I am 30 and looking serious at moving to the United States to take a lucrative (career wise) job. Assuming I get the job offer and accept it, how can I go about getting credit in the US?

I am from Australia. I have perfect credit here. I have never missed a payment on anything. I bought and sold a $360,000 apartment and have maintained a $450,000 mortgage for 5+ years at > 5% interest. I own everything else outright (I took a personal loan from my parents for my car but paid it back years ago, my wife's car was bought with cash, home improvements all paid for in cash, etc). I have never paid a bill late in my life, and I pay off my credit card in full every month. I have a wife who works and earns good money and two young kids (one 5 years old, one 1 year old).

Should I arrive in the US on an E3 visa (similar to a H1-B visa but allows my wife to work), what options do I have for earning credit? From what I understand a good credit score is required for a lot of things, like getting a rental apartment, getting a credit card, leasing a car, etc.

How important is credit? The biggest issue that I see is that for a period of time there will be huge expenditures - maintaining the mortgage on my Sydney home, combined with the expenses of getting established in the US before my family comes to join me here and we can rent out our Sydney home.

Eventually the goal is to be cashflow positive and resume the same position I have right now, where I don't have to borrow for anything, but short term this may not be an option. However I have no idea how long I would be staying in the US for. It could be 3 years, it could be 30.

Two years later, I want to put a followup to this. I followed the advice I was given here, and the quote "money talks and bullshit walks" by CQM absolutely rang true. I had a lot of trouble finding a landlord who would rent to me once they ran a credit check. But when I eventually found someone who was willing to take me on face value (and my money), I was able to find a place to rent.

Then Verizon didn't want to give me FiOS - until I paid them a chunk of money to bypass the credit check. I took pre-paid phone contracts to avoid the credit checks. Opening a bank account was slightly problematic due to my lack of a SSN, but TD Bank were very helpful and I had an account within 48 hours of landing. I have not applied for a credit card, and I don't think I will (debit cards and cash have been sufficient), but that hasn't stopped banks from sending me countless credit card applications in the mail.

I was able to find a company who would lease me a car based on my Australian credit history. It was expensive - I am sure I am paying far more than I would if I had an established presence.

After what I think is a fairly short time I have managed a credit score of nearly 700 (according to Credit Karma). But the irony of this is that apart from my car, I have not used my credit score (and once this lease is up I will be buying a used car with cash).

3 Answers 3


Credit is important for many reasons. Establishing credit is an important step and should be no challenge for someone who already has good habits. The same lessons and advice that you would find for a student to establish credit would be applicable to your case as well.

Factors that influence credit score,

  • Payment history - good behavior, pay your debts on time
  • Credit utilization - percentage of credit limits used, keep under 10% for best, some say under 20%, certainly under 30%
  • Age of credit - how long have you had accounts, reward for age, patience
  • Credit mix (revolving (credit card), installment (car, personal), mortgage, student loan)
  • New/recent credit - your score takes short-term dip when you open a new account
  • negative items - avoid late payments, collections, judgements, as these reduce your credit score

Since you are already established in your home country (Australia), you probably have a credit card (and references) that you can provide for the first few challenges (renting a car, renting an apartment).

Here are the steps,

  • first steps, should be able to do these immediately,
  • Obtain a credit union account.
  • Obtain a bank account.
  • Obtain a secured credit card.
  • Setup automatic deposit to you bank account and credit union accounts.
  • Be prepared to pay significant deposits for rent and utilities.
  • wait 3-6 months, then obtain an installment loan, and a credit card,
  • Obtain a credit card (possibly converting the secured card).
  • Buy a car (used?), and obtain financing (ask at credit union), the interest rate may be higher than you want, but car loans are secured and can be easier to obtain (and the finance guy does the shopping for you).
  • or, obtain a small (secured?) personal loan from your credit union.
  • wait 6 months. Continue to pay all bills on-time.
  • Obtain a second credit card (lookup credit cards for those with little credit).
  • Obtain a personal loan (from the credit union).
  • Simmer - continue to pay all bills on-time, watch the credit score rise.

Your credit score should improve quickly as the first couple of credit cards and the installment loan show good payment history, low utilization, and gain some age. After 1-2 years, you should have a good score.

