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Establishing Credit When You’re New to the U.S.

Take the steps to build and maintain a good U.S. credit history


A good credit rating is key to your financial future in the United States because your credit report is reviewed by:

  • Landlords who want reliable tenants
  • Potential employers
  • Utility and cell phone companies
  • Credit card, auto loan, and mortgage lenders

Since your credit history from your home country can’t be transferred to U.S. credit reporting agencies, you’ll now have to start building a U.S. credit history.

Three ways to build your U.S. credit history

Apply for a Social Security or Individual Taxpayer ID number

U.S. banking regulations require anyone opening a financial services account to have a Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification number (ITIN).

 Protect your tax ID 

Never share your SSN or ITIN with others. People can use your number to open new accounts in your name and run up bills that you’ll be responsible for.

Start building a U.S. credit history

Getting credit is hard when you don’t have an established credit history. But there are a few ways you can jump start your credit history:

Have a credit card from your home country reissued in the U.S. If the company that issued your card operates here, it may be able to issue you a new credit card in the U.S.

Get a cosigner. If you have a family member who has established credit in this country, you can ask them to cosign a credit card or loan application. A cosigner is someone who lends their credit to help the primary borrower qualify for credit. The cosigner is then responsible for repayment if the primary borrower fails to make payments.

Apply for a secured credit card. Here’s how the Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card works: you put down a security deposit as collateral, which is equal to your credit limit. So, if you deposit $300, the credit limit on your card will be $300. You can use it just like an unsecured credit card up to your available limit. And, as you show that you can responsibly manage your spending and make on-time payments every month, the lender may upgrade you to an unsecured credit card with no security deposit1.

Note: Only U.S. Citizens or Permanent Resident Aliens with a valid Social Security number or Individual Tax Identification number are eligible for upgrade to an unsecured Credit Card.


 Pay monthly bills 

The security deposit for secured accounts is not used to pay your bill. It’s refunded to you when your account is closed or upgraded to an unsecured credit card.

Use credit wisely to maintain good credit scores

Once you establish a credit account, manage it carefully — pay your bills on time every month and stay within your credit limit. Not paying, paying late, or going over your credit limit will lower your credit score.

The 3 credit reporting agencies will update your credit history monthly, and over time, your credit score will reflect that you’re a responsible borrower. A strong credit history and credit score will help you qualify for other types of credit in the future –– like an auto loan, store credit card, mortgage, or home equity account.

As you apply for more credit, be sure to do it strategically and slowly. Don’t apply for 5 different accounts at the same time — only apply for credit accounts that will help you reach important goals.


 Set up account alerts 

Account alerts can provide payment reminders and help you track your account activity so you can spot unusual activity and make sure monthly bills are paid on time.

Experian®, Equifax® and Trans Union®