Bank Defends Credit Cards for Illegal Immigrants

In Los Angeles, immigrants who don't have credentials to work in the United States can still get a credit card, thanks to a pilot program run by Bank of America. The bank is hoping to tap a fast-growing market by offering credit cards to illegal immigrants without Social Security numbers.

Bank of America is testing the new credit-card program at about 50 Los Angeles branches. Applicants don't need a Social Security number or a traditional credit check to qualify. But they do need to have a Bank of America checking account with no recent history of bounced checks.

Critics are condemning the program, saying the bank is knowingly marketing credit cards to illegal immigrants.

Under the pilot program, cardholders typically put up a deposit to guarantee payment of their credit card bills. They also pay a relatively high interest rate — in some cases, more than 21 percent.

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