Credit card for immigrants

Owning a credit card is essential for immigrants in the USA to quickly build up creditworthiness. We tell you what the infamous "credit score" is all about and which card is the best choice for new Americans.

You can use credit cards in America even for most everyday things. However, plastic money is not only extremely practical but indispensable, e.g. for building up a credit history. However, American banks make it relatively difficult for expats to obtain a credit card. The American Express cards are a good solution because you can get them before you immigrate and have them conveniently rewritten in the USA.

The American Express credit cards

In the offer of American Express there are nine different American Express credit cards for private persons. These three are the most popular of them:

American Express Card

American Express Card

The American Express Card, also known as American Express Green Card, is the classic entry-level card of the well-known credit card company from New York City. You get it for €5 per month, while the fee is waived once you have an annual turnover of €9,000 or more.

For an additional €30 per year, you can also participate in the Membership Rewards program, the loyalty program from American Express. The points collected with the program can be used for valuable rewards such as first-class flights. In addition, participants of the Membership Rewards program benefit from insurance coverage for flight and baggage delays.

However, those who travel a lot have to expect some additional costs with the green American Express credit card. One drawback is the foreign currency fee of 1.99% of turnover, which is charged every time a payment is made in a currency other than the cardholder's own. Furthermore, a fee of 4% of turnover is charged for withdrawing cash.

Important facts about the American Express Card

  • Price €5 per month (does not apply from an annual turnover of €9,000)
  • Additional cards One additional card included
  • Advantages Participation in Membership Rewards program possible (additional € 30 per year)
  • Disadvantages Foreign currency fee of 1.99% of turnover, cash withdrawal fee of 4% of turnover
  • Insurances Flight and baggage delay insurance for Membership Rewards members

The classic American Express Card is particularly suitable for credit card newcomers who have a rather low annual turnover.

American Express Gold Card

American Express Gold Card

The American Express Gold Card offers many benefits. Being a cardholder, you will collect points with each payment, which you can ten redeem flexibly for attractive rewards, e.g., for free flights with Singapore Airlines, British Airlines, or SAS. If you spend at least €3,000 on your American Express Gold Card in the first six months after you receive the card, you will receive a bonus of €144.

Another big advantage for frequent travelers is the extensive insurance coverage, which includes travel cancellation insurance and international health insurance, as well as insurance coverage in the event of flight or baggage delays.

The biggest disadvantages of the American Express Gold Card are the foreign currency fee of 1.99% of the turnover, as well as the fee for cash withdrawals of 4% of the turnover.

Important facts about the American Express Gold Card

  • Price €12 per month
  • Additional cards One additional card included
  • Advantages €144 Bonus
  • Disadvantages Foreign currency fee of 1.99% of turnover, cash withdrawal fee of 4% of turnover
  • Insurances Travel cancellation insurance, foreign travel health insurance, insurance cover for flight or baggage delays

Because of the included travel insurance and attractive rewards, the American Express Gold Card is a good choice for frequent flyers.

American Express Platinum Card

American Express Platinum Card

The most expensive of the American Express credit cards offers the most comprehensive package, which is especially useful if you travel a lot. In addition to an bonus of € 250, you benefit from an annual travel credit of €200 for flights and hotels as well as an annual credit of €200 for the cab and limousine service Sixt Ride.

Furthermore, you will get a credit of €100 on your card account if you charge at least €6,000 to your American Express Platinum Card in the first six months after receiving it.

The American Express Platinum Card gives you access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection with over 1,200 airport lounges in more than 130 countries worldwide. Furthermore, you receive price advantages with various hotel chains and car rental companies, as well as extensive insurance coverage when traveling.

American Express Platinum Card holders also face a foreign currency fee of 1.99% of turnover and a cash withdrawal fee of 4% of turnover.

Important facts about the American Express Platinum Card

  • Price €55 per month
  • Additional cards Up to 7 cards included in the portfolio
  • Advantages $250 Bonus, €200 travel credit, €200 credit for Sixt Ride, access to over 1,200 airport lounges
  • Disadvantages Foreign currency fee of 1.99% of turnover, cash withdrawal fee of 4% of turnover
  • Insurances Travel cancellation insurance, foreign travel health insurance, insurance cover for flight or baggage delays, travel accident insurance, rental car insurance
  • The American Express Platinum Card is ideal for frequent flyers who spend a higher amount of money each year.

Credit card: advantages for USA immigrants

If you immigrate to the USA, you are starting from scratch in many respects. The new beginning confronts immigrants with a number of challenges, especially during the initial period in the United States – for example, in the form of non-existent credit history.

Newcomers are initially a "blank page" in the US and therefore do not have good creditworthiness. However, this is required in the United States even for trivial things such as registering for a telephone or with an energy supplier. Also, financing larger purchases, e.g., cars, granting a loan, or issuing a credit card, will usually be denied to you without a good credit history.

What is credit history?

Credit history is the financial history of a person. It helps credit institutions and other companies to assess the payment behavior and reliability of potential customers and thus to make decisions about granting loans or concluding sales contracts. Credit history is expressed by the credit score, which usually ranges from 300 to 850 points.

How to build creditworthiness

Good credit history can be built primarily by paying installments or loans on time and in full. As a rule, it takes about two years to achieve a good score.

This means that immigrants initially face a dilemma: without an appropriate credit history, they cannot obtain loans or credit cards in the USA. But this is precisely what they need to build up their creditworthiness.

With some tricks, you can push the building of your credit history nevertheless:

Secured Credit Card

US banks will not approve you for a "normal" credit card at the beginning. However, you can get a Secured Credit Card, for which you provide a deposit as security (usually $300 to $500).

Small installment purchases

It is perfectly possible to make installment payments on smaller purchases, e.g., household appliances. If you pay the installments reliably, it will positively influence your credit score.

American Express from home country

American Express credit cards have a decisive advantage – you can apply for them in your home country! When the day of your immigration to the USA has come, you can have them rewritten on the spot without much effort. This means that you already have your first American credit card and can significantly speed up the process of building credit history in the USA. Immigrants from Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom can even "bring" the credit score from their home country.

Easy access to an AMEX credit card in the USA

US immigrants from Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, and the UK may get easier access to a US credit card, even without being AMEX customers before, thanks to a partnership between American Express and domestic credit companies.
Read more

More tips for immigrants

Would you like to learn more about finance and insurance in the USA? You will find important tips and information in our guides on bank accounts, health insurance, and taxes.

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