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Legal, Regulatory, and Privacy Issues

House bill challenges issuance of credit cards without Social Security numbers

Summary

A pilot credit card offer doesn’t require Social Security numbers, fueling controversy over illegal immigration.

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Following recent controversy surrounding the issuance of credit cards to consumers without Social Security numbers, a Tennessee lawmaker has introduced legislation that would end that practice.

Compare Low Interest Credit CardsRep. Marsha Blackburn introduced the Photo Identification Security Act on March 5, 2007, in the U.S. House.  Her bill seeks to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining credit cards by requiring banks to only accept secure forms of identification from consumers seeking to receive credit.

The legislation comes on the heels of word that Bank of America offers a pilot program in Los Angeles County marketing credit cards to individuals without Social Security numbers.  Bank of America’s chairman and chief executive acknowledged that while the program does not target illegal immigrants, some could sign up for the bank’s products and services.

Wells Fargo likewise offers services to consumers without Social Security cards.

Blackburn, who is a Republican, says her bill would close a loophole that banks can use to target illegal aliens as a fresh source of revenue — in effect stating, “You can’t get a Visa without a visa.”  It would permit only legal U.S. residents to conduct financial transactions.

The bill would require several forms of identification in order for consumers to open a bank account — a U.S. or foreign passport, a Citizenship and Immigration Services photo ID card or a Social Security card along with a state or federal ID.

BofA has declined to comment on the proposed legislation while Wells Fargo stated its policy not to remark on proposed legislation.

In an earlier Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Bank of America’s CEO defended the practice of issuing credit cards without a Social Security number, explaining that his bank’s program abides by the identification requirements of the USA Patriot Act, U.S. Treasury Department regulations and internal fraud prevention procedures.

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Published: March 2, 2007

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