a debit card with overdraw authorization, and apparently got approval for a secured credit card. But I want to save? Hey pal, that makes you public enemy number one, screw the fact that you’re doing things legally and that you’ve gone through the hoops to get legal in our systems, you can kiss our @zz if you think you’re getting considered for a savings account.

    Damn hippies.

  5. Mike R March 31, 2014 at 10:06PM

    I can confirm, my friend was visiting from Russia and got a secured CREDIT card in Bank of America without SSN or ITIN, or TaxID, just a passport and address in Russia.

    >> The bank is not required to obtain your SSN _from you_. It can get it from a credit reporting company, or from anywhere else it normally gets SSNs.

    Banks DO NOT get SSNs from anywhere but from the customer, then verify it and use to report your activities to Credit Bureaus. Not sure in which way her information was shared, but she started getting lots of credit card offers from various banks right away.

  6. Sami March 24, 2014 at 8:42PM

    Hi
    Can anyone advice me can I get a car financing without social security number,
    I m on business visa in usa and have bank account with debit card,
    Thanks
    Sami

  7. J Drugovich March 22, 2014 at 6:30PM

    I live in Brazil. I have an account at Chase Bank in Miami FL, debit card, US B1/B2 and ITIN for business. Can I apply for credit card in US?
    Here in Brazil I have Visa and Master Card but the fees for international payments are very high.
    Thank you.

    • Jonas Danielsson August 24, 2014 at 3:43PM

      Hello

      What is the possibillitys to get creditcard in Brazil for person from
      Sweden?

      Jonas

  8. Albert January 23, 2014 at 9:50PM

    BofA offers unsecured credit cards without having a SSN or ITIN

    • Wanda March 8, 2014 at 5:55PM

      How is that Albert??

  9. Green Baba January 5, 2014 at 12:56AM

    Yeah I am going through that process, I am Free National Alloidial American, first of its all about keeping citizens in debt as debtors-you purchase a valueless plastic card that worthless until you load your federal reserve notes onto it, and social security cards are voluntary, its legally not s form of identification, its a trust. There are credit cards not associated with mega-banks

  10. Adilene Flores December 20, 2013 at 8:14PM

    The point is to build credit not just get a card I got a bank debit card but everything works on credit here.

  11. shlomo December 3, 2013 at 8:58PM

    So, how do you get ITIN?

    • google December 18, 2013 at 5:29AM

      You ever heard of google? In the time it took you to comment you probably could have learned how on your own

  12. leonardo July 23, 2013 at 4:34PM

    can i have a prepaid credit card with no social security included

  13. Imran May 24, 2013 at 7:17AM

    If you have a Canadian credit file, you might be able to get a store credit card like Macy’s or Sears and let them know about the Canadian credit history so when they do a credit check, it will appear on your Canadian credit file. I know someone who did apply and wasn’t asked for a SSN.

    PS: I had thought US would be easier than Canada to get a credit card and it beats the living daylights out of my mind why people since a few years are not able to get one in US. </3

  14. Jorge April 7, 2013 at 12:49PM

    I applied with a credit union and received a visa debit card as well as cheques with my current and savings account. No issue besides few addl forms to sign.

  15. Caggieb December 11, 2012 at 7:33PM

    We are Brits with a new home in the US to be near family. We are here under the VISA waiver programme. We have an ITIN but we cannot get a credit card. We tried through HSBC who went through Orchard (now Capitol One)and were refused a SECURED credit card for lack of credit history! I thought the whole reason for a secured card was for people who DON’T have a credit history but want to build up one?! We then applied to CHASE and they have turned us down too for lack of credit history. How on earth do you get a credit card here in the USA? Very frustrating.

    • Denisse January 18, 2013 at 2:07PM

      Open a debit account with your ITIN, and wait a couple months, and then apply in the same bank for a credit card! That worked with me..

      • Hector April 18, 2013 at 2:45PM

        Hi there, which bank did you do this with???

      • karen October 30, 2013 at 6:14PM

        Which bank was that??

      • Eric Holden December 1, 2013 at 3:51PM

        How do you get a ITIN number

    • Luis February 15, 2013 at 4:40PM

      Hey, believe it or not, I don’t live in the US, I just come often beacuse I like it. I approached to Bank of America and they offered me the full package: checks, savings and secured credit card. One year later, the cc was ‘upgraded’, my deposit returned, and I was offered (and approved) a new credit card.
      I have no SSN and no ITIN, I’m from Ecuador, and I’ve got everything in BofA, Orlando.
      Hope this helps.

