Canadians love credit cards. There are more than 79.6 million cards issued in the country. According to reports, the average Canadian carries two or more credit cards, and most pick the card that offers the best rewards.
While most Canadians own a Canadian card, a growing number of people search for US cards due to the many benefits they offer. Fortunately, it is possible to get a US credit card from Canada. In this article, we’ll explain how you can get a US credit card from Canada and why it might make sense to get one.
Are Canadian Credit Cards Not Good?
There’s nothing wrong with Canadian credit cards. There are dozens of issuers in the country offering hundreds of different credit cards. You can compare Canadian credit cards to see what they’re capable of.
While credit cards all around the world work in a similar manner. However, some US based online and brick-and mortar retailers and services will not accept a Canadian credit card. Of course, being Canadian doesn’t have to stop you.
Why Should I Pick a US Credit Card?
Here are some of the main reasons why so many Canadians are looking to get a US issued card.
Help You Save Money
Most Canadian banks levy annual charges on credit card consumers, which adds to the cost. On the other hand, a large number of US card issuers offer credit cards without any annual charges. This makes it affordable to own a US issued credit card. Although there are Canadian cards that do not have currency conversion charges, there are no currency conversion fees when you use a US card to shop at a US store. These charges can help you save about 3 percent of the transaction amount.
Make it Possible to Use US Stores
Consider choosing US cards if you intend to shop at US stores as some American e-commerce businesses do not accept Canadian cards. This leaves people with no option but to look for someone else to buy on their behalf, which is both costly and time-consuming. With a US card by your side, you will be able to shop without any issues.
Come with Generous Rewards
This might come as a surprise to some but Canadian rewards programs aren’t as generous as reward programs offered in the US. Most Canadian institutions offer rewards in the range of 0.50 percent and 1 percent; whereas, rewards can go up to 5 percent in the US. Rewards can be in the form of cashback, discounts, and points that can be encashed.
Look no further than American Express Canada and Amex US cards. The former offers only 11 hotel transfer and airline partners, whereas the US card offers 21 partners including some that no Canadian bank seems to offer such as Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. This can be a good reason to choose a US card.
US cards are known to offer more benefits especially for travelers. If you’re an avid flyer then a US card can offer you benefits such as access to airport lounges and hotel upgrades. Of course, you get that with some Canadian credit cards like the HSBC World Elite Mastercard. For example, some US cards give holders instant top-tier Hilton Diamond status, which requires spending at least 60 nights at the hotel to earn.
Get a US Credit Card From Canada: A Step by Step Guide
Let’s now talk about how you can get a US card from Canada. It isn’t as simple as ordering your favorite drink because you will need to take care of several steps to ensure your card gets approved and reaches you safe and sound. Let’s take a look.
Step #1: Get a US Address
This might sound a little intimidating but don’t worry, you don’t have to move to the US to get an US address. You can get it virtually thanks to providers who offer addresses for a fee. Here are a few things to remember:
- The address must be residential as banks do not approve commercial addresses or P.O. box numbers.
- The service provider must allow bank correspondence.
Fortunately, the address doesn’t have to be under your name. This means you can ask your friends or family members for help if they are in the US. If they agree, you can sign up using their address and ask them to send all mails directed to you to your Canadian address.
You may also choose to pick the mail up yourself if you visit the US. Even better, you can ask that the documents to be scanned and sent to you. It require you to trust that person in all cases.
If this is not an option then you will have to find a service provider that offers US addresses to get a credit card. There are several mailbox or mail forwarding services that come with a US address. Most companies only charge for delivery and offer addresses for free.
Have a look at some of the best package forwarding services and pick one that fits your requirements. Some of the top names include In Out Parcel and Shipito. Both companies offer US addresses with additional services such as discounted delivery, scan and mail, and insurance.
You can use this address not only to receive bank correspondence but other parcels as well. You may have to pay a registration fee based on your plan. Compare different options and pick what fits you the best.
Most companies charge an annual fee as well, which is in the range of $70 and $120. Make sure to verify there are no additional charges for using the address to receive bank letters. Also, ensure the address can be used to open a credit card.
