[Mainly applicable to international students]

If you are new to the USA and don't have a credit history you will find it difficult to apply for a credit card, but do not despair.

Citibank has a scheme where they will give you a credit card here in the US so long as you have an existing Citibank credit card back in your home country. They base your credit worthiness based on your credit history back home. You have to fill up a couple of extra forms, and write an additional letter to their special processing department, but you get a credit card eventually.

If you have had a Citi account in the US for more than three months you can also apply for a card and will generally be approved (with a low credit limit).

American Express also lets you have a credit card in the US if you already have an Amex in your home country. Once you settle in NYC, you can switch your non-US issued Amex card to American one. Ask Amex for details in your country.

There is also another product that some banks have (Bank of America definitely) that is called "Secured credit card". Basically you make a deposit of $300 or $500 and that is your spending limit. They give you a credit card and they keep your deposit in a savings account, but you cannot withdraw that money. You use your card just like a regular credit card and that way you start building your credit history. In this case, after about 3 months of using the card, they generally give you your deposit back and increase your credit line. It's then able to apply for any other credit card.

Once you get a credit card you will then be amazed how you receive tons of further credit card application forms in the mail every day, but having a social security number (or not having one) can sometimes be an issue.