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How Can Canadian Readers Get American Credit Card Sign-up Bonuses?

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How Can Canadian Readers Get American Credit Card Sign-up Bonuses?

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I get email from Canadian (and occasionally European, South American, and Australian) readers almost every day asking if they can get US credit cards.

We’ve got it really, really good in the US, because we can easily collect hundreds of thousands of hotel points and airline miles (if not millions) via credit card sign-up bonuses.

Bonuses in Canada are paltry in comparison.  For example, American Express recently increased the sign-on bonus, up to July 31, 2012, on their American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card from 10,000 points to 15,000 points, compared to the 25,000 points in the US.  The annual fee is $120 (not waived for 1st year) vs $65 (waived for the 1st year) in the US.

Canadian blogger, Ben, whom I recently interviewed and who writes Fly First Class For Free, has the answer for you!

Ben has a US Social Security number, but his wife, Irene, does not.  She has a Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN).

But Ben still managed to get Irene many US issued credit cards with the large sign-up bonuses!

Read his post for to see how he did it.  As always, your personal experience could be different, but it is certainly worth a try!

In short, you need to have a friend or relative’s US address which you can borrow.  The next step is to make a shopping trip to a US department store by the border and apply for a department store credit card with your Canadian SIN.

Canadian SINs are 9 digits long (XXX-XXX-XXX), which is the same length as a US Social Security number (XXX-XX-XXXX).

Update:  swag points out in the comments that this could cause a lot of inconvenience for some folks, so I don’t recommend doing this.

Use the store credit card and pay it off in full each month (you could make internet purchases to save you a trip to a US store) and over time your credit score should rise to the point (Ben explains how to check it in his post) where you may be approved for the large miles and points earning credit cards.

To accelerate your credit score even more, ask a US friend or relative (with good credit) to add you to his or her credit card account as an authorized user to take advantage of the longer payment history.

Bottom Line:  This isn’t the easiest way for Canadians to get approved for US miles and points credit cards, but it could be worth a shot for Canadian readers who are sick  of US readers complaining about how terrible it is to have sign-up bonuses decrease from their record highs in 2011, but which are still much better than the Canadian credit card offers!

Hmmm…I wonder if I can double dip with Canadian credit cards and a US social security number?!

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Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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If you are considering immigrating to the US, then you should not play this game. If you apply for the US lottery or apply for an immigrant visa at some later point, your US presence [at your friend’s house] will likely show up in the background check and raise red flags and cause your immigration attempt to be denied. Better to wait until you get here and then have a trusted friend add you as an authorized user to one of their long standing credit cards [whether they give you the credit card or not]. Then get some department or student type credit cards and build from there.

That is my caveat and applies to all non US nationalities. What do you think the Customs and Border Protection’s response to your application will be if they find that you already have a US presence and have represented that you are a US resident [by using a US friend’s address as yours]. If you are using a US friend’s address, it is also a form of fraud, so even Canadians using their SIN number, but using a false US address is at best “grey.” Of course lots of miles and points enthusiasts employ “grey” tactics… But Customs and immigration will not appreciate the “trick” as much as some blog readers

…. Not to mention, false information on an application, or the act of pretending to be a US citizen or resident is a violation of the Patriot Act of 2001, and the credit grantor is legally obligated to report you to the DHS, the very same department that protects the border – come June 30, 2014, all information is shared between both countries, ALL information! You can kiss your border crossing days GOODBYE!


There are a very limited few credit issuers that will open a U.S. Credit Card for Canadians, such as Target, Macys, TD Bank USA, and RBC Bank USA. They use your Canadian SIN, and pull your Canadian Report. Most scan your DLN not SIN card on their in store terminals.

It is FRAUD, punishable by IMPRISONMENT to use anything BUT a U.S. Issued SSN (not ITiN, SSN) on a credit application for. U.S, issued credit, UNLESS the lender specifically advises that tey also lend to Canadians and ask YOU for your SIN.

Americans are NOT required by law, just like Canadians to surrender their SSN on a credit application.

Equifax, and TransUnion maintain credit records for Canadians and Americans.

