Charging up the immigration debate

Ashley Milne-Tyte Feb 13, 2007


SCOTT JAGOW: Illegal immigrants have become a spending force in this country. Of course, corporate America wants to tap into that market. Bank of America’s latest strategy: offering credit cards to people who don’t have Social Security numbers. The Wall Street Journal says BofA is testing this program in Los Angeles. Ashley Milne-Tyte has more.

ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: Bank of America says it’s been working with clients who don’t have Social Security numbers for years, this is just another service they’re extending to customers who’ve had a bank account with them for three months without running an overdraft.

James Angel teaches finance at Georgetown University. He says the move makes business sense.

JAMES ANGEL: By being the first to reach out to this market they can get a loyal customer and because there are few other banks marketing to that segment, they can charge higher rates for the credit cards, they can charge higher fees.

He says the bank could be stung by political backlash from anti-immigration groups, but it’s not doing anything illegal by extending credit card services to non-U.S. citizens.

And if the program goes well, he says, hundreds of other banks across the country could follow suit.

In New York, I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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