Video: Getting US Credit Cards for Canadians

In the penultimate episode of my Intro to Miles & Points video series, we’re talking about one of the key diversification strategies for Canadian points enthusiasts: getting into US credit cards.

The credit card marketplace is much more open in the US, with larger signup bonuses and a wider range of frequent flyer programs and hotel loyalty programs in which it’s easy to earn points through credit cards. By setting up an address, bank account, and unique credit bureau identifier down in the States (whether that’s with the traditional SSN or the alternative of an ITIN), Canadian residents can get in on the action as well.

In the video, we talk about the process of choosing a mail forwarding service, obtaining a US bank account, initiating an Amex Global Transfer for your first US credit card, and obtaining an ITIN for the purposes of expanding your US game beyond Amex. While the video provides a visual walkthrough, you can also read about the exact procedures in my detailed guide on Getting US Credit Cards for Canadians.

Below is the episode list for the Intro to Miles & Points video series. There’s only one more episode after this, and it should be a good one!

  1. An Introduction to Miles & Points

  2. How Does Your Credit Score Work?

  3. The Major Points Programs

  4. Booking Your First Trip on Points

  5. The Aeroplan Mini-RTW

  6. Getting US Credit Cards for Canadians

  7. What Is Manufactured Spending?

And you can watch “Getting US Credit Cards for Canadians” below:


If you enjoyed the video, make sure to give it a “Like”, leave a comment, subscribe to the channel, and share it with any of your friends hoping to open credit cards south of the border as well!

  1. Sam K

    Hi all,

    I don’t think it was mentioned in the video, but I was wondering how it works when one is making Canadian purchases on these US credit cards. Unless I am mistaken, I assume making purchases in Canadian funds would incur some sort of a foreign transaction fee as the US cards are meant for US residents.

    I think Canadian credit cards incur a fee of 3.5% or so for purchases made outside of Canada. If I assume a same fee of 3.5% for Canadian purchases made on the US credit cards, then a minimum spend of let’s say $1,000 would be around $1,350 after exchange rate and 3.5% foreign transaction fee. Is this correct?

    I guess even after you factor in the foreign transaction fee, exchange rate, and annual fee (in US funds), the US welcome bonuses will make it worth it for us Canadians, eh?

    1. Ricky YVR

      Unlike in Canada, most of the US credit cards that are worth getting don’t impose a foreign transaction fee. So the only FX impact you’ll have is if you need to convert CAD to USD to pay off your credit card bills. Global money sending services like Knightsbridge or TransferWise can help bring this spread down to ~1%.

      1. Sam K

        Oh that’s great to hear! So would I be essentially transferring money (through Knightsbridge or TransferWise) from my Canadian bank account to my US domicile bank account in order to pay off my US credit card bills or is there a way to transfer easily between my TD bank accounts? Also, thanks a bunch for your reply and excellent content Ricky!

        1. Ricky YVR

          Yep, those are both ways that you could do it. If you have a TD Canada Trust USD account you can transfer the USD over to TD Bank USA for no cost. Same with CIBC and CIBC USA, and I imagine RBC and BMO too.

  2. Thomas

    I recently got accepted as a Canadian permanent resident and this is getting me excited 🙂 Does the certified passport copy need to be a Canadian passport or can it be my current foreign issued passport? I won’t have a Canadian passport until I am accepted as a citizen. I will be subjected to the Canadian income tax system though as a resident.

    Also, one of the exceptions listed under 1(d) is individuals receiving dividends. Would an investment in a US company paying dividends be an option to apply for an ITIN and would you know what kind of documentation will be needed if one goes via that option?

    1. Ricky YVR

      As I understand it, a foreign passport is fine as well. The main thing is to prove you’re a foreign resident, which you are.

      Sounds like that would be valid grounds for an ITIN, although I’m not clear on the specifics. There should be many guides online that can provide the answer though, including the IRS’s own W-7 instructions guide.

  3. Sam

    It would be good to get a guide/video on how to get approved for non-amex cards as Canadians (bank of america, chase, Citi, etc.)

    1. Kunal

      For other cards, you need a few months (at least 6 – 12 is recommended) of US credit history which only AmEx allows you to establish based on your Canadian history via their Global Transfer option. During those first few months, to help speed up the process, open up a bank account (in addition to your Canadian / US account) with one of those institutions (highly recommend Chase) to establish a relationship with them.

      Once you have AmEx and Chase cards and a decent credit score (700+) with at least 8-12 months of history, you should be able to get any other US card easily. I mentioned AmEx and Chase as they have the best premium cards in the market and more importantly because Chase has the infamous 5/24 rule (they will not approve if you had opened 5 cards in the last 2 years) so, get started with AmEx, then focus on Chase and the rest will come easy.

      1. Harry L

        Is it worth it to pay monthly fee or keep a minimum balance for the Chase account? Does it help with chase cards?

        I also worry about getting interest income on the account. Do you have to report this income to IRS or just CRA?

        1. Ricky YVR

          It could be worthwhile. There have definitely been some data points of people having a Chase bank account to build their relationship with Chase and getting approved for their credit cards sooner.

          My non-professional understanding of the situation is that, in applying for US credit cards, you are in no way representing yourself as a US resident for tax purposes, so you’re clear with the IRS.

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