Equifax Canada is located in Atlanta, Ga. When a Canadian uses a SIN number as an SSN number! Equifax sends the inquiry back with a code indicating that the application is possibly identity fraud.

Your. Canadian Bureau will also have an Identity fraud flag on it based on the Use of the SIN for a SSN.

U.S. Law states using anything but the SSN issued by the U.S. government in a credit application that specifically asks for an SSN is FRAUD, and is punishable by fine, imprisonment or both. It is a FELONY, not a misdemeanor. You can also be charged with MAIL fraud, by the U. S. postmaster, who has the same powers as law enforcement for using an address that does not belong to you to obtain credit, or other services and benefits available to legal residents and/or citizens of the. United States.

Canada and the U.S. Just passed the SPP! and joint law enforcement acts, giving both countries access to U.S, and Canadian. Criminal Activity, Criminal Records that are shared include Charges, whether pending, stayed, or even Withdrawn, as well as suspected fraudulent activity (even if you think you got away with it, and have not been formally questioned, it becomes part of your criminal activity record that is shared with the U.S.). U.S. law enforcement also accesses and reports to credit bureaus, which will turn up on your Canadian reports due to the new law enforcement and legislation sharing.

It is extremely possible that the credit card application you submitted at a U.S. Lender using your. Canadian SIN as an SSN, will make you in admissible to the U.S.A. The next time you cross the border as Fraud is a crime of Moral Turpitude, that will find you banned from crossing a minimum of. 10 years, if not LIFE?

Is this worth it to get a $500 U.S. Credit Card for a reward? Don’t think so!

You are better to call a lender, tell them you are. Canadian, with your Canadian SIN and apply over the phone.

You might have got away with using a SSN as a SIN. If so, you better make sure you pay that card on time, each and every month, and NEVER be late or give the card company any reason to collect. Once that company has reason to collect, and see that you committed fraud (as your original app may have been 100% automated), they will PROSECUTE you to the fullest extent of the law, and the new Security and Perimeter Protection Act, not only allows any U.S. Law jurisdiction to extradite you to appear in a U.S. court, you will NOT be protected by the Canadian Government, and the new law also allows U.S. law Enforcement to come over, and arrest YOU on the Canadian side of the border.

By the way, the U.S. has more of its own citizens imprisoned than any other country in the world and go to many lengths to exercise the aka to its fullest. (Recently, a California resident was apprehended by Florida Law Enforcement for failure to return a library book worth less than $80. Law. Enforcement flew to California to make the arrest, and the woman now sits in a Central Florida jail, for NOT returning a Library Book.

By the way, there is also a charge for obtaining a premium or reward, even a coupon in a store if you are not legally qualified to earn that premium (I.e. A Canadian applying for a credit card for bonus miles, or even using a grocery store coupon that states in the fine print that it is for U.S. Residents only).



There’s no fraud here whatsoever. Stores like Target willingly use Canadian SIN numbers to report credit usage to US credit bureaus, thus creating a history in the US, and if the file exists, then giving the SIN simply helps other credit issuers to find you in the bureau system. I personally applied for a Discover card in this way and faxed them a scanned copy of my actual Canadian SIN card in the follow up, so they know exactly what they’re using and that it’s the Canadian equivalent of the SSN. They happily approved me based on my US credit file as accessed through my SIN, even though they themselves treat it like a SSN. They successfully pulled my US credit file, complete with my full Target card and personal info such as full name, birthdate, etc. I’m not pretending to be someone else, and I always pay my bills, so there’s certainly no fraud going on here. Luckily I have close family in the US where I often receive packages and mail, because having a US address is often a requirement.

Informative post & discussion.

Surprised no one has mentioned this, but HSBC Premier will approve you for their US Premier account & Mastercard based on your Canadian Premier status using your Canadian address, which will let you start building a US credit history without setting foot in the country. I’ve had the account & credit card for nearly a year now.

What’s the most reliable way for Canadians to check their US credit history? From what I’ve seen, I need to input an American SSN & address for sites like Credit Sesame.


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