Last week, I shared the unfortunate news that I would have to delay publishing my novel due to immigration and relocating. I also mentioned my banking issues despite being a legal immigrant, and that I would follow up with a post about why I highly recommend Capital One as a bank for immigrants in America.
Let me precede all other content in this article by making the following things clear. This is not an ad. I am not a representative of Capital One. Neither do I have any marketing affilitations with the bank. Any links to the bank that I included are only to help those interested. I am a genuine customer who has two savings, one checking and one auto loan account with the bank.
This article explains why I give Capital One my money and why, if you are an immigrant, you may want to consider them too. I am not a financial expert and cannot guarantee that you will have the same results I did. Now, let’s continue.
Getting a Credit Card Was Easy
When I became a U.S. resident in 2016, my mother did me the favor of adding me to her Capital One account. After becoming a U.S. resident herself, this was one of the first credit cards she had ever owned and she believed it would help me grow my credit. She was right. By being added to her account, I was able to get a boost to my credit score and gained some of her credit history.
I then applied for my own credit card with Capital One and had zero issues. I was immediately approved and for a while that was the only credit card I owned. My father then told me I needed at least another card or two to boost my credit history, so I decided to apply for a Wells Fargo card. I have a savings and checking account with them, so besides making me come into the bank to show proof and legitimacy of my social security card, they did not hassle me much.
When my credit score recovered yet again, I then went for credit card number three in early 2018: the Mastercard offering from Uber. I was denied despite a credit score of 720+ at the time. Why was this? Well, according to the letter that I very angrily tore up and tossed in the bin, my credit history was too new.
When I spoke to my other immigrants friends, I learned that I was not alone. This is an excuse for credit denial that you will get often. Unfortunately, “immigrant” is not a protected class and discimrinatory practices that negatively affect us are not regulated. So, if possible, you may want to start your history out with Capital One like I did.
The Only Business Checking Account I Could Afford
In 2016, when I transformed my business from freelance practice to a team under an LLC, I went hunting for a business checking account. There are many offers on the market, but unless you plan to keep thousands and thousands of dollars in that account, you get hit with expensive monthly fees. I couldn’t afford any of them.
Then, my Dad recommended Spark Business by Capital One. No monthly fees. No minimum amount in my account. It was too good to be true — except it wasn’t. I have had my business checking account with Capital One all this time and have never paid monthly fees.
I’m also glad I got it when I did because Capital One is no longer taking applications for it. I got in at just the right time and I would not change my bank to another one even though I probably can afford it now.
At the time of publishing, their Spark Business credit cards were still available. I don’t own one of these, but I imagine they offer the same great experience as the rest of their business.
The Only Company Willing to Fund Me for a Car
Fast-forward to the summer of 2018, I had the brilliant idea to purchase a car after two months of going over my Uber/Lyft budget. I had been saving for a down payment for two years just in case this brilliant idea did come to mind, but a down payment and a full car payment is not the same. My parents were both waist-deep in their own financial entanglements at the time, so I couldn’t borrow from them. That meant I needed bank funding.
Capital One was the only bank that was willing to provide me with a car loan via their Auto Navigator program. When I visited Georgia’s Own, the credit union told me they would not be able to provide me with a loan until I had renewed my green card, even though I had a formal written extension from USCIS. I appreciated the woman’s honesty, but nonetheless told her that her bank’s processes were very unfair to immigrants.
Luckily, I still had Capital One, so I called the car dealership that had my beloved Seth in their lot. The salesman I spoke to was a Mexican immigrant who had been in the United States for 40 years and empathized with my frustration.
“When you come here, we won’t even bother checking for better deals with other lenders,” he told me. “Capital One is the only bank that will fund you. I know a lot of other immigrants who didn’t listen to us and went with credit unions or other banks because the interest rates were lower or they already banked with them. Within weeks the banks revoked the loan and went back for the car. Stay with Capital One and you’ll be safe.”
I stuck to his advice and accepted the 6.07% APR on my car with gritted teeth. It has been about eight months now. I still have my car and I am six months ahead of my payments. I do not regret my decision. Georgia’s Own told me to refinance with them for a rate of 4% when my green card was renewed. I will keep my 6%. I have learned the value of supporting businesses that support my community.
Allowed Me to Save With Them
You probably think that banks are always eager to allow you to save with them, so they can take your money. If you are in America, this is only true when you are American. The rest of us — believe it or not — may be denied for a savings account even with excellent credit. Yes; I am serious.
I mentioned before that I have accounts with Wells Fargo. That was thanks to my part-time job. When you have a job, you need an account, so you get a fancy little letter from your company that most banks honor unless there is some very good reason for them not to.
However, the more finance savvy I became, the more I realized that accepting 0.01% interest on my well-earned money was garbage. I write for a lot of clients in the finance arena, so after several articles completed for them on high-yield savings accounts, I decided to take my own advice and open one.
I had ranked Marcus by Goldman Sachs as the best in my most recent article for one of my clients, so I decided to bank with them. Bad decision. During the application process, the bank asked me, “What is your country of citizenship?”
I felt my hopes wither in that moment. This is always a bad sign no matter what you are applying for. The appropriate question is, “Are you a legal U.S. citizen, U.S. resident or authorized to work in the United States?”
When the only question asked is about your citizenship, you already know how this is going to go. Naturally, I was denied and the bank gave me some hogwash response about how the reason for denial was confidential due to “federal restrictions”. I was furious! You mean to tell me I couldn’t even give banks my money in peace because I was not American?
I decided to try Capital One even though they offered only 1% interest compared to Marcus’s 2.25%. Capital One accepted me for not just one, but two savings account: their 1% savings account (ten times what Wells Fargo was giving me!) and a 1-year Certificate of Deposit at 2.7%.
For the record, they did ask me what my country of citizenship was, but they also asked if I was a U.S. resident or citizen. Capital One also did not ask me to supply any proof of my SSN beyond entering the numbers on their website.
You Should Also Try Synchrony Bank
Thanks to Google Financing, I have a credit line with Synchrony Bank, so I also applied for their high-yields savings account with bated breath that night. I hoped they would look at my flawless payment history with them and have mercy on me. I had paid off my Pixel phone in 4 months instead of the 24 months they allowed, and I had just bought the Google Pixelbook. I hoped that was enough.
It was. I don’t remember if they asked me about my country of citizenship. I think I was too anxious to take note. I received immediate approval and Synchrony Bank has also never asked me to supply any proof of my SSN beyond entering it in on their website. For the record, neither did Google.
PayPal, Wells Fargo, Chase, Ambetter and almost every other financial and health care institution I have ever worked with has made me supply a scanned copy or bring the physical thing in to a branch. Regular citizens are rarely asked to do this. But when you are an immigrant, well… welcome to ‘Murica!
Again, I am not a financial or immigration expert and I am not in any way affiliated with Capital One besides being their customer. I cannot guarantee results or favourable treatment from any company, and I truly don’t know if Capital One is deliberately or coincidentally good to immigrants. Even so, if you are an immigrant struggling to navigate the financial market in America, I hope you find this information helpful. Good luck!