Guiding consumers since 2009

Is your credit score valid internationally?

By Isabelle Coetzee

After years of building up your credit score in South Africa, you decide to move abroad. But does this mean your credit score follows you overseas, or do you have to start from the beginning?

Without a credit score abroad, you won’t be able to get decent rates for home loans or be approved for vehicle finance. We found out what happens to your credit score when you leave the country.

Tip: Find out more about your current credit score by clicking here.

Are credit scores international?

When you start taking out credit, you will start with a credit score of zero. As you accrue and slowly pay back your debt, your creditors will inform the local credit bureaus of your diligence and your credit score will improve. However, do the calculations of these credit bureaus have any bearing abroad?

According to Hardy Jonck, managing director at AgileWorks Information Systems, credit scores are local to a country and they are not transferrable abroad.

“However, for instance, South Africa has a FICO score from the same company that runs FICO scores in the United States of America. But their financial institutions will not consider your South African FICO score in their jurisdiction and will require you to build up your credit score from scratch,” says Jonck.

“Unfortunately, the world of compliance works with negative observations. So overseas financial institutions will want to make sure you don’t have tax liabilities or a criminal record. Other than that, they will only look at your local credit profile,” he explains.

READ MORE: The ultimate guide to understanding your credit score

What should you do if you move abroad?

Jonck believes the best way to build a foreign credit profile is to open a bank account, apply for a credit card with zero credit, pay money into it, and use the card to make purchases.

“Credit card companies share their payment profiles with credit bureaus and they will start tracking your behaviour. After a few months, see if you can apply for a small amount of credit. Then continue using it and paying it off promptly,” says Jonck

He adds that you should find out from the bank which other facilities you can start using that are tracked by local credit bureaus.

“The more visibility you get in the credit bureau, the better your FICO or other credit score can become – from unknown, to a person whose financial behaviour looks good,” says Jonck.

If you’d like to understand you local credit score better, click here.

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