American Express is allowing many immigrants to get credit cards using credit history from their homeland. Immigrants from nine countries can now do this – and the list is growing.
Immigrants often struggle to get a credit card in the U.S. because they don’t have credit history here. But American Express is making it easier for immigrants from certain countries by allowing them to tap into credit information from their home countries.
Two years ago, Amex began allowing new immigrants from Australia, Canada, India, Mexico and the U.K. to use their credit history from their homelands to apply for American Express cards.
On Tuesday, the card issuer announced it was adding residents of Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Kenya and Nigeria to the list of newcomers who can do this. The arrangement comes through a partnership with Nova Credit, whose Credit Passport technology translates foreign credit reports into a U.S.-equivalent report and score.
Those nine countries were chosen because they’re the source of a large number of immigrants and expatriates who move to the U.S. each year for school, work or family, an American Express spokesperson said via email.
More than a million immigrants come to the U.S. each year, according to the U.S. State Department. Before the pandemic hit, the largest numbers of new immigrants were coming from China, India and Mexico, with more than 100,000 new arrivals from each of those countries in 2018, according to the Pew Research Center.
Technology aids immigrants
New arrivals can apply for any American Express personal credit card, the spokesperson said. When a new arrival applies for a credit card, the Credit Passport technology helps American Express make a credit decision based on information from an applicant’s international credit records.
More countries are expected to be included in the Credit Passport system in 2022, but American Express declined to provide details on which ones. The company would only say “thousands” of new arrivals have been able to obtain an American Express card since the partnership began in 2019.
“We believe newcomers to the U.S. should be able to use the credit history they’ve built from their home country, enabling them to realize their dreams faster than ever, and this capability helps them do just that,” the spokesperson said.
Other options for immigrants seeking credit
Some other card issuers also offer cards for those who are looking to build their U.S. credit history. At Capital One, an immigrant who applies for a credit card can use an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security number, says spokeswoman Annie Ronquillo. An ITIN is a tax processing number available for some resident and non-resident aliens, their spouses and their dependents. Available cards include the Capital One Platinum Credit Card.
Secured credit cards are another option for immigrants to build U.S.-based credit. With a secured card, a security deposit is required, and the card limit is equal to the security deposit. Good options for for immigrants include:
- Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Discover It® Secured Credit Card – no credit score required
Interest rates on these cards are often high – as are student cards, another option for some immigrants. Newcomers who are students also can apply for several of Capital One’s student cards, which also have high APRs. For instance, both the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card charge a variable APR of 15.24% to 25.24%.
The expansion of the American Express policy to allow immigrants to use their homeland credit history marks a promising development for newcomers trying to get financially established. Obtaining a credit card in the U.S. can be challenging, but it’s an important step for immigrants and expats who want to build a credit history in their new home.