Applying for US Credit Cards as a Canadian

I do not endorse applying for an ITIN or using it to apply for and use US credit cards. I only organize the information here for my own interest and do not guarantee the accuracy or legality of any of the steps taken.

There is a very, very long thread on RedFlagDeals full of people discussing how you can apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) and use that number to apply for a US Credit Card whenever you’re asked to provide an SSN.

The problem, is that you’re pulling a lot of systems together in a way they weren’t intended to. The ITIN is intended for people who otherwise don’t qualify for an SSN but would like to file a tax return in the USA (among other reasons, including reduced withholding taxes). The SSN (out of convenience) also happens to be the unique identifying number that the credit bureaus in the USA identify individual consumers and rate their credit history. There may also be concern about misrepresenting a US address as your primary residence.

Thus, applying for an ITIN will get you a number you can use and be assured that you aren’t stealing someone’s identity, as might happen if you enter your SIN instead of your ITIN/SSN.

On American Credit Cards…

They’re amazingly lucrative, there are many credit cards with considerably higher reward rates than available in Canada or amazing signup bonuses that make it worth signing up for and canceling within the year. Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card would otherwise be unattainable without an ITIN (and some credit history).

ITIN Application Process

I understand that to apply for an ITIN you will need:

  • A letter indicating that you need to apply for an ITIN
  • If applying in person: your passport
  • If applying by mail: a certified copy of your passport - Canadian citizens can get this from Passports Canada
  • A W-7 form from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

You can either mail the completed form to the IRS or show up at the IRS office (note weekday business hours) with your completed W-7 form.


As I mentioned before, ITINs exist as a means for people who aren’t supplied with an SSN (e.g a non-resident) to file their taxes. Most of the letters confirming you need an ITIN are confirming that you will receive royalty income from the sale of books or online media and are asking for an ITIN so that you can receive reduced withholding taxes on those royalties.

There does not seem to be a requirement to file a US non-resident return just because you hold an ITIN. However, ITINs can expire - but since they don’t get reused and get renewed when you do need to use them, the expiry seems to be an internal process that doesn’t affect a non-resident’s ability to apply for credit cards.

Hit the link for the IRS’ FAQ on ITIN expiration.

Getting the letter required to apply for an ITIN

There is one post that describes briefly how you can get an ITIN. It involves publishing a short book on Smashwords, then buying it (the guide asked you to ensure you get about $10 back, unsure why). At some point, I assume you send a request to Smashwords to issue you a letter confirming you need an ITIN.

Here is the full text of that post:

An ITIN number is not that difficult to get.

Here’s a perfectly legal loophole that I found:

  1. Take 10 of your own recipes (don’t plagiarize!) and type them out

  2. Upload it as an e-book to Forget about the formatting rules - they’re not well-enforced.

  3. Buy a copy from yourself for around $14 (be sure that the amount you’re making in the end is at least $10 and be sure to have a set price for the book)

  4. Write their support desk for an “ITIN letter”

  5. After that arrives in the mail, complete the W-7 form, checking off “H” and indicating treaty article 12 - royalties (There are some sites out there that tell you how to fill it in), and take the W-7, the ITIN letter, and your passport to the closest IRS office that does ITIN applications (for Toronto this would be Buffalo, NY). They will certify your passport in-person so that you don’t have to send it in.

  6. Wait several weeks and hope that all is in order. I got mine on the first try!

I can only assume the process is similar for getting a letter via Amazon.

Bank Accounts

You can pay off your US credit card from a US affiliate of a Canadian bank, or register for one of the following no-fee accounts.

Alliant Credit Union

There are steps provided here for the application process. No SSN/ITIN required.


PenFed is another credit union - notably their credit card has no foreign transaction fee.

US Address

A US Address is essential to applying for most of the credit cards with good rewards.

There are a whole list of suggestions for mail forwarding or holding in the USA - the important part is choosing one close to you that also “appears” to be a physical location from the perspective of the credit card issuing bank. An American resident friend would also be able to do this for you.

Tags// , , ,