Bank of America: Major Credit Cards with No SSN

The Wall Street Journal is causing quite a bit of chatter with their report on Bank of America’s new credit card program. From the Wall Street Journal:

In the latest sign of the U.S. banking industry’s aggressive pursuit of the Hispanic market, Bank of America Corp. has quietly begun offering credit cards to customers without Social Security numbers — typically illegal immigrants.

In recent years, banks across the country have begun offering checking accounts and, in some cases, mortgages to the nation’s fast-growing ranks of undocumented immigrants, most of whom are Hispanic. But these immigrants generally haven’t been able to get major credit cards, making it hard for them to develop a credit history and expand their purchasing power.

According to the LA Times: “The cards are designed to be a first step for immigrants trying to build a credit history, bank spokeswoman Alexandra C. Trower said today.”

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security was less than thrilled, even though the cards are perfectly legal and comply “fully with all banking and antiterrorism laws governing customer identification.”

“At face value the program seems to be problematic,” said Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. “It seems to be lending itself to possibilities of perpetrating identity theft or creating more risk for money laundering.” Hey, if it’s legal, it’s legal. People need banking services. —MEGHANN MARCO

Bank of America Casts Wider Net For Hispanics
[Wall Street Journal]
Bank of America to offer credit cards to illegal immigrants [LA Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. bluegus32 says:

    Where’s the problem? It’s not BofA’s responsibility to police illegals. If the corner store can sell its products to illegal aliens (like milk) then BofA can sell its product with as much impunity.

  2. Skeptic says:

    It’s nice to know that identity thieves will no longer need your SSN to take out a credit card or Mortgage in your name. Way to go BofA!

  3. shoegazer says:

    Meghann, way to go – I was afraid it would turn into another “Oh noes, illegals in ur bankz” post, until the very end bit. Wonder how long this legal loophole will last now.

  4. MAVickers says:

    What happens if a high(er) percentage of these credit card accounts turn up unpaid because there is little or no consequence to not paying them? Doesn’t that mean the other customers will foot the bill by paying higher fees and what-not?

  5. lore says:

    “But these immigrants generally haven’t been able to get major credit cards, making it hard for them to develop a credit history and expand their purchasing power.”

    Please explain how not using a SSN will enable these people — illegal immigrants or not — to develop a credit history with the new BofA credit cards?

  6. medalian1 says:

    Dang I wish I was Miguel Rodriguez, I’m sure he has a lot of credit built up right now with that name and no social. Oooh or Jesus, that’s my favorite hispanic name. I always call them Jesus (like Jesus Christ) just for fun.

  7. Scazza says:

    This is just an immigration scam to get INS to find illegal aliens who sign up for the card…. heh.

  8. thrillhouse says:

    Hey, if it’s legal, it’s legal. People need banking services.

    Yes, they do need banking services. Debt? Not a need.

    All in all, this does look like a giant cluster-fuck. Hopefully there is more to this than meets the eye. I can’t blame BofA for trying to capitalize on an untapped market. But this does look like they are doing it by sacrificing the rest of us who do have SSNs.

    I also do not understand how this would build their credit if they have no SSN. Suppose it did, then that person actually became a citizen. Would they transfer that history to the newly issued SSN? Just seems like it would open the whole thing up to a whole new level of fraud and undermine their whole system.

    As for not paying – being an illegal doesn’t make you immune to our laws. BofA will sue them. The question is, can they file bankruptcy? But even if they do file, they cannot file Chapter 7 on the credit cards, so BofA will get their money, one way or another.

    It really just looks like another credit issuer looking to cash in on and take advantage of another group that is uninformed or unlikely to pay. Lo ciento, chicos.

  9. KesCaesar says:

    I’m a student in America on an f-1 visa. Thank god for Amex giving me a student card without a SSN – It’s so hard to build credit without it.
    And, as a student, it’s almost impossible to get a SSN.

  10. lore says:


    But what record do you have of your credit? In other words, how would a creditor look your credit history up if you don’t have a SSN?

  11. VeryPlainJane says:

    I have never used my SS# to apply for credit even mortgages. When asked for my number I simply respond that SS#’s is not a form of identification. I have been turned down a few times but that’s a rarity. I have been asked for my birth cert., identification and/or passport which I am happy to supply. Americans are just too happy to turn over their SS# to anybody.

  12. chimmike says:

    how exactly do they expect to collect? You know how easy it is for an illegal to up and disappear? They can charge all they want on the card and disappear. A simple change of name and address will get them another card. No SSN to verify identity, etc.

    This is getting ridiculous. No more is there an advantage to being a citizen here…..illegals get all the same benefits, without paying the federal/state taxes to pay for it. Fantastic.

  13. hop says:

    interesting,but we are gonna pay for this when the defaults start rolling in…..

  14. Johnie says:

    This is the biggest non-news news ever! This has been available by all banks for many years. To apply for credit cards, banks accept both SSN and Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Anyone can get an ITIN regardless of immigration status from the IRS. This has been available since 1996! And it’s only become news now?!!?

    The article might as well say that the IRS and US government is allowing illegal immigrants to get credit cards.

    I suspect this “news” is being pushed out by some right-wing lobbying group.

  15. Johnie says:

    This is interesting. I just stumbled across:

    You are not REQUIRED to disclose your SS# to get a credit card, open a bank account, etc.

    Most of these financial entities want you to blv so, but under the Social Security Privacy law, a bank can not deny you privileges and rights because you refuse to disclose a number, which only identifies a government trust fund established for an individual. Social security numbers are only for that purpose, for the businesses of the the Social Security Administration.

    In small claims court, you can, under this Privacy Act, sue and rcv a guaranteed $1000 for each offense. The majority of low level bank employees and managers do not know this, but most executive level employees do.

