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What happens to your personal credit score when you live overseas for over a decade while only maintaining a checking account and a credit card(used only on the short trips back to US), but no paycheck being deposited into the checking account, no new credit card applications, no rent or mortgage or other loans?

Does it expire altogether, or decay slowly?

Building credit history takes a lot of time; losing it would be a pretty bad side-effect of living overseas.

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Neither paycheck deposits or rent are factored into your credit score. Only lines of credit.

If you don't close the credit cards and you use them at least once in a while, then pay off the bill on time your credit should be fine. Can you not use the credit card for an occasional lunch or small purchase it the country you will be staying in?

Not having diverse types of credit can lower your score to some degree, but I wouldn't worry too much about it.

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    I prefer not to use the US credit card overseas due to unfavorable exchange rates, VISA/MC surcharges (5% if memory serves), security and having to wire money back to the states to pay off the monthly balance. Thanks for your answer.
    – Vectorizer
    Jan 9 at 16:01
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    If you don't plan to use credit in the US, I'm not sure why you are so concerned about your score. Also, it doesn't take THAT long to build it unless you messed it up at some point. The one thing that does take a while is the age of accounts. So by keeping them open and active just enough to keep the account being reported on your file should be enough.
    – JohnFx
    Jan 9 at 18:56
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    A minor transaction every six months should be enough to keep most credit cards active
    – jmoreno
    Jan 9 at 21:38
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    If you are living overseas but maintaining some ties to the US, you are likely to find you continue to spend a modest but non-negligible amount of money in USD (visits back, gifts purchased online for friends/family, perhaps membership fees for organisations you want to remain connected to...) and so it is likely easy to maintain a fairly continuous transaction history without ever using the card overseas.
    – avid
    Jan 10 at 10:57
  • My rent actually shows up on at least one of my credit reports. Or at least the fact that I regularly pay rent. I'm not sure how it affects my score, as it is always a 0 balance with no associated credit limit. If I failed to pay, then it would probably hit me from increased total credit usage, and possibly an overdue payment. Jan 10 at 17:29
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Your credit rating will not decay, it will simply fade away as cards close and drop off. If you do nothing you'll have a blank file when you come back after a decade.

You might find credit card issuers are unwilling to work with an overseas address, but other than that there's a way to keep your cards--and thus your rating--alive. Use them in the US. Specifically, I'm thinking of Amazon--buy the occasional Kindle book. Electronic delivery, the fact that you're overseas won't run up the cost.

Cards with a long history are enough to give you a good rating, the lack of a mortgage or other loans won't be a big deal.

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You could also call up the credit card issuer, and let them know you'll be out of the country and not using the card, and to 'turn off' your card for that period of time. Then they'll know that any usage (especially within the US) is fraudulent, and they won't misunderstand your lack of use as being short of funds etc..

Edit- you could put a recurring charge on the credit card, as mentioned in the commments. That would provide the ongoing activity they like, and they could be told anything else is fraudulent. You could cut up the card in the meantime then - so that it couldn't be stolen. And on your return, call them up and have them send a new card. Then that recurring charge can continue, on the new card number.

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    This may keep your card from being closed and keep you on good terms with your issuer, but it won't keep the credit score engine running. To maintain an excellent credit score you want to be paying your issuer monthly, which means putting something on the card every month no matter how small. Though as suggested elsewhere in this thread, if you don't do that, then the score won't decay too fast or be too difficult to build back up. Jan 9 at 21:15
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    @MaximillianLaumeister what if OP made a small payment on the card monthly automatically, but never bought stuff ? Over a year, $10/mo would be $120 in credit and available to spend.
    – Criggie
    Jan 10 at 2:33
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    @Criggie Credit cards don't necessarily let you build up credit on the card. Sometimes the maximum payment is limited to the amount you owe. (At least that's been the case for every credit card I've ever had; I don't know how common it is.)
    – David Z
    Jan 10 at 3:49
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    @MaximillianLaumeister I believe payment history is simply looking at are there any late payments? rather than have any payments been made?. I could very well be wrong on this. I'm considering writing up a separate question for clarity on this. Jan 10 at 20:04
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    @KevinArlin I have read up and it may be a mix. The issue with a zero balance account with no activity effecting your credit score may entirely depend on whether the issuer reports that account for the month. So if the issuer does report that the account is "current", then this wouldn't be any different than an account that had activity, but had its balance paid down to zero. However, some issuers may not report a zero balance account without activity. This lack of reporting by the issuer (especially if extended) may result in the lower score. Jan 11 at 2:15

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