More than one million international students are studying in the United States. Many of them find it helpful to have a smartphone and an American credit card. These things make it easy to pay for many kinds of goods and services.
But getting a credit card as an international student is not a simple process. Normal U.S. lenders ask for a social security number. They also ask to see a person’s credit history. This helps the lenders trust that someone is responsible and will make timely payments.
These are the things most international students do not have.
But one company is trying to make the process easier and fairer for them.
A history of credit
Jack Guo is from China. He now studies at a university in California.
He says having an American credit card makes it easier for students to get around town. And, he says, credit cards are important for international students who hope to live in the country in the future.
"A lot of my friends who have had the cards already because it's pretty important to get around L.A. And also if you're going to stay here afterwards for a job, for internship, for career, of course, you are going to consider buying property to live here, and having credit is pretty important if you want to get a loan."
In some countries, paper money, or cash, remains a common way to pay for goods. But in the United States, people often use credit cards. They have become even more common with the rise of e-commerce.
A new way to measure credit
Kalpesh Kapadia came from India to study at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He faced the same difficulties that many international students face when trying to get an American credit card.
He decided to open SelfScore. The company has a different way of measuring a person’s financial trustworthiness, Kapadia says. Instead of asking for credit history and a social security number, SelfScore looks at documents such as passports, visas, and acceptance letters to American schools. The company also considers a student’s ability to pay.
"The traditional system was designed in the 20th century before Internet, before smartphones, before social media, and it's kind of antiquated. We are inventing a new system.”
About 10,000 international students from more than 66 countries now have credit cards through SelfScore.
Kapadia says less than 1 percent of SelfScore’s credit card holders are past due on their payments.
He calls international students “highly motivated,” or driven to succeed.
"This is a highly motivated population. Someone who comes here, 10,000 miles away, to make their life better through education is going to be behave quite differently."
I’m Phil Dierking
This story was originally written for VOAnews.com by Elizabeth Lee. Phil Dierking adapted this story for Learning English using other media. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
antiquated- adj. very old and no longer useful, popular, or accepted.
cash – n. money in the form of coins and bills.
e-commerce – n. commercial transactions done electronically on the Internet.
internship – n. a position for someone who works in an organization, sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience.
lenders – n. an organization or person that lends money
motivated – adj. to have a reason to do something
social-security – n. any government system that provides to people who need money.
trustworthiness – n. the ability to be relied on as honest or truthful.