  • Can I take a secured loan for the car, then just pay it all back shortly after taking out the loan? I'm assuming there will be early exit fees, etc but they could be worth it for the long term gain. Then interest rate is not so important. Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 23:34
  • 1
    That won't work the way you think because you're trying to build a credit 'history'--a record of reliably handling credit over time. That is, it's the fact that you're making the loan payments on time every month...
    – mkennedy
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 18:18

In the US, money talks and bullshit walks. You can skip any credit history requirement if you demonstrate your ability to pay in a very obvious way. Credit history is just a standardized way of weeding out people that cannot reliably pay, instead of having to listen to an individual's excuses about how the bank overdrafted their account five times while they were waiting for their friend to pay them back for bubble gum.

If you can show up with a wad of cash, you can get the car, or the apartment, or the bank account without the troubles of everyone else.

But you can begin building credit with a secured credit card pretty easily. This will be useful for things like utilities and sometimes jobs. Also, banks won't be opposed to giving you credit if you have a lot of money in an account with them.

You should be able to maintain an exemption from all socioeconomic problems in the United States, solely due to your experience with money and assets.

  • 1
    Money Talks is a rule I was hoping to use. I'm hoping landlords will overlook a lack of credit if I show up with 6 months rent in advance. Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 23:32
  • @MarkHenderson haha good luck man! consider a lawyer, someone good with reading contracts, setting up trusts and stuff, people are sketchy especially people you rent from, so you might want to be able to deter some behaviors
    – CQM
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 0:25

When you start living in US, it doesn't actually matter what was your Credit history in another country. Your Credit History in US is tied to your SSN (Social Security Number), which will be awarded once you are in the country legally and apply for it.

Getting an SSN also doesn't guarantee you nothing and you have to build your credit history slowly. Opening a Checking or Savings account will not help you in building a credit history. You need to have some type of Credit Account (credit card, car loan, mortgage etc.) linked to your SSN to start building your credit history.

When you are new to US, you probably won't find any bank that will give you a Credit Card as you have no Credit history. One alternative is to apply for a secured credit card. A secured credit card is one you get by putting money or paying money to a bank and open a Credit Card against that money, thereby the bank can be secure that they won't lose any money.

Once you have that, you can use that to build up your credit history slowly and once you have a good credit history and score, apply for regular Credit Card or apply for a car loan, mortgage etc.

When I came to US 8 years ago, my Credit History was nothing, even though I had pretty good balance and credit history back in my country.

I applied for secured credit card by paying $500 to a bank ( which got acquired by CapitalOne ), got it approved and used it for everything, for three years. I applied for other cards in the mean time but got rejected every time.

Finally got approved for a regular credit card after three years and in one year added a mortgage and car loan, which helped me to get a decent score now.

And Yes, a good Credit Score is important and essential for renting an apartment, leasing a car, getting a Credit Card etc. but normally your employer can always arrange for an apartment given your situation or you need to share apartment with someone else.

You can rent a car without and credit score, but need a valid US / International Drivers license and a Credit Card :-)

Best option will be to open a secured credit card and start building your credit. When your wife and family arrives, they also will be assigned individual SSN and can start building their credit history themselves. Please keep in mind that Credit Score and Credit History is always individual here...

  • Wow, three years to build credit just to get an unsecured credit card. Sounds like I might be in for an up hill battle. Thankfully I still have credit sources in Australia that I can rely on, but the exchange rate is unpleasant. Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 23:10
  • No, three years with a Secured Credit Card... You can get a secured credit card without a credit score... It took me three years to get a decent credit score.... Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 23:11
  • You said Finally got approved for a regular credit card after three years - that's what I was referring to as "unsecured credit card". I've never heard of a secured credit card before, but that sounds like at least one way of doing it, but it probably means spending money just for the sake of paying it off. Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 23:13
  • I have a friend with a very thin credit profile (he avoids credit), and he was able to convert his secured card to an unsecured card after about a year. Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 23:16
  • Oh yeah, misread that part... As the ChuckCottrill says, you can always apply for a Credit Card from a Credit Union, which are less strict than big banks. But you need to open a Saving or Checking account with them - for you, you can open one and direct deposit your paycheck to that account. Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 23:18

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