A reader who doesn’t have a Social Security number wonders how to get his credit report using just his Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
Your U.S. Social Security number is an identifier that is used for multiple purposes.
Initially introduced in 1936 to help the government keep track of your earnings during your working life to generate future Social Security benefits, its use has expanded to more everyday aspects, such as generating a credit report, in recent years.
What if you don’t have a Social Security number and want to get a copy of your credit report? Reader Pavel, for one, queries, “Hi, how do I get a credit report only with ITIN?”
Can you get your credit report with an ITIN?
The Internal Revenue Service assigns an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN, to some individuals for tax processing purposes. It could be assigned to someone who has to report on their taxes to the IRS but isn’t eligible to get a Social Security number.
So what if you need a copy of your credit report and only have an ITIN? The law allows you to access a free copy of your annual report every year from the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) through AnnualCreditReport.com. As a result of the financial fallout of the pandemic, you can get a free copy of your credit report every week from each of the three bureaus through April 2022.
However, the site does not provide your free credit report if you use your ITIN as an identifier. It considers your Social Security number to be the “most secure” number to use, so the site only accepts that number.
Even if you are able to use your ITIN to open a bank account or get a loan, you may still find it difficult to get a credit report using the ITIN. That’s because lenders may not report all your information to the credit bureaus.
And even if lenders do report your information, they may not report it to all the three bureaus or at the same time. That’s why each bureau is likely to have different input about your credit history. Besides, each bureau uses its own system to decide what information about you goes into its credit report.
See related: Why did I get charged for my ‘free’ credit report?
Get your credit report directly from the credit bureaus
The credit bureaus use input about your payments provided to them by various creditors to generate your credit report. They don’t track your credit history just with your Social Security number, though. Experian, for one, uses all the identifying information that a lender provides on you (such as your name and date of birth) to generate your credit history.
Experian explains that if you try to use your ITIN to generate an online credit report, that will be seen as an invalid number. Instead, you will have to put in a request through regular snail mail to the credit bureau. With your request, you will have to send:
- A copy of a government-issued identification card, such as a driver’s license, that has your current address on it
- A copy of a current statement from your bank or utility provider
- Identification information, including your ITIN (specifically identify it as an ITIN so that it is not mistaken for a Social Security number, which would create a reporting error), your addresses for the last two years, your full name and date of birth
See related: Can I get a business credit card with an EIN only?
Establishing a credit history without a Social Security number
If you are a recent arrival to the U.S., you will have to establish a credit history so that you can get a car loan or rent an apartment, for instance. Any credit history you had before arriving here will not carry over.
To establish your U.S credit history, you could get a credit card (there are lenders that let you apply for one using your ITIN), open a bank account or get a loan (also using your ITIN) with a U.S.-based financial institution. Utility providers could also be reporting on your accounts to the credit bureaus.
And if you need to take out a loan before your U.S. credit history is available, at least one company, Nova Credit, translates your overseas credit history into an equivalent report for the benefit of U.S. lenders.
Pavel, you could use your ITIN to get your credit report directly from the credit bureaus through snail mail. Unfortunately, although we have all gotten used to instant online gratification, you can’t get it online without a Social Security number.
And if you are a recent U.S. arrival, make use of your ITIN to build up a robust credit history so that you can (responsibly) indulge in all the benefits of U.S. consumerism!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your credit card-related questions.