How can I get a U.S. credit card or transfer credit?

New arrivals to the US may find their applications for unsecured credit cards rejected by a bank due to lack of U.S. credit history. The best avenue to acquire an unsecured credit card is to get a Canadian credit card with a bank that operates in both the U.S. and Canada. For instance, getting a Canadian AmEx credit card will allow you to transition to the U.S. AmEx card with little hassle; a CitiBank credit card is similar. In general, if a U.S. bank is able to access your Canadian credit history, they may be persuaded to issue a credit card. In addition, Capital One, Bank of Montreal, HSBC, TD, and Royal Bank have U.S. (though not Californian) branches and may also be able to issue an American card to you based on your history with them.

Royal Bank has a US subsidiary, RBC Centura, that offers a number of financial products based on your Canadian credit history. Products include online banking for both US & Canadian dollar accounts, transfers between US & Canadian accounts via online banking, credit cards, and mortgages. Note that RBC Centura is based in the the south-east U.S. (it caters to Canadians retiring in Florida!) and does not have any branches near Stanford.

If you don't have a Social Security Number (SSN) or a credit card from an international bank, your best opportunity might be to apply for a secured credit card. The bank asks you to put down a prepaid deposit (i.e. the amount of credit you need) on the card before using it, but once you have built some credit history in the U.S., you should be able to transition to an unsecured card.

Note that some banks provide a debit card from either Visa or Mastercard: this debit card is linked directly to one of your accounts, but you can use it as you would a credit card, the only difference being that the amount put on your card is debited from your account immediately. While it effectively operates as a credit card (e.g. you can use it to buy stuff on, you do not build up U.S. credit history by using it, as it is not a true credit card.

Last Updated 9/18/2009 by ssoneff