For many people, their credit score can be a real headache, especially if they are thinking of moving to another country. If you are going to travel and your credit situation is not the best, you will probably want to know if your credit score outside the USA is valid.
Is the credit score valid outside the USA?
Credit score after leaving the USA
The moment you leave the United States for a foreign destination, your credit score becomes less important. This does not mean that it magically disappears, but rather that its influence (at least on foreign soil) is negligible or non-existent.
How is it in other countries?
It is true that many countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, have credit scoring systems that are very similar to the American system. However, not only is there no communication between the systems, but there are important differences in the data needed to establish the credit score in other countries.
For example, in the UK, lenders see voting behavior as a positive sign, meaning that unless you become a UK citizen and register to vote, you’ll need to find other ways to establish credit.
It does not mean that foreign lending institutions do not care about the credit history you have established in your home country. Countries like Germany (which, as the financial stronghold of the European Union, has a very sophisticated banking and credit system) simply do not have the systems to thoroughly investigate a potential customer’s credit history in the United States.
What can you expect about your credit score outside the USA?
If foreign lenders don’t have access to your American credit score, what can you expect if you want to, say, open a credit card with a local bank or buy a car?
You will likely need to provide verification of income from your current employer, which should be fairly easy to obtain at your new place of employment.
Credit score outside the USA: Bad credit
If you haven’t paid off your credit card or your car loan, perhaps the promise of a fresh start, at least when it comes to credit, is an added attraction to a foreign adventure.
This fresh start applies to those who have filed for bankruptcy as well: Although total filings by businesses and individuals fell to 1.03 million in 2013 from 1.19 million in 2012, according to a report by the American Bankruptcy Institute, It is not a small number.
In 2014, more than one million bankruptcies (both business and individual) were filed in the United States. Although bankruptcy doesn’t “go away” from your credit in the US, it will have much less power (if any) abroad.
If when analyzing the situation you realize that your credit score means as much in Bogotá as your gym membership card, you can breathe a sigh of relief, great. But don’t relax too much. Although a foreign relocation could represent a fresh start for those whose credit score in the United States prevents them from obtaining the best interest rates on major purchases like cars or houses, it is not a universal solution, especially if you plan to repatriate to the United States. in the future.
Credit score outside the USA: Excellent Credit
If you have an excellent credit score and are going abroad, you probably want to take it with you in your luggage. However, even if you can’t do it that way, you can maximize your impact on foreign lenders with a few strategies.
In reality, expatriation may make your excellent credit score less important, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be helpful. While your credit history won’t automatically transfer to foreign lending institutions, there are several ways to capitalize on your strong financial history when dealing with a foreign bank.
What is the future of personal finance for American expats? Recent changes in US banking and tax laws point to greater cooperation between the US and foreign banks. But many Americans who take jobs abroad find otherwise, securing a home or car loans in countries where you have no credit history is a huge challenge.
Building credit abroad
What are you doing in the meantime? First, don’t hand over your US credit cards. If possible, keep your US savings, checking, or credit card account active.
Two caveats: Be sure to follow any minimum usage requirements on the account so it doesn’t get closed for inactivity, and use a card with no foreign transaction fees. Even if you live abroad, what you buy with your US card will count as a foreign transaction and will be added to the cost of each purchase.
If you can’t get a standard credit card in your new country, you may have to start by trying to open a store credit card (despite the high interest rates they charge). Make regular purchases and pay bills on time to start building a local credit history. In the meantime, try opening an account at a local bank.
In 1940, when American novelist Thomas Wolfe popularized the adage “You can’t come home again,” he presumably wasn’t referring to credit scores. (To be fair, that was 49 years before the advent of FICO scores.)
Depending on the length of your stay abroad, your credit (be it good, bad, or terrible) will be waiting for you when you return.
Fortunately, a subpar credit score can be repaired in a few years with consistent effort. However, major financial setbacks, such as having a house in foreclosure or an unpaid debt in collections, can take seven to ten years to resolve.
If you had an excellent credit score when you went abroad, it can “disappear” after several years. Although it is difficult to reestablish solid credit after a decade or more of no financial activity in the United States, there are several ways to resolve or improve this situation.
First of all, it is not necessary to close all your accounts in the US before leaving. If possible, keep savings or checking accounts and credit cards active, try to make enough transactions to keep them open until you return.
The same applies to accounts in your adopted country: Until you reestablish credit in the United States, keep your foreign accounts and credit cards open unless it’s not feasible to do so.
Make sure you comply with the new FBAR regulations that mandate that all Americans with financial holdings abroad report them to the US government.
When you open an American Express account abroad, what you do with it can positively influence your application when you return home. The bad news? The brilliant credit you’ve built abroad won’t do you much good in the United States.
If the idea of abandoning your extraordinary credit score bothers you, don’t worry, it will be there as long as you come back in a few years and/or remain vigilant to keep your accounts active. If you’ve been struggling with your credit, moving abroad could represent a fresh start from a financial and cultural perspective.
There is no quick fix to repair bad credit (either alone or shared). But moving abroad can offer a way to rebuild your credit history with a better result.