You can verify this by going to the USPS address tool and entering your new US address. The page will tell you if the address is residential or not. Do not choose a company that is marked as a“Commercial Mail Receiving Agency”. This is because banks may decline your request if they realise that you are using a mail forwarding service to get a credit card.
Step #2: Get a Bank Account in the US
You will need a US bank account to be able to get a US credit card. You will need a bank account even if you do not intend to use a bank to get a credit card. This is because you’ll need an account to pay off your bills and verify your address in the US.
Again, you can open a bank account in the US without having to go to the country. Many Canadian banks have branches in the US. In most cases, you will get the option to get a US bank account when you open one in Canada.
CIBC, for example, has this feature. If you use the bank for personal banking, you will get the option to get a Smart Account in the US that’ll cost you about $5 per month with 12 transactions. The bank is reliable and gives the option to manage your account online. Plus, you will be able to transfer funds from your US account to your Canadian account.
Some other banks that offer similar features include TD Canada Trust, Bank of Montreal, and RBC Royal Bank. All these banks give account owners the option to open a bank account in the US in just a few steps. In most cases, you will not even have to submit additional documents or wait for days to get a US account from Canada.
If you don’t want to use a subsidiary of your current bank then you will have to search online and find banks that offer accounts to Canadians. Some popular options include Chase Bank and HSBC. You will have to submit documents such as your passport and address proof. No matter which option you use, make sure to use your US address as your primary address on your new account. The address should be visible on your bank statements as it will be used by your card issuer to verify your address.
Step #3: Build Your Credit History
Now that you have a US address and bank account, the next step is to start building your US credit history. This is important because getting a credit card without a good history can be an uphill task. The easiest way to start building a credit history is to open multiple accounts.
Consider starting with American Express US. It is a reliable company with a global presence. Plus, Amex allows users to easily transfer their membership to another country if they ever relocate.
American Express offers Nova Credit in the US, a service that allows Canadians to directly apply for a US card using their Canadian TransUnion file. This removes the need to own an Amex card. The process is quite straightforward. Apply online for an Amex credit card and choose “International Cardholder” when it asks to enter your Social Security Number.
The system may give you the option to “Sign in for a simpler application process.” We suggest that you skip this option even if you already own an Amex Canada card. You can proceed further without having to sign in. If you sign in, you will have to go through the “Global Transfer” process, which can be a little complicated. We’ll explain it later. For now, let’s use the simpler Nova Credit process.
Once you submit the application, you will land on the Nova Credit portal. The system will now ask you to select the country of your credit history. Available options include the UK, Mexico, India, and Australia. Since you intend to use your Canadian history, choose Canada and provide the required information including your address, date of birth, name, and Canadian TransUnion file.
The system will find a match based on the information that you provided and will ask you to answer three questions for identity verification. Don’t worry about the process as it only counts as a soft inquiry and not a hard inquiry. It will not impact your credit score.
Once done, you will be asked to authorize Nova Credit to access your information and transmit it to American Express US. This can be done by checking some boxes. Next, you’ll be asked to provide some more information. This is optional and you may choose to bypass this step. However, providing this information may be helpful as it can speed up the processing time of your application.
Lastly, you will have to verify your identity by providing an identity document such as your driver’s license or passport. If you’re lucky, you’ll get approved right away. Conversely, in most cases, you’ll be asked to provide some more information to verify your data.
This includes submitting more identity documents and address proof. In some cases, you might be required to call the company and talk to an agent. Approval can take around four to five days. Once processed, your new card will be shipped to your US address.
This is the easiest way to start building your US credit. To speed things up, you can choose to apply for multiple credit cards, one after another. However, not all applications may get approved.
What if you want to apply for multiple cards? The best advice is to do it quickly. The faster you apply, the higher are your chances of approval.
Let’s now talk about the Global Transfer option. This method involves initiating an AMEX Global Transfer to the US from Canada. You will be eligible for this program only if you have a Canadian-issued AMEX account. The account must be valid, in good standing, and active for a period of three or more months.
If you meet these requirements then get in touch with the AMEX Global Transfer office and request a Global Transfer from your Canadian card to your US credit card. The agent will ask you to apply for a US card on the phone and provide some details. The process will take a few minutes and you’ll be asked to provide some information.
