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Guide to Applying for a Credit Card With an ITIN

Guide to Applying for a Credit Card With an ITIN
Jason Steele
Jason SteeleUpdated October 12, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
When new residents arrive in the U.S., getting a credit card can be a top priority. However, most credit card issuers will ask for the applicant's Social Security number. That’s a problem for foreign nationals who don’t yet have legal permanent residence. But there are some card issuers that will accept an alternative identification number called an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN. There are others that don’t require either form of identification. Here’s what you need to know about getting a credit card without a Social Security number.

What Is an SSN? 

SSN stands for Social Security Number, and nearly all U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are assigned one. The original purpose of an SSN was for the Social Security Administration to track Americans’ work history and to offer retirement and disability benefits. In fact, the Social Security program dates back to the depression, when many seniors were unable to afford necessities. Today, banks and other credit card issuers use SSNs to identify customers and match them with their credit reports.

What Is an ITIN? 

ITIN stands for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, and it’s used by non-resident aliens (foreign nationals). For example, you can get an ITIN if you’re a foreign student studying in the U.S., even if you don’t qualify for an SSN.The ITIN has the same nine-digit format as a Social Security Number, and is designed to be used to identify those who pay U.S. taxes. There are some financial institutions that will accept an ITIN instead of an SSN.

Getting an ITIN

To receive an ITIN you must apply to the IRS using Form W-7, which is the IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. This form asks you to provide documents that verify your foreign or alien status as well as your true identity. You must then submit this form and the accompanying information to the IRS by mail or in person at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.

Factors to Consider When Getting a Credit Card Without SSN

There are two ways to get a credit card without an SSN. The first is to apply for a card that doesn’t require it. However, there are very few cards like that. The other is to apply for a credit card from an issuer that allows you to use an ITIN instead of an SSN. Getting a credit card with an ITIN means you’ll have fewer cards to choose from, but more than you would have otherwise. Just know that you may be less likely to be approved with an ITIN than you would with an SSN. The key is to know the credit card’s requirements before applying for a credit card.

Guide to Getting a Credit Card Without a Social Security Number

If you don’t have an ITIN or an SSN, the easiest way to receive a U.S. credit card can be to apply for one with either American Express or Citi, if you’re an existing customer of either of these companies. That’s because they both will approve applicants based on their foreign credit history. Another option is the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students, which doesn’t require an SSN or ITIN. The Tomo Credit Card, from startup TomoCredit is another option that doesn’t require an SSN or ITIN. All you need is the information from your passport. Some card issuers allow you to add an authorized user on a credit card without an SSN. That means you join their account and use the credit card. Requirements vary, however, so check with the credit card company.

Getting a Business Credit Card Without a Social Security Number

If you are a small business owner that doesn’t have an SSN, then there are still ways to get a small business credit card. You can apply for a small business credit card from a card issuer that accepts an ITIN instead of an SSN. Or you can apply for a card that requires neither, such as the Brex card. 

Guide to Applying for a Credit Card With an ITIN 

Just as some issuers allow you to apply for a consumer credit card with an ITIN number, you may also be able to apply for a small business credit card this way. As with consumer cards, just use your ITIN instead of your SSN. You’ll also need to use an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to identify your business. And of course, it’s important to compare credit cards and to choose the best one for your needs before applying. 

Cards to Be Considered When Getting a Credit Card With ITIN

While not all credit card issuers will allow you to use an ITIN Instead of an SSN, these major card issuers do:
  • American Express
  • Bank of America
  • Capital One
  • Chase
  • Citi
  • Discover
  • Synchrony

Secured Cards

Secured credit cards require a security deposit that acts as collateral. These card issuers will accept applications with an ITIN number, but only for select secured cards:
  • TD Bank
  • U.S. Bank
  • Wells Fargo
To choose the right card for your needs, check out the best secured cards

Student Cards

In addition to the Deserve EDU Mastercard, there are several issuers that offer student credit cards to applicants with an ITIN, including Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi, and Discover. Student cards work just like other credit cards, but they are designed for young adults that don’t have an established credit history and are enrolled full-time in a college or university. For many young adults, including students, it’s a good idea to learn at what age to get a credit card.

Submitting Your Application 

When applying for a credit card with an ITIN, simply use that number instead of an SSN. It’s also best to have a U.S. mailing address. Otherwise, fill out the application as best you can, making sure to provide accurate information. The credit card  application process, like other credit card terminologies, are important parts of how credit cards work

The Takeaway

Just because you don’t have a Social Security number, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get a credit card. By obtaining an ITIN and applying for cards that don’t require an SSN, you can choose from some of the top credit cards that are available to American citizens and permanent residents who do have an SSN.  As you shop for a credit card, Lantern by SoFi can help. With our online credit card marketplace, you can quickly compare offers from multiple credit card issuers to choose the one that works best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I add an authorized user to my credit card without an SSN?
Can I build credit without a Social Security number?
How can international students get a credit card without an SSN?
Can I get a credit card without an SSN or ITIN?
Can I apply for a credit card with an ITIN but no SSN?
Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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