Guide to Building Credit With an ITIN Number

By Dan Miller · March 02, 2023 · 6 minute read

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Guide to Building Credit With an ITIN Number

In most cases, lenders send credit information to the major credit bureaus alongside a Social Security number (SSN). However, even if you don’t have a SSN, you still may have a credit report. Typically, Social Security numbers are given to U.S. citizens and non-citizens who are authorized to work in the United States. If you are not eligible for a Social Security number, you may apply for and be issued an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

An ITIN is not typically used by the major credit bureaus as an identifier for a credit profile. In fact, if you only have an ITIN, you may not be able to access your credit report online — instead, you may have to request it by mail. This can make it challenging to build credit and review your credit profile for inaccuracies.

What Is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a number that attempts to encapsulate how likely you are to meet any outstanding debt obligations that you have. Many lenders use this number when deciding whether or not to extend credit to an applicant. Your credit score is determined based on a number of factors, including your debt repayment history, credit utilization ratio, and the average age of your accounts.

Recommended: Tips for Establishing Credit

What Is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is an identifying number that can be used in some cases instead of a Social Security number. The IRS will issue an ITIN to individuals who are not eligible for an SSN. An ITIN can be used for tax purposes, but it is not often used for credit purposes.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

Who Should Get an ITIN?

The IRS will issue an ITIN to people who are required to pay taxes but are not eligible for a SSN. The IRS uses these numbers to track and process tax payments for individuals who have a U.S. tax liability. ITINs can be issued to both resident and nonresident aliens.

Additionally, if you are applying for a credit card for the first time but don’t have a Social Security number, you may be able to use an ITIN instead.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

Steps for Getting an ITIN

You’ll want to get an ITIN if you’re not eligible for a Social Security number and have a tax filing or reporting requirement. Getting an ITIN is a fairly straightforward process. To do so, you’ll need to:

•   Mail your W-7, tax return, proof of identity, and foreign status documents to the IRS, or apply in-person at an IRS-authorized Certifying Acceptance Agent. Alternatively, you can make an appointment at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.

•   Wait to receive your ITIN from the IRS. It will usually arrive within seven weeks, assuming you submitted a complete application and are eligible for an ITIN.

Can You Get a Credit Card With an ITIN?

You may be able to get a credit card (such as an international student credit card) with only an ITIN. Different credit card issuers have different rules on whether or not they require a Social Security number or will accept a credit card application with an ITIN. Check the policies of various issuers to find the one that is the best fit for you.

Tips for Building Credit With an ITIN

It can be possible to build credit with only an ITIN, but it may be more difficult. If you’re hoping to build credit with an ITIN number, here are some tips:

•   Apply for and responsibly use credit and loans: One tip for building credit is to apply for and responsibly use debt, including credit cards. While some credit card issuers may not allow you to apply for a credit card without a Social Security number, there are some that do. Review the different options and consider that as one way to build credit with an ITIN.

•   Consider becoming an authorized user: Another way to build credit with an ITIN is by becoming an authorized credit card user on the account of a trusted friend or family member. Being an authorized user on another account can help you to build credit through the good credit of your friend or family member, and you may also get your own card, sometimes called a supplementary credit card, to use. It’s important to understand, however, that if the primary account holder doesn’t use their account responsibly, it may end up hurting your credit as well. Still, unlike with a joint credit card, you’re not responsible for payment.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Checking Your Credit Score With an ITIN

Depending on the credit bureau, you may not be able to check your credit score with only an ITIN. Many lenders send information to the credit bureaus along with an individual’s Social Security number.

However, because credit bureaus use a variety of sources of information, you may still have a credit profile and credit score even if you don’t have an SSN. Still, some credit bureaus (such as Experian) will require you to submit any requests to see your credit profile by mail.

The Takeaway

If you are required to pay taxes in the United States but are not eligible for a Social Security number, you may be issued an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). It’s possible to apply for a credit card with an ITIN, but whether you can will depend on the rules of the credit issuer, which can vary from issuer to issuer.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

What should I put instead of a Social Security number when applying for a credit card?

When filling out a credit card application, it’s important to be truthful and complete. If the application requires a Social Security number and you don’t have one, you may not be able to submit the application for that particular card. Some credit card issuers may allow you to submit an application with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead, though it varies by issuer.

Can I build credit with only an ITIN?

It can be possible to build credit with only an ITIN, but it may be slightly more complicated. One tip for establishing credit is applying for a credit card and using it responsibly, but not all credit card issuers allow you to apply with an ITIN. If you have a lack of credit history, it may also make it more difficult to get approved for a credit card and demonstrate that you can use credit responsibly.

Can I check my credit report with my ITIN?

It may or may not be possible to check your credit report with only an ITIN. Many lenders submit information to the credit bureaus solely based on an individual’s Social Security number. However, some bureaus will allow you to check your credit report without an SSN if you make the request by mail.


Photo credit: iStock/RgStudio

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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