In the U.S., a credit history shows an individual's past record of paying bills, loans, etc. and is used to verify that they are financially responsible. Unfortunately, although it was never its intended purpose, the SSN became the requested identification number used to check personal credit history in the US. It is still commonly asked for when individuals are being considered as an apartment tenant, opening accounts or installing services. Landlords, banks and service companies use the SSN to request a credit history report.
Students and scholars who are not eligible to obtain a SSN probably don’t have a credit history in the United States and this is why they may be asked to pay higher security deposits for housing and services or be restricted in the type of bank accounts they can open. Unfortunately, if they do not meet the eligibility requirements to be granted an SSN, they cannot obtain one merely for identification purposes.
How do I establish a credit history?
One way to build “credit” is to obtain a U.S. credit card and pay all bills in full and on time, but please note the use or misuse of U.S. credit cards becomes a key part of the credit history. Over time and if fiscally responsible, it is possible to develop a good credit history in the U.S. which can be used to request better rates or lower deposits on loans, services, etc. However, missed payments or bills sent to a collection agency may result in difficulty in renting, getting financial assistance or obtaining loans/credit in the future.
The Federal Trade Commission provides more information about building a better credit history.
How do I check my credit history?
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides guidance on requesting a free credit report
- Some banks or credit card companies may have services that regularly monitor an individual’s credit for an additional monthly fee.