Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Canadians, is the credit cards sign-in bonus really NOT gonna work for you?

I am a Canadian who live/work in USA, therefore I have my US SSN to apply for those giant sign-in bonus credit cards, this is not the issue. My wife however doesn’t have an US SSN and I managed to get her a dozen of those credit cards over the last 6 months. How did I do that?

As Canadians, we know that, US and Canada doesn’t share credit (well, AMEX may pull your credit from Canada if you request, but this is not the topic we want to discuss). If you don’t have an US SSN, you won’t be able to apply for US credit cards for the most part. True, the question is “is there a way to work around this?” I found one based on my personal experience.
Note: the following experience /steps worked for my wife and it may or may not work for you, YMMV.

1. You need an US residence address

You need to have an US address, this is the first step. If you current live in Canada, you can ask your friends or relatives and use their address, very important!
Update: I've been told Canada address is ok and using US address is not legal, since my wife has US address, this is not the problem, i agreed with this point that for Canadians, they should use their Canada address.

2. ZERO credit for Canadians

We all went thru this before that without any credit history, it’s unlikely to get those giant bonus cards. However, “time” is the cure and as time pass by, your credit score arises. However, for Canadians, they don’t have US SSN, so technically, they are not entitle to apply for any credit cards here in US at all. Right? NOT EXACTLY.

3. Department Store credit cards

For Canadians, next time you go to US, stop by a few department stores and make sure you have your Canada SIN with you.(you need to physically show the cashiers and tell them that you are Canadian, as i've been told if you are hiding the points, it's consider "fraud")
  • Our first stop is Children Place, when you check out, kindly ask you’re a loyal customer and would like to get their credit card. Even though you are Canadian, it won’t block you from applying the card using your US address. Hopefully, a few days later, you got the card in the mail with a few hundred $$$ credit, good enough, you've done 80% if I am an optimism.
  • If it doesn’t’ work out for you in there, like I mentioned earlier, it’s YMMV. don't give up. walk out of the door (Please do not slam the door with anger. :-) ) and let us head to Macys. When I came to US with zero credit, it was Macys who offered me $300 credit at that time, I was able to accumulating credit and reached 700,000 points/miles YTD. J
  • Our 3rd shot is Target, as far as I know, a few Canadians friends got the Target Red card in US.
  • it's not limited to other stores, as you can see, the point is to start building up your credit history by using your Canadian SIN.

4. Apply for US Credit cards

Once you have one or a few of those store credit cards, you just have to use them overtime and wait for your credit to arise. You can actually check your credit at Credit Sesame using your Canada SIN. Sooner or later, it will hit 700 and during the interim, you may even get some targeted offers from Citi Thank you regular card for example, last time my wife got 35,000 points and she used the 20% Macys giftcard redeemption to save $140 for a new iPad3.  so those targeted offers are not bad at all and it helps a lot in terms of your new credit build-up. Go ahead just apply for it, no worry about the bonus. the reason I ask you to apply for those offers is because targeted offers are VERY likely got approved. (you invited me and you don't issue the card, right?)

5. Others thoughts

there are also a few other ways to get you  a credit card, such as open a CIBC account and they may help you get a BoA(Bank of America) account, then issue you a BoA card as start. however, those ways haven't verified by me. and I think my wife's experience was super fast, 6 months per say.

In a nutshell, my wife got 300,000 miles/points this year and she is a CANADIAN. :-)


  1. Thank you for sharing. Very valuable info

  2. Ben,

    Thanks for the info. I also know many Canadians with Canadians addresses approved for US credit cards but generally these are Store credit cards like Target, Banana Republic and etc.

    You mentioned your wife got 300,000 miles/points, how did she apply for those credit cards with no social security? If I recall from your posts, she called Chase reconsideration to get the Southwest credit card, is Chase ok with Canadian SIN for their cards?

    1. I've answered a similar question in Million Mile Secret post for Jim. essentially, here it comes:
      1. firstly, canadians get store cards, this is confirmed by lots of people including you, thanks!
      2. once canadians got the store cards and keep using it, their credit rises in USA system. (it uses their SIN)
      3. when it reaches 700, most of Chase/Citi will approve your application. this is what happened to my wife.
      note: the process is painful and long(my wife was very lucky, only 6 months)

    2. How does credit sesame work with canadian ssn?

    3. the same as US SSN once you have your Canadian SIN on file here in US with above method.

    4. so you have to get store cards before you can port your canadian sin to a us credit file viewable on credit sesame, correct?

  3. interesting, I have a couple of US Store credit cards and check that they show up on Credit Sesame or Credit karma with an score over 700 using my Canadian SIN , I have and US adress but I dont have an US Driver License that is required by some credit card for identification purposes on Online applications. How I can work around this step?

    1. I don't remember those credit cards require US driver license. I don't have experience on that. you can always go for those cards dont need US driver license.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hey Ben,

    Great article.

    Once you get a US credit card, how do you fund it (pay it) if your bank account is in Canada?


  5. Hey Ben, Question for you, and I hate bringing this up, but if the SSN is a 9 digit number and the SIN is also a 9 digit number, how do you ensure you are not committing SSN fraud by using someone else's SSN number?

    Let me know.