SSN and Credit Cards

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SSN and Credit Cards

Updated: October 6, 2014

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SSN and Credit Cards

Whether you are a citizen of the USA or a newcomer to this country, credit history is just indispensable for you to go in for full-fledged financial activity and live an adequate life. As of today, a really fast and unfailing method to start and build a credit history is through using a credit card, a plastic payment tool ruling in the States and influencing its economic development.

If you are a Native American citizen, applying for a credit card and getting approved for it could be as easy as turning your hand over, except when you are recognized as insolvent. What about those who have just moved to the States? What difficulties are they facing on their way to a solid US credit history?

One of the most common obstacles on the way to building a good credit history abroad is put in by the newcomer's Social Security Number, or SSN. This number is given to US citizens, permanent or working residents with the primary purpose of tracking individuals for taxation, enabling them to legally live, work or study in the country.

As a matter of fact, your SSN is a compulsory-to-fill-in item in your credit card application and without it your application would never pass. How can this 9-digit number affect your ability to attain good payment records in the USA?

Let's see into a rather common situation that a newly arrived customer gets stuck in. Imagine you are a British resident moving to the USA. Partly for the reason of saving time and partly - for avoiding troubles - you open up a credit card account with your bank in Britain and even put some purchases on it.

Imagine your bitter surprise when, having stayed in the States for quite a time already, you discover that your British payment records are not updated and not reported to the national credit bureaus!

Addressing your bank's customer service for explanation, you find that the SSN issued to you in America and marked as "Only valid for work with DHS authorization" is somehow improper for updating the credit card records you made in your country. Thus, your credit history is worse than it might be, should your payment records be reported to the bureaus.

What nonsense! You make federal, state, medical care and social payments, but your bank's representatives insist that they cannot report your credit card activity as you are not a permanent resident.

At first sight, it all seems really ridiculous, considering that some banks, such as Bank of America, caters for illegal immigrants without SSN, tax ID and credit history, offering them credit cards and reporting them to credit bureaus.

However, if you get deeper into the matter, you may dig out some very important factor that influences the validity of your SSN and your ability to build credit. If you have just been issued your SSN, the Social Security Administration might not have it on its list yet and your bank will not accept it for this reason.

It can take you a while after the arrival to become a US resident alien and get your new numbers to become valid in the system. Then, all the credit card information will be updated and you will be able to add it to your credit report in the USA.

As soon as your SSN becomes valid and accepted by credit reference agencies, check if all the information is updated correctly. Dispute whatever inaccuracies there might be on your file and set it right. You would not want to make a bad start in your venture of establishing and building credit in the USA, would you?

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  • Dan Yang

    Hi, my bank can not pull my credit report from Equifax which is one of the 3 credit score companies, and the reason is because my SSN is not linked with my credit profile in Equifax. But I don’t have problem with the other 2 companies TransUnion and Experian. Equifax asks me to fax my SS card and driver license so they can update my record. So did I. But they say my SSN can not be used on credit history profile because my SS card has a note saying ” valid for work only with DHS authorization”. I am currently working in US on a L1 visa, so this is the only SS card I can get. I have been in US for 1 year and 7 month and have very good credit report from Experian and TransUnion.

    Do you have any advice to help me work this situation out? I am very frustrated talking to Equifax.

    Thank you

    • CreditLandCom

      This may just be a security measure. If you have recently requested your reports from Experian and TransUnion and those are fine, then Equifax should have similar information because they all share a centralized database. Request your free Equifax credit report via
      If there is a problem in that database, then providing only a Social Security card will probably not be enough. The SS card alone is invalid without Green Card or Employment Authorization Document (EAD). But if you have a Green Card, you can go to Social Security office and show them the card so they can update their record of your immigration status and they’ll issue you a new SS card without special note on it.

      • Leonardo Citro


        I am facing the same problem as Dan and John. I don’t have a green card. I only have a valid working permit (L1). What is the best proof of SSN that I can give? If I stop by in a SSA office, will they be able to give me some letter to prove the SSN, so I can send to Equifax?

        • CreditLandCom

          Try to provide your valid EAD (Employment Authorization Document) along with the SSN. This will help them to verify your SSN. The SSN is given once and forever and will never expire and it is enough to apply for a credit card. If you doubt, you can first open a bank account and only then apply for a credit card (with the same bank, if you like).

          • Leonardo Citro

            Dear All.
            Just to let you know that I did what you had said above and it worked.
            I provided the EAD to Equifax and in about two weeks I got access to my Credit Report. Thank you very much for your help! It was very useful!!!

    • John

      Hello, I have exactly the same problem, called them many times, faxed them all they needed and after 7 months, they came back with the same answer as for you. We cannot verify your SSN cause it says “valid for work only with DHS authorization”. They recommended me to go to the Social Security office and ask a proof of SSN. Don’t really know what that mean. Like you, am in the US since 1 year and 10 months, have a very good credit report from Experian and Transunion. I was able to pull out my credit file from for Transunion and Experian but not for Equifax. I would like to apply for a credit card but am afraid to do so because of that.. I don’t want to be refused all the time just because of Equifax.. Very very frustrating.. Please let me know if you have a solution. Thank you.