As an international student, it can be frustrating being asked for credit scores when applying for credit cards or signing leases with a landlord. A good credit score is not only important for your financial journey in the U.S., it affects almost every aspect of your life:
• Landlords need a credit score to estimate the likeliness of you paying your rent on time
• Insurance companies calculate your premium based on your credit score
• Lenders check your credit score to see if you qualify for a loan.
You may think that you don’t have a credit score because international students don’t have social security numbers (SSN). However, credit building is not as difficult as it seems, and an SSN is only optional in the process. There are various ways in which you can build up your credit profile and improve your credit score.
Why Is SSN (Social Security Number) Optional?
In order to put together a credit report, credit bureaus need to collect information about your identity including:
• Your name
• Date of birth
• Current address
• Previous addresses
• Employment history
• SSN (if available)
Credit Bureaus, such as TransUnion or Experian, will be able to locate your credit information with name, date of birth and address. SSN is only one of several unique identifiers necessary to match credit account information to an individual’s credit file. Having an SSN may increase the accuracy of the matching process, but it isn’t always needed to compile your credit report.
It all comes down to the preference of your lenders. If a lender is willing to open a credit account for you without an SSN, you could still have a credit profile. Lenders are one of the major credit reporting sources that record your credit payment history, including how much debt you have and whether you’ve paid your bills on time, and report it to credit bureaus regularly. If an account has been opened for you and reported to credit bureaus, they will use all the provided identification information to compile a credit report when a request is made. When you obtain an SSN in the future, all your credit history will be automatically attached to your credit profile.