Will My Canadian Credit History Transfer to the U.S.?

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Dear Experian,

Will my Canadian credit history transfer to the United States?

- ERS

Dear ERS,

Unfortunately, your Canadian credit history cannot follow you to the United States. While credit reporting companies like Experian have operations in multiple countries, the information they maintain in each individual nation cannot be transferred across national boundaries for several reasons.

Why Can't I Use My Credit History From Overseas in the U.S.?

The first is simply a matter of law. Laws governing credit reporting differ from nation to nation. In some instances, the laws prohibit the transfer of information across borders or have restrictions on such transfers that effectively prohibit them.

Another complication related to the law is that if the information were transferred, the companies reporting information would have to comply with the laws governing credit reports in the nation to which you moved. A Canadian company could find it very difficult, if not impossible, to meet the U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act requirements governing the reporting of credit history information, for example.

The second issue is that credit reporting itself is often very different from one nation to another. For example, some information included in credit reports in one country may not be included in another. In some nations, credit reports may be linked to more than one person. For instance, the credit histories of everyone who shares a common household address may be tied together, whereas in the U.S., each individual has their own unique credit report.

Third, technologies used in credit reporting may differ from one country to another. The software and systems used to collect and maintain credit history information may simply not be compatible, impeding the ability to transfer credit history information.

For these reasons, credit histories do not follow you when you move to the U.S. from Canada or other countries.

How Can I Begin Establishing Credit In the United States?

If you do not yet have a credit history in the U.S., you may wonder how to get started. Most lenders rely on your credit report information when deciding whether to approve an application, so it may be challenging to qualify for a traditional credit account right away.

Here are some tips to help you begin establishing a credit history in your name:

  • Transfer an existing account to the U.S. division: If you have a credit account, such as a credit card, with a bank that operates internationally, it may be able to transfer your account from one country to another.
  • Open a credit card account. If you have a checking or savings account in your name, talk to your bank or credit union to see if they will approve you for a traditional credit card with a modest credit limit.
  • Apply for a secured credit card. If you are not yet able to qualify for a traditional credit card, consider opening a secured card. With a secured credit card, you give the lender a deposit in exchange for a credit card account. Secured accounts are easier to qualify for because if you fail to pay, the lender can use the money in your deposit account to cover the outstanding debt.
  • Ask a friend or family member to add you as an authorized user on their credit card account. As long as the account is in good standing and the lender reports their authorized-user accounts to the credit bureaus, being an authorized user on a trusted friend's or family member's credit card account can help you begin a credit history in your name.
  • Ask a family member to cosign for you. If you have a close family member with good credit here in the U.S., you might ask them to cosign for a small loan or a credit card for you. Keep in mind that cosigners are equally responsible for the account, so any missed payments or high balances will appear on their credit report as well as yours, potentially damaging scores for both of you.
  • Sign up for Experian Boost . Experian Boost allows you to add your on-time utility, cellphone and streaming service payments to your credit report. Although anyone can benefit, those with thin files (five or fewer credit accounts) often benefit the most.

Thanks for asking.

Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist

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