Step #4: Get Your International Taxpayer Identification Number
It is quite easy for Canadians to get an AMEX US credit card but you will need a file identifier if you want to get a card from other issuers such as Citi, Chase, Bank of America, or Capital One. In Canada, we have a social insurance number and in the US, they have SSN, short for Social Security Numbers. Personal credit reports in the country are associated with these numbers or identifiers.
If you’re lucky enough to already have a US SSN then you don’t have to worry about this step and you can move ahead. Only US citizens or residents with special permits can apply for a SSN. Everyone else needs to go for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues these numbers. You will have to prepare a number of documents to submit your application. The process can be a little tedious but it is important to ensure you can get your desired US credit card.
A few legal complications come into play here. Foreign residents who earn income in the US are eligible and encouraged to apply for an ITIN. You will have to prove your residency status if you wish to be exempt from US withholding taxes.
Your Canadian passport and address can be enough to prove it. An ITIN can be of help and prove to be very useful not only in getting a credit card but also in using US based services. It doesn’t matter how you have earned money in the US, you should consider getting an ITIN number as it will make it easy to fulfill your obligations to the IRS.
Money can come from a variety of sources including trying your luck at a virtual casino, using US-based stockbrokers, or trying a US betting company. You will have to self-report your income to the IRC. this way you will get to save hefty withholding taxes that are levied on dividends, royalties, and winnings.
Here’s how you can get an ITIN:
Hire a Professional
There are a number of firms that can help you get an ITIN. They’ll charge a small fee for their services and you will get your ITIN in just a few days without much effort. Some of our favorite providers include Frugal Flyer and US Tax Resources. You might come across even better options if you look around. Expect to spend about 300 CAD on it.
You will be asked to provide some information and the provider will issue a completed application form, also known as a W-7 form. You will have to prove why you need an ITIN. These companies can help you submit a tax return to justify your application.
Do It Yourself
Those who do not wish to hire the services of a professional firm can choose to apply on their own. This method is a little complicated and time consuming but doable. Be careful when submitting your forms and even a small discrepancy in your form can result in a rejection.
Also, the process is slow and applications can take months to complete. Fortunately, you will not have to wander for tips as the official IRS website provides all the information one needs to get an ITIN. Go through the page to ensure you have all the required documents including:
- Document to justify an ITIN (for example, showing US-based income)
- A certified copy of your passport
- Correctly filled W-7 ITIN form
In some cases, you might be asked for additional documents, for example, your real passport. Go the IRS has information about how to fill the form. Also, getting in touch with a tax attorney for tax advice since submitting the W-7 form may have some tax implications.
Remember that the application cannot be filled entirely online as you will have to mail your original passport or a certified copy to prove your status. Plan carefully as it can take around two months for the application to process. We suggest that you stick to certified copies since sending original documents is always risky. You will not be able to fly till you get your passport back. Plus, there’s a risk of losing it.
Certified copies are easier to get but they’re not the same as notorised copies that you can get at a public accountant or lawyer’s office. You will have to get in touch with Passport Canada, get an appointment, and request a certified copy.It costs $45 to get up to three copies.
You will only need to send one copy to the IRS; however, you can keep the other two for future use. Once you have all the required documents, fill the form and make sure there are no errors. Review it, collect all documents, put them in an envelope, and send it to the IRS at this address:
Internal Revenue Service
Austin Service Center
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342
While the address doesn’t typically change, it might still be a good idea to check the official website for the current address.
Once you have sent your documents, it is time to wait. The official page doesn’t give an exact timeline but this method can take up to four months, not counting the time taken to request a certified copy. If all goes well, you will receive mail with your ITIN. It’s a nine digit code that you will need on several occasions.
Step #5: Continue to Build Your Credit History
Once you have completed all the steps discussed above, it is time to get a little busy and build your credit history so you can get more credit cards. You will not have to do this if you are happy with the AMEX card that you have but for most people, the AMEX card is usually not enough and they want to get their hands on cards from other banks.
Most people choose Chase Bank as it offers some great rewards and a number of credit cards to choose from. You will have to wait a little while before applying for a Chase credit card. Chase offers opportunities that no other bank does including 1:1 points transfers for stays at Hyatt hotels. Experts suggest waiting for around a year before applying for a Chase card as the bank is known to be a little stringent in issuing cards and doesn’t typically entertain applicants with little credit history.
