Lette Berhe

Lette Berhe

Credit Scores in the United States – for International Students

Having good credit is necessary for almost everything in the U.S.: getting a loan, buying a car, renting an apartment, and more. The way banks and private businesses know if you have good or bad credit is by looking at your credit score. A credit score is a three-digit number (between 300 and 850) given to you by U.S. credit agencies that lets businesses know how risky it is to let you borrow money. Your credit score can go up or down over time because it is calculated based on late payments, amount of debt, and other money-related factors. If you think there is a possibility that you will stay in the U.S. after you finish studying, you should think about getting a U.S. credit card to start building your credit.

Having good credit is necessary for almost everything in the U.S.: getting a loan, buying a car, renting an apartment, and more.

The way banks and private businesses know if you have good or bad credit is by looking at your credit score. 
A credit score is a three-digit number (between 300 and 850) given to you by U.S. credit agencies that lets businesses know how risky it is to let you borrow money. Your credit score can go up or down over time because it is calculated based on late payments, amount of debt, and other money-related factors. 

If you think there is a possibility that you will stay in the U.S. after you finish studying, you should think about getting a U.S. credit card to start building your credit.

Getting Your First Credit Card

Getting your first credit card may be a little difficult because banks will ask to review your credit history. Unfortunately, your credit history in your home country is not accepted in the U.S. So, you will be starting from zero.

Starting with no credit history will make it difficult to get approved for most credit cards that U.S. banks offer. But you do have some options:

1. Credit cards from an international bank
2. Student credit cards 
3. A secured credit card from a U.S. bank

Documents You Need

Each bank will have its own application process and requirements, but below is a list of what banks usually ask for:  

Personal Information

  • Passport
  • US visa
  • I-20 form
  • Social security number
  • U.S bank account information/bank statements
  • U.S. address
  • U.S. phone number


Work & Financial information

  • Housing status (e.g. own or rent)
  • Monthly rent
  • Other monthly expenses
  • Total annual gross income (before taxes) 
  • Some banks allow you to apply online, but it is best to go in person (or call). Speaking with a bank employee directly will make sure they understand your situation.


Credit Cards from an International Bank

If you have a bank account with an international bank (e.g. HSBC), research to find out if they have offices open in the U.S. The possibility that you apply and receive a credit card is much higher if you have a record they can look at. The U.S. office may be able to check your financial record, which may allow them to approve your credit card application.

Make sure to confirm that the credit card they offer you reports to the 3 main credit agencies:


Student Credit Cards

Many U.S. banks offer credit cards specifically for college students. These credit cards normally give you extra student discounts and benefits. Banks offer these cards to encourage young adults to start building their credit, so they are perfect for you.

The following are large U.S. banks and the student cards they offer:


Another credit card that has become popular is the Deserve Edu credit card. This credit card offers international students the option to open a credit card without having a social security number.

A Secured Credit Card from a U.S. Bank

If you are having trouble getting approved for student credit cards, you can try applying for a secured credit card.

Secured cards are different than traditional credit cards because you are required to give a deposit. This means that if you would like to have a credit card that allows you to spend up to $500, you will have to give the bank $500 first.

Many banks use secured cards to help people rebuild their bad credit. The deposit makes sure that the bank will not lose any money with a risky client.

Before opening a secure card with a bank, make sure to ask about the possibility to convert your secure card to an unsecured card (traditional credit card). If available, you can use the secured card to prove that you are a responsible client. Then apply to have a traditional credit card service (with no deposit and more benefits) later.

If you found this information useful, be sure to check our blog regularly for more U.S. tips. Epro 360 is available even after you’ve arrived in the U.S., so click here to see what the Epro 360 Network can offer you. 

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