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In order to introduce the context of the question, I am a UK citizen with a good credit rating and no debts who currently resides in the UK, and do not currently own property in the US.

In reference to questions such as:

I just moved to the United States. What should I do to develop a good credit rating, fast?

What are the options for a UK citizen who does not currently have a US address, but wants to open credit cards with American banks/businesses? For example, if I wanted to open an Amazon.com Store Card (I already own an Amazon.co.uk MasterCard) and an American Express Card of some kind to build an American credit rating, how would I go about doing so, and would the American companies run checks on my UK file in order to open these, or would they be running checks on my (non existent) American credit record?

I have reviewed the other available questions such as

American credit card with a foreign billing address?

but the answers for them tend to be from people who have lived in the US, then kept their cards after leaving, and I'm interested to know if it is possible to prevent the problems detailed in the first question, or for a UK citizen who does not intend to move to the US to apply for accounts of this type.

  • Do you bank with an US bank ?? Ask them if they would issue you one. Ask Amazon about the store card also. As they have a history with you, they might be willing to. – DumbCoder Sep 25 '13 at 13:41
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    Why would you want one if (a) you're not going to be living there, and (b) you're not going to be living there? An American credit score would seem irrelevant. – THEAO Sep 25 '13 at 14:32
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    In answer to the first question, I don't bank with a US bank. For the second, I was expecting at least one response along the lines of 'why do you want to do this', and tried to structure the question to anticipate it, but the answer is, for the benefits available on some current American cards, and for the possibility of living there in future. – seekingknowledge Sep 25 '13 at 15:37
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    For reference, you can get an American Express card here (UK), but it's a UK-specific card and has UK-specific offers and benefits. It does have a less dire dollars-to-pounds conversion than most if you use it in the US, though. To address your original question: every time I've looked into this you need a US resident address to have any US financial products. – Vicky Sep 26 '13 at 12:23
  • Thanks for the notes Vicky. Based on the advice so far, my thoughts are that I will just register for an AMEX UK card, as I've read that they allow you to transfer a UK credit history to the US, providing you have held a card with them for more than a year. I've also read that HSBC offer a similar service. – seekingknowledge Sep 26 '13 at 13:18
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To build a US credit record, you need a Social Security Number (SSN), which is now not available for most non-residents.

An alternative is an ITIN number, which is now available to non-residents only if they have US income giving a reason to file a US tax return (do you really want to get into all that...).

Assuming you did have a reason to get a ITIN (one reason would be if you sold some ebooks via Amazon US, and need a withholding refund under the tax treaty), then recent reports on Flyertalk give mixed results on whether it's possible to get a credit card with an ITIN, and whether that would build a credit record. It does sound possible in some cases.

A credit record in any other country would not help. You would certainly need a US address, and banks are increasingly asking for a physical address, rather than just a mailbox.

Regardless, building this history would be of limited benefit to you if you later became a US resident, at that point you would be eligible for a new SSN (different from the ITIN) and have to largely start again.

If getting a card is the aim, rather than the credit record, you may find some banks that will offer a secured card (or a debit card), to non-residents, especially in areas with lots of Canadian visitors (border, Florida, Arizona). You'd find it a lot easier with a US address though, and you'd need to shop around a lot of banks in person until you find one with the right rules. Most will simply avoid anyone without an SSN.

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Go to the states on vacation. Get a virtual (or friend's) address. Get an ITIN from the IRS. Open a bank account. Get a secured credit card on your next trip from Capital One – add as much money as you can afford. One year later, you should have a decent credit score.

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  1. Open a virtual address in the US (ie, earthclassmail, mailboxforwarding, etc ... there are many service providers that provide an address and scan your mail)
  2. Get an Amex in the UK
  3. Get a US skype number
  4. Use Amex Global Transfer and get a US Amex
  5. Boom
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    You would also need a US tax ID, and many times non-residents can only get secured cards. Amex global transfer doesn't work they way it used to, and it is no longer as easy to get a US amex card based on a foreign amex card as it was years ago. – littleadv Oct 21 '13 at 22:47
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    It still seems possible, though not as easy as user11575 suggests: americanexpress.com/global-card-transfers/united-states.html – Peter K. Oct 22 '13 at 13:27
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    Original post/question said "I just moved to the US ...". Those who legally move to the US get a SSN (sort of a tax ID for residents). Agreed, it is not that easy. Amex agents are quite incompetent (ignorant re global transfers). All you need to do is insist and insist by phone and you will get it. I did not say it was easy. But it works, and you'll be able to get a significant credit line (assuming you have good credit with Amex UK) instead of a meager 1k limit secured card. – user11575 Nov 21 '13 at 12:10

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