In the last article on US credit scores for expats, we talked about why you ought to maintain your credit score even while living outside of America. While it’s important to know the purpose, what’s just as crucial is knowing the “how”, both in terms of knowing your credit score and in terms of building it even while living in another country.
How do I pull my credit score?
A common misconception is that you need to pay in order to receive your credit report. However, you may request a free copy of your credit report from any of the following three major credit agencies:
This can be done once a year at websites such as CreditKarma or AnnualCreditReport.com. Note that while you would not be able to use a foreign address for these requests, you may be able to use your most recent stateside address to verify your identity.
What should I do with my credit score?
It is considered good practice to request a credit report annually and to review it carefully for any errors or unexpected information (e.g. credit cards you unknowingly still have open, whether any have been opened in your name, any negative information, etc.)
If you are living abroad and do not intend to apply for credit in the near term, it may also be a good idea to freeze your credit report to prevent new lines of credit from being opened in your name - this can be done by contacting each of the above credit bureaus and notifying them of your desire to do so, and they will in turn issue you a special PIN needed for viewing the report. Just remember to reach out to each credit agency to unfreeze it in the future as your needs change over time, as while frozen potential creditors will not be able to view your score without you providing them with the PIN.
What if I have no or little previous credit history?
As everyone has different circumstances regarding how long they lived in the US or their past spending habits, you may be living abroad with either little or no credit history in the US. This should not dissuade you from building it while living overseas, as you also have the option of applying for a secured credit card, in which you can deposit a set amount which establishes a line of credit for you for the balance. Using this card you'll be able to build your credit just like you would with a normal card, and over time could eventually switch over to an unsecured credit card once you have a sufficiently-established credit history.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions, one of our advisors will be more than happy to help.