Bank of America is Offering Credit Cards Without Requiring a Social Security Number-Truth!

Summary of eRumor:

The upshot of the story is that Bank of America is offering credit cards that can be gotten by illegal immigrants.

The Truth:

The Wall Street Journal reported in May, 2007, that the Bank of America had “quietly” started offering credit cards to people without Social Security Numbers.

The new offering from Bank of America is available to those who have no Social Security number and no credit history as long as they have held a checking account with the bank for three months and have avoided any overdrafts.

The Wall Street Journal article says most of the adults in the U.S. who do not have Social Security numbers are undocumented immigrants and most of those are Hispanic.

There has been criticism of the program not only because of the controversy of serving illegal immigrants but also because the credit card has a high interest rate and there is an up-front fee but with good performance with the card, the fee can be refunded in several months.

Bank of America defends the move.  

The Wall Street Journal quotes Brian Tuite, the director of the bank’s Latin America card operations as saying, “These people are coming here for quality of life and they deserve somebody to give them a chance to achieve that quality of life.”

In a later commentary in the Wall Street Journal, the Chief Executive of Bank of America, Kenneth Lewis, said that he was “feeling the passion” of the controversy but that the card program would continue.  He also said that it complied with the U.S. Patriot Act and other laws. 

Lewis said that helping people without a credit history to build credit could result in them becoming long-term costumers.  He also said “”Let me be clear: Bank of America does not deliberately market financial products and services to illegal immigrants.”  

Updated 8/9/07

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

Illegals get B of A credit card without having a SSN.

A conversation between a Customer and Bank of America

Bank: This is the Bank of America, can I help you?

Customer: Yes, I want to cancel my account. I don’t want to do business
with you any longer.

Bank: Why?

Customer: You’re giving credit to illegal immigrants and

I don’t think it’s right. I’m taking my business elsewhere.

Bank: Well, Mr. Customer, we don’t want to see you do

that, but we can’t stop you. I’ll help you close the account.

What is your account number?

Customer: (gives account number)

Bank: For security purposes and for your protection, can you please
give me the last four digits of your social security number?

Customer: No.

Bank: Mr. Customer, I need to verify your information, but in order to
help you, I’ll need verification of who you are.

Customer: Why should I give you my social security number? The reason
I’m closing my account is that your bank is issuing credit cards to
illegal immigrants who don’t have social security numbers. You are
targeting that audience and want their business. Let’s say I’m an
illegal immigrant and you’ve given me a credit card. I have a question
about it and call for assistance.

You wouldn’t be asking me for a Social Security number, would you?

Bank: No sir, I wouldn’t.

Customer: Why not?

Bank: Because you would have pressed ‘2’ to speak in Spanish. We don’t
ask for that information when calling in on the Spanish line.