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Can you build credit without a Social Security number?

As many financial experts indicate, there are a variety of ways in which people can make their credit rating the best it can be. However, if you're new to the U.S. and haven't yet received a Social Security number, you may wonder whether this will prevent them from being able to build credit.

This was a question recently sent to financial experts at Bankrate.com.

In addition to not needing an SSN to send money back home, you may not need to have one to improve your credit as well, according to the site's analysts.

Credit card companies often don't require one to apply
For instance, if looking to apply for a credit card, some companies allow the use of a taxpayer identification number that's issued by the IRS.

While other companies may require a Social Security number if looking to be the primary user of a card, some companies don't ask for this form of identification if someone just wants to be an authorized user. Being an authorized user allows you to gain credit without being the one who's officially recognized as the owner of the account. However, people should do this with caution, as if the primary user has a bad credit history, it could negatively impact theirs as well.

Credit bureaus may not require one
Other organizations that don't require a Social Security include credit bureaus. Bankrate.com points out that TransUnion allows people to build credit histories without this kind of identification. It's unclear if other bureaus, like Equifax, requires it, as the company did not respond to requests for detailing what their policy was on this matter.

While a Social Security number isn't always needed, Experian vice president of public education Maxine Sweet says it's an important thing to have.

"Name and current address are the minimum requirement [for a credit card], but we strongly encourage the lender to provide the SSN, date of birth and previous address if it was within the last two years," said Sweet.

Having Social Security number is optimal
She added that a Social Security number is important for the sake of accuracy as well. For instance, if someone gets in touch with a credit bureau so that they can get a report about their credit history, Social Security identification helps the system "match the account to the correct number."

As Bankrate.com points out, getting a Social Security number can be accomplished once the government identifies a person as someone who's eligible to work in the country. There are exceptions, though, to being able to get a Social Security number without being officially recognized as a foreign worker or citizen.

For instance, according to the Social Security Administration, people can get a SSN if they can prove that they're in the U.S. for a "valid non-work reason."

"That might happen, for example, if a state or federal law requires you to have a Social Security number to obtain benefits to which you have already established entitlement," SSA's website notes.

As a general rule, though, people will need to show that they have an employment authorization card before they can apply for a Social Security number.

While Social Security identification isn't always needed in order to build credit, people should nonetheless obtain one as soon as they're able.

 

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