If you are in a hurry then consider building your relationship with the bank. This can be done by opening a checking account with Chase in the US. You will not need a US passport to do so. They’ll ask for simple documents such as a copy of your passport to process the request. However, at this time, you cannot open a Chase checking account from Canada online. You will have to personally visit the branch to initiate the process.
Also, go slow on AMEX cards if you are serious about working with Chase. The bank is known for following the controversial ‘5/24 rule’. This means your application for a new credit card will not get approved if you have opened more than five credit cards in the last 24 months.
To avoid this problem, ensure you don’t get new cards one after another. Five AMEX cards would be enough to get started. You can apply for a Chase card once you have a decent history. Another option is to go for Amex US business cards.
These cards will not appear on your personal files in the US, which means you will be able to sign up for new cards without worrying about the 5/24 rule. Some top options include the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card from AMEX, the US Hilton Business Card from AMEX, and the US Business Platinum Card from Amex.
These cards are said to be easy to apply for as you do not need an ITIN or SSN to be eligible. Contact the company over the phone and submit a request. You will be asked to provide an identity document though.
3 Top Banks Offering Credit Cards to Canadians
AMEX and Chase are not your only options, you can also turn to other banks in the US that offer credit cards to Canadian citizens.
- Citi: Citi can be a great option for Canadians interested in earning Citi ThankYou points. You can use these points to enjoy perks when flying domestically or internationally.
- Bank of America: Here’s another bank that caters to flyers with a special co-branded card that allows flyers special discounts when flying Alaska Airlines. The bank, however, only accepts applications in-brand or over the phone.
- Capital One: Here’s another reliable bank that can be great for Canadians who want to shop online. It offers generous welcome bonuses and special cashback programs when shopping online.
There may be several other options at your disposal. Once you have a decent credit history, you will be able to apply for more cards. However, remember that US banks are a little stringent when issuing cards. Don’t try your luck if you do not have a good score and work on it before you send applications as rejections can impact your credit score.
Warning: Make Sure to Meet All Your Obligations
While getting a US credit card is easy, it is not something to take lightly. Do not make the mistake of being late on your payments. This may not impact your Canadian score but remember that your US issuers may have the option to follow you to Canada and get a judgment.
Debts you owe will remain active and may cause problems if you ever fly to the US or do business there. This is why it is important to take your cards seriously and pay your bills in a timely manner.
Getting a US Credit Card in Canada: Frequently Asked Questions
Still have questions? Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about applying for a US credit card from Canada.
No, you do not have to fly to the US to get a US credit card in Canada. Everything can be done online or over the phone. You will first have to get a US address that can be used to manage bank correspondence and receive your first credit card. The address provider can mail your documents to you in Canada, thus giving you physical access to your card. The process is safe and seamless and involves building a good credit history so you can be eligible for more cards that come with better rewards and bonuses.
Canadian cards are quite good but not as beneficial as US cards, especially if you intend to use US services such as a US airline or online store. They can be suitable for people who do not travel a lot or only shop at Canadian stores.
There is no ‘best US card for Canadians’ as the right option depends on a variety of factors. Think about what you need and pick accordingly.
Some cards offer airline miles, some are good for hotel stays, some have excellent cashback rewards, and some come with big welcome bonuses.
Compare all options and pick what fits you the best.
US cards can be used anywhere including physical and virtual Canadian stores; however, you may have to bear currency conversion charges when you use a US store to shop in Canada.
No, your US credit history will not impact your Canadian credit history.
Find the best credit card for your needs by answering a few questions.
About The Author: Arthur Dubois
Passionate about personal finance and financial technology, Arthur Dubois is a writer and SEO specialist at Hardbacon. Since his arrival in Canada, he’s built his credit score from nothing.
Arthur invests in the stock market but doesn’t pay any fees because he uses National Bank Direct Brokerage online broker and Wealthsimple’s robo-advisor. He pays for his subscriptions online with his KOHO prepaid card, and uses his Tangerine credit card for most of his in-store purchases. When he buys bitcoins, it’s with the BitBuy online platform. Of course it goes without saying that he uses the Hardbacon app so that he can manage all of his finances from one convenient place.
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