Building credit is important for making a living in the United States. You'll need good credit to be able to do many things in America. If you're buying a car or want to get a home loan (mortgage) to buy your own house, you'll have to provide your credit information. Oftentimes, landlords renting out their homes also want to see a credit report before they'll rent out their property to you. Getting a credit card and building credit can be a little complicated for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients because many don't have any U.S. credit history. But, it is still possible for DACA recipients to get a credit card! In this article, we explain how to check your U.S. credit history and options for getting a credit card with or without a U.S. credit history.
What is credit history and why is it important?
Your credit history describes your past debt repayments. Major credit bureaus use “credit scores” to summarize your credit history. Credit scores consider your payment history, money owed, consumer credit history length, and your debt types. Lenders judge your credit history when deciding whether to offer you new credit. A good credit score tells lenders that you’re likely to honor your repayments on time.
You can check if you have a credit history in the United States at AnnualCreditReport.com, which provides free credit reports. You may have a credit history if you’ve ever made student loan or personal loan payments in the United States.
Credit cards can help you build your credit score. But, they often require a documented credit history. Building credit can be more difficult for non-citizens, new immigrants, undocumented immigrants, international students at U.S. universities, or Dreamers with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. Many credit card companies require you to have a Social Security Number (SSN), which DACA recipients can get once they have a U.S. work permit. But, DACA recipients may not have had the chance to build credit before obtaining their SSN.
Can DACA recipients get a credit card without credit history?
Yes, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients can get credit cards without a credit history.
If you have DACA and limited credit history, you’ll have three options:
- Obtaining a co-signer
- Becoming an authorized user on a friend or family member’s account
- Obtaining a “secured” credit card
Get a co-signer
A co-signer is someone who agrees to repay your debt if you do not. You may have a family member or close friend who is willing to co-sign.
Your co-signer must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Credit card issuers also need to see that your co-signer is reliable. If your co-signer has good credit, you may be able to get a regular, unsecured credit card.
Be sure that your co-signer understands the risks they face. If you fail to make a repayment in time, your co-signer will either have to repay for you or watch their credit score fall.
Become an authorized user
Another option is to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account. You should choose a family member or friend with a good credit history and a credit limit high enough for you both.
Authorized users get their own credit cards but not their own accounts. The original account holder will always be responsible for repaying any debts you incur.
Some scoring models don’t weigh authorized user activity as highly as personal credit card activity. Be aware that not all credit card issuers report authorized user activity to credit bureaus. The original account holder should ask their card issuer whether the card will influence your credit history before approving you.
Get a "secured" credit card
You might instead consider getting a “secured” credit card. A secured credit card allows you to make a bank account deposit that credit card issuers hold if you don’t repay on time. Secured credit cards are easier to obtain if you have no or a bad credit history. Lenders will feel more comfortable approving this credit card since they can draw from your deposit if you fail to pay.
The deposit is usually between $50 and $500. In most cases, the deposit is equal to your credit limit. The bank will return your deposit if you cancel your secured credit card in good standing. You can also get your deposit back if you upgrade to a regular, unsecured credit card. It usually takes six months to a year to build your credit enough to qualify for an unsecured credit card. But, unsecured credit cards can give you access to cash back rewards and a higher line of credit.
How to apply for a credit card as a DACA recipient
If you have a credit history and want to submit a credit card application, you can get one from one of theCommon U.S. credit card issuers like Discover, Capital One, Wells Fargo, and American Express. The steps to apply may differ by the issuer, but you’ll likely have to provide this information to confirm your identity:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your date of birth
- Official photo identification, for example, driver’s license or passport
- A bank statement or proof of income
- A piece of mail with your name and address
- Your Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients can obtain an SSN if they have work authorization in the United States. Both first-time and DACA renewal applicants can apply for work authorization.
Credit card options for DACA recipients can be complicated, but choosing the best credit card option for you can help you build your credit and have the freedom to achieve your financial goals. If you’re working on a first-time or DACA renewal application, working with a good immigration attorney can make the process easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your DACA case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!