The Canadian churning world isn’t doing too well: AMEX has severely tightened up, MBNA has limited Alaska card churns, and we’ve lost the IHG and Delta credit cards. Boo! This prompted me to seek out US credit cards, which offer substantially better churning opportunities.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a Social Security Number (SSN), which is similar to Canada’s SIN. However, there’s a clever way to get access to a Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), a number that is similar to an SSN, and allows you to build a US credit history and obtain US credit cards.
I started this journey about a year ago. It’s been incredibly lucrative, especially considering I only have one year of US credit history. I’m building it up, and hoping that by year two, I can access some of the more aspirational card offers.
Here’s how my year went: first, while visiting Austin TX, even prior to having an ITIN, I opened up a secured credit card with Bank of America. They opened this card using my US postal address and my passport information. Easy-peazy. Once I was granted an ITIN, I simply added it to the Bank of America card.
Once given an ITIN, I quickly applied and was approved for an AMEX Gold Card through the Global Transfer program, earning 50,000 MR points. Sweet!
In order to build my US history, I signed up for the TD Bank (USA) Aeroplan credit card, using my Canadian credit history. I was granted a very decent line of credit, and earned 25,000 Aeroplan miles.
I then signed up for an insane number of AMEX cards: the AMEX Ameriprise Platinum, with no annual fee and $400 of credits; SPG Personal, with 35,000 SPG points; Hilton Personal, 75,000 HHonors; Mercedes-Benz Platinum, 75,000 MR; SPG Business, with 25,000 SPG points, and; Delta Skymiles Gold, 50,000 Skymiles. Although my first card was approved through the Global Transfer program, every subsequent card was earned through immediate approvals online.
So far, my hardest entry was into Chase. They wanted two years of credit history, and I’m impatient. So I applied for their Freedom card (measly $150 bonus), and was denied. I went to reconsideration, and was denied. What did I do next? I emailed the Chase CEO office. Within two weeks, a representative from that office called me, and I explained that I was a Canadian with a US address looking for their card. With a bit of work, I was granted a $500 limit. Yay! Now, the point of this card was not for the bonus, but to build a profile with Chase to be more easily granted credit in the future. In the past week, Chase randomly doubled my limit, so it looks like that relationship is slowly going well.
Not all banks will grant you credit with ITIN. Notable exceptions are Wells Fargo, US Bank, and Barclays. However, one notable INCLUSION is Citi. I really want some Citi cards, but they’re a hard nut to crack. I was actually once granted approval with them, but that approval was later rescinded (boo!). I’ve applied a number of times, but really to no avail. They simply want more credit history, and they’d love to see a history with the bank itself. So I opened up a Citi bank account when visiting Stanford, and hope to be approved (and keep that approval) around year 1.5-2.
So, what’s my message in this? It’s really easy to get US credit cards as a Canadian – it just requires a little ingenuity and patience. Further, be honest to creditors – most agents think it’s interesting and are excited to help… indeed, I’ve noticed that many call centers are actually based in Canada (especially Nova Scotia and New Brunswick)!