As a traveler, we all know plans can change at the blink of an eye. And with that in mind, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about a little story that happened someone very close to me.
During a conversation I had with my friend the topic of how he decided to become an American really struck a chord. In 2007, early April (spring break of his freshman year in college), Ed took a well-deserved vacation to Maui.
Originating from the not-so-pleasant-land of rainfall and just down-right cold weather, he instantly fell in love. He knew then and there that this was the place he wanted to spend the rest of his life. But there was one big problem… his credit history…
For immigrants that arrive to the United States, things can be challenging and intimidating at first. On top of adjusting to an entirely new country, these individuals may struggle to get a car, a home, a business loan, or any other financial help from institutions and businesses due to a lack of credit.
Your credit history does not follow you around the world, so it’s necessary to start growing your credit score as soon as possible to avoid rejections from banks, credit card companies, and businesses. Let’s take a look at some of the things immigrants and individuals with no U.S. credit history can do to build their score and become more eligible for credit cards, loans, and financing options.
Find a Job
Your credit score shows how likely you are to repay debts that are added onto your credit lines. The easiest way to prove that you are capable of making payments is by having a job – especially if you are under 21 years of age.
Any income that is reported on a credit card application should be yours alone – no spouse, parent, or family members’ financial information. Because credit limits are often based on income, higher paying jobs may result in higher limits and an increased chance of being approved for a credit card even if you have no credit.
While applying for a credit card and getting denied counts negatively against your credit score, prequalifying does not. Prequalifying for a credit card allows you to input your information and see what credit lines you qualify for without hurting your score.
This doesn’t mean that you will get approved for the credit cards you prequalify for, but it does help you determine which cards you should apply for and which ones you are most likely to get approved for. If you do not get approved, a letter will be sent stating why the denial occurred and can be used to improve future approval chances.
Retail stores offer customers store credit cards, which are much more likely to get approved whether you have bad credit or no credit at all. These cards cannot be used for any purchases outside of the specified storefront, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t jump at the chance to apply.
Once approved, these cards have the ability to boost your credit score fast – though you should be wary of interest rates and credit limits that are lower than normal. By making on time payments and keeping a low balance, you can avoid the drawbacks.
Get a Co-Signer
If you’ve had no luck getting a credit card on your own, a co-signer may be a good idea. Having a co-signer lets you benefit from someone else with good credit, allowing their information to be used along with yours when applying for a credit card. A co-signer will have access to your finances and their credit line is linked with yours, so any missed payments negatively impact both individuals while on-time payments and low balances have a positive effect.
Become an Authorized User
If you have trustworthy and responsible friends or family members in the U.S., you may be able to become an authorized user on their account to get the benefits of their already-established credit history.
This is a good way to quickly build credit history without having to apply for a new line of credit. However, it is considered risky because another individual will have access to the credit line and both parties are held responsible for payments and charges on the card. This agreement requires mutual trust between two fiscally responsible individuals in order to successfully increase your credit score.
If you have no credit history in the U.S. and would like to start building credit, companies like Nova Credit that help newcomers navigate the world of U.S. credit are a good place to start. Some can even assist with transferring home-country credit information. Most have tools to research and apply for a credit card. Some U.S. banks allow you to apply for a credit card with an ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, instead of an SSN, or Social Security Number, so that you can have an active line of U.S. credit. This allows you to get a head start on U.S. credit and have something on your account when moving to or returning to the country.
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