Credit Tips for Expatriates

You never expect that repatriating will be more difficult, financially, than expatriating!

I’m no finance guru. And I’m not planning to blog about money or financial advice on a regular basis but I just wanted to share one important thing we’ve learned through the process of being expats and then repatriating and trying to reestablish ourselves back at home.

If you are thinking of moving out of the country you need to keep your credit score alive while you are gone.

You may have credit coming out your ears. Credit to spare. You might throw credit at new years instead of confetti. Basically, you might have perfect credit but if you are gone for any substantial amount of time and leave no U.S. credit trail, you will be starting from a big fat 0 when you get back home eventually.

Before we moved to Canada, we fastidiously paid off all debt and determined to never be in credit card debt again. While our credit card debt was not what many would consider “highly problematic,” it was not a number we were comfortable maintaining. Truth be told, I hate credit card debt. I enjoy not carrying a credit card with me anywhere I go. I love having no debt of any kind.

I thought that this “no debt” policy was a good thing. And really, no debt is good. I still believe that very strongly. But no credit is obviously bad if you ever, say… want to buy a house. Or a cell phone for that matter.

When we moved to Canada we understood that establishing credit would take a while there. Since we were new to the country we had to start from scratch. That made sense. It was a pain in the butt but it at least made sense. We were actually able to buy a house there… then sell it and buy another one. So now we had established good credit in two countries.

I have a feeling a petty parking violation could be more easily transferred from one country to another than a high credit rating.

Credit scores do not emigrate with you.

When we moved back to the U.S. 7 years after moving to Canada we really had no idea that the fact that we had not kept a U.S. bank account or credit card open would be such a problem.

It was.

It was such a big problem that we could not even get a $1,000 credit card limit from our own bank despite having just deposited the entire proceeds from the sale of our home into that very bank. Reason: No Recent Activity.

You might have perfect credit like we do. We have what is considered a very desirable credit score with no “negative marks” on it.

Good credit scores don’t mean anything if they are inactive!

Unfortunately that is the same thing that has happened every other time we’ve tried to seek credit since then. We aren’t exactly even talking about purchasing power here. We just want to reestablish credit.

Finally we decided to go through a credit union. We finally have a (get this!) $500 secured credit card. This is pretty much as protected and low as you could possibly go when it comes to credit approvals!

So if you or anyone you know is planning an out of country move, even if you’re pretty sure you want to live in the new country forever and ever amen, remember to keep your credit alive and occasionally active through a purchase here or there (and of course don’t forget to pay it off! Haha!) because you really never know what will happen and forever and ever amen might turn out being only 7 years.

When you move back home you will be very happy you took this measure. If you don’t take this measure, you will probably be like us, wishing someone had mentioned this to you before you came back with a great credit score and almost completely unable to get credit!

And there you have my .02 should you ever think of moving out of the country.

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