    What you do is send a professionally written letter to the bank vice president, including the statement that this letter is being sent under the Privacy Act laws regarding Social Security numbers, and that you are seeking the right to open up a bank account at his/her institution, and would like him/her to set up an appointment with one of the bankers to open up a bank account at his bank. The executive will naturally brief the banker about alternative methods like using dummy numbers (which many banks have at their disposal), call you to set up a time, and you get your bank account. If they refuse, going to small claims court is cheap and requires no lawyer and you are guaranteed by this Privacy Act of monetary damages. In nearly all cases, the bank will back off.

    With credit card applications, in the entry for your SS#, write SEE ENCLOSED LEGAL NOTICE, and submit the application along with a copy of the Privacy Act. Send by Certified mail along with Return Receipt. Some credit card companies will call you back and tell you what documentation and proof of imcome you will need to send to them, including references, employer statements, copies of W-2 (with SS# scratched off), etc. You might get lower than average credit limit but it works. The rest of the companies will deny your application, at which you either can send a leagl warning letter (nicely yet tactfully) explaining that you will sue for the Privacy Acts guaranteed award amounts in small claims court if they do not allow alternative means of proving ability to pay. Some of the card companies will back off. The rest of them you will make $1000 each offense.

    Also, if any institution backs down after you file suit, follow through with the suit to get their penalties and then get your credit card.

    A better way to avoid these procedures is to file for an ITIN from the IRS. You will have to build some credit history on the new number before getting a credit card, but you can get a bank account right away.

    Keep searching on Google to find more information. The misinformation is out there as well as the information. It is a matter of distinguishing the two.

    There are several companies that offer a Pre-Paid Debit Card. Since the Patriot Act, no banks will issue a bank account, or a credit card without having a Personal Identification Number. All banks accept a passport number as a Personal Identification number. You should be able to get a Pre-Paid Visa Debit card with NO ID at all. If you want a Credit Card, you will need to open a US Bank acccount using your Passport ID.


  16. Johnie says:

    Also just so you know, it is actually illegal for financial institutions to require a SSN to apply for credit under the Privacy Act of 1974. If a financial institution refuses you credit for not providing a SSN, you are able to sue for up to $1000 per offense.

  17. KesCaesar says:

    I was assured by American Express, as well as Citibank, that if I ever get a SSN, they would report my history… I’m not sure how that would work, but, god willing, it will. :)

  18. VG10 says:

    ok, so illegals run up a bill, dont pay it back causing BOA to lose money and where do you think they will make up that money at? pushing fees to their existing customers.

    we need immigration reform BADLY. most the signs where my parents live in Georgia are all in spanish.

    my mother was rushed to the hospital emergency room, she had to goto 3 hospitals before getting admitted within a few minutes because the first two were full of illegal immigrants who didnt have insurance and the hospitals arent allowed to refuse treatment…

    dont even get me started on how jose is holding back the classroom because he cant understand english…

  19. Panhandler says:

    I am pleasantly surprised to see rational and vigorous debate in this thread without name calling. Hooray! Free speech for everyone, not just those who agree with me!

  20. martatuga says:

    Sorry, Panhandler…

    VG10 – you’re an idiot! Sorry your mom couldn’t be admitted because there were other patients in need of care. Do you actually advocate that patients be turned away if they don’t have insurance or can’t prove status so that people that can afford to pay and can prove status get preferred treatment? And how do you know they were here illegally in the first place?
    So, please don’t get started on Jose.

    Kescaesar, do you work on campus? If you do, in order to be paid for those hours you have to get a SS#. That’s how I got mine when I first got here on a F-1. Ask the international students office. Good luck!

  21. thrillhouse says:

    well, I’ll be damned. Great stuff, Johnie.

    Based on the info you found:
    >Is this really non-news, as in this is an old policy that is now being marketed to illegals?
    >Or is it real news, and is BofA not requiring ITINs either? has some interesting stuff on ITINs as well. Seems that requiring banks to accept ITINs is contradictory to what the IRS says about them. More questions than answers.

    ITINs are issued regardless of immigration status because both resident and nonresident aliens may have U.S. tax return and payment responsibilities under the Internal Revenue Code.
    Individuals must have a filing requirement and file a valid federal income tax return to receive an ITIN, unless they meet an exception.

    Are ITINs valid for identification?
    No. ITINs are not valid identification outside the tax system. Since ITINs are strictly for tax processing, IRS does not apply the same standards as agencies that provide genuine identity certification.
    ITIN applicants are not required to apply in person, and IRS does not further validate the authenticity of identity documents. ITINs do not prove identity outside the tax system, and should not be offered or accepted as identification for non-tax purposes.

    Are ITINs valid for work purposes?
    No. ITINs are for federal income tax purposes only.

    It does appear that they have just revised the process of getting an ITIN to include requiring some form of ID.

  22. FLConsumer says:

    I’d still love to know how BoA plans on collecting. It’s not like the the illegals have bought homes in the ‘burbs, have their own offices in downtown office towers and have 2-3 cars in the driveway. Even if they do manage to find one of the illegals, what are they possibly going to try to take from them? The $10 they got this week for picking tomatoes? Seems like a very shady practice for both parties.

  23. Jesse in Japan says:

    I had lots of exchange student friends from China or Hong Kong or Korea in college and they all had credit cards.

  24. TPK says:

    Radio talker Glenn Beck is calling for “we the people” to give feet to our displeasure with companies that are “in bed with the illegal immigrant market”. He’s asking listeners to report all instances of this which will be investigated, then reported on his radio and HNN tv shows.

  25. xVAGUE says:

    To all you follks driven by fear, the offer is only available to existing customers who don’t have SSN’s, but have other forms of ID, which means they are not illegal.