    • Prasad February 25, 2013 at 6:40PM

      If you are new to US, better to apply for secured credit card through your banker. After a year they convert to non secured…in two years of using a credit card, you will eligible for all good cards.. then try Amex it gives with an ITIN.

    • hemyinspain April 22, 2013 at 11:17AM

      How did you get permission to live here under the VISA waiver programme? We want and need to live here and cannot find a way to do so. I would be very grateful if you could help us.
      Thank you so much
      Sarah

      • michael May 20, 2013 at 9:21PM

        People from countries of the E.U. don’t need a Visa to come to U.S.A. Visas are waived and the can live here, but not work, up to 6 months. After their time is up, they must leave, but some of them overstay, becoming illegals.

    • Imran May 24, 2013 at 7:11AM

      In Canada this is way easier. I am an international student there and just in a couple of weeks after getting there in 2011, I went to the bank and I applied for a credit card and got approved for a $1000 limit credit card right away INSECURE.

      I am however now trying to get a credit card in the US with a US address of my friend, and every time I call, they turn me down for not having an SSN which just sucks.

      • Uma November 9, 2013 at 6:29PM

        It could be because, in Canada, as a student you are still issued with a SIN number that starts with a 9 where banks clearly identify you as a non immigrant of Canada on Student Visa. Thus you received Credit Card. That temp SIN was used as your identification.
        Since you have no such identification in USA, they might not be accepting your application. If you have a SSN or at least an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), they can sufficiently identify you and thus provide SECURED or UNSECURED card of THEIR choice.

        Hope this helps.

        P.S.: I came to Canada as an International Student, became an immigrant and a Citizen later and now moved to United States. I had similar issues with applying cc here in USA until I obtained ITIN.

  16. david September 5, 2012 at 1:01PM

    Hi I have both debit cards with bank of america and wells fargo previouse wachovia. And I dont have ssn or tax id. So yes debit cards are very posible, NB it might be a diffrents laws in diffrents states. For your information My accounts are in Florida.

  17. rulac March 22, 2012 at 3:17PM

    Can you apply for a best buy card with your tax ID number?

  18. William March 3, 2012 at 11:32PM

    Hi,
    I tried to use my Tax ID to apply the secured credit card but was denied due to there is no credit history. I thought the secured credit card is to help people to build their credit line, isn’t it? In addition, since I need to pay for the security deposit, there is no risk for bank, right? What should I do next? Thanks

  19. Maggie January 19, 2012 at 8:27AM

    I am a Canadian citizen with property in Florida. I spend 5-6 months a year here and am retrying to get a reloadable VISA. I went to WALMART and they sold me a card leading me to believe I was able to reload it, to no avail I could not. Do you know whom has a program for people like me?

  20. msf November 25, 2011 at 6:10PM

    Read the USA Patriot Act more closely. Section 326(a) tasks the Secretary of the Treasury to prescribe regulations to meet the customer identification requirements of the Act, and Section 326(b), quoted above, tasks the Secretary to recommend an adequate alternative for a SSN for a foreigner (should the SSN otherwise be required).

    The Secretary did promulgate 31 CFR 103 in response. In particular, Section 103.121(b)(2)(i) reads: “Except as permitted by paragraphs (b)(2)(i)(B) and (C) of this section, the bank must obtain, at a minimum, the following information from the customer prior to opening an account: … a taxpayer identification number [SSN]“.

    But pay attention to those exceptions. 103.121(b)(2)(i)(C) reads: “Credit card accounts. In connection with a customer who opens a credit card account, a bank may obtain the identifying information about a customer required under paragraph (b)(2)(i)(A) by acquiring it from a third-party source prior to extending credit to the customer. ”

    The bank is not required to obtain your SSN _from you_. It can get it from a credit reporting company, or from anywhere else it normally gets SSNs.

    A few years ago, Bank of America, recognizing where its growth lay, went so far as to offer credit cards to people without SSNs.

  21. DS August 18, 2011 at 12:13AM

    thank you for the information, there is something at wells fargo bank to get a depit card with no ssn, my cousin just got one

    • jackie March 4, 2012 at 1:53PM

      DS. Do you have a # where to call Wells Fargo on that. They had previously mentioned it to me but i did not care for it at the time and now I’m interested.

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