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How to Build Credit History in US as International ? Pitfalls ?

If you are in America and ever want to Buy a Car on loan, get cell phone on your name , buy a house, even get a personal loan, or get a credit card for rotation of money…You NEED GOOD Credit history…Let’s look at some of the pitfalls and how to build credit history.

How do you get to Build  good credit history in US as Foreigner  ?

First of all, when you arrive in USA, you do not have credit history. You have to build your credit history slowly. If you are a student you can apply for student credit cards in the banks in the school. If you are on H1B visa and would like to build credit history, first you need to open a checking account in a bank like Chase or Bank of America or any other good bank. After that, ask them for a SECURE credit card. It is similar to a debit card, but a credit card. What you do, you give the bank $500 and get a secure card, so your credit limit is $500. You can start using your card and use it and pay it off completely by the month end. Never keep outstanding balances. After 6 months, you can ask for increase in credit limit. If you have paid your balances on time fully and maintained well, you should get an increase in credit limit. Slowly, after that you use your card and start building credit history.

Here is the trick : DO NOT APPLY for more credit cards in stores or anywhere else. It takes time to build credit history, so give it an year or so. Also, do not have more than 3 – 4 credit cards at the maximum. I recommend only 2. Your good credit history will make your bank give you more limit. Some ways to build credit history are : Have a utility bill like Electricity bill or phone bill on your name, Pay rent on your name.

How to Check Free Credit history in USA as International :

You can check your credit history for FREE once in an year. YOU will not get the actual credit score for free. According to Federal Credit bureau act, you have the right to know your credit history. You can check it for free at : https://www.annualcreditreport.com . If you need score, you might have to pay. Credit history has all the info about your finances and personal info. It lists all your accounts, address you live in, amount of credit limit you have, your credit inquires that got rejected, etc. It is very detailed. Go the website I have given above and you will get more info. Check other Post for credit score concept !

What is the BIGGEST Mistake many people do with Credit Cards in US ?

Many of us, when we go shopping at a store let say Kohl’s, Old navy, GAP, Sears, Macy’s or any store you can think of, the cashier asks for a question : Would like to apply for a XXX ( store name) card and save an additional 30% ? And they will say, you will get 10% discount every time you buy here. Many of us, especially who do not know the concept of credit cards and credit history, just do simple math and say, I will apply to save money, But, that can be tricky and the BIGGEST mistake ! NEVER EVER DO THAT. If you keep applying for too many credit cards and you do not maintain them properly by paying on time and manage the credit well with them, you can ruin your credit history. It is a business strategy the company is using on you to lock you down and let you buy only at their shop. It is not the applying to too many cards that will essentially ruin your credit, it is not able to manage all of them well, by paying on time…

If you are new to America, the chances of you messing up your credit history is even higher, if you apply to credit cards without any credit history. Usually, many try to apply in the first 6 months or so without proper credit history and they end up getting rejected for the credit cards.  If you get a rejection, it stays on your credit history for at least 2 years. It lowers your credit score. So, do NOT Do that. It seems very tempting, but NEVER do that, it can ruin your credit history. You should own credit cards from Banks and use them instead.

Again, DO NOT Apply for more credit cards because you will save 30 % on something….It screws up your credit history !
What has been your experience ? How would you build credit history


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  1. I beg to differ from you on the statement of having multiple credit cards & store cards ruining your credit history. That is not the case.

    I have the below cards & my credit score is 810+.
    Store Cards:
    Kohls Charge
    Best Buy – My Best Buy
    WG&R Furnitures
    Dell Preferred Account

    Credit Cards:
    Amex Blue Cash Every Day
    Chase Freedom Visa
    Chase Amazon.com Visa
    Citi Thank You Preferred Visa
    Barclay Arrival Mastercard
    Gap Visa

    Plus a just closed out Auto Loan.

    It all depends on how effectively you use your credit and how you make your payments.

  2. is it mandatory to have a credit card in order to build up good credit history??? may be the dumbest question. cos in uk it depends on the transaction in your account and other payments.


  3. I would like to add that we can get free credit scores and credit monitoring from sites like Credit Karma(creditkarma.com), Credit Sesame and Quizzle. There are also sites like credit.mint.com and Equifax.com(CRA) which offers free scores and report for 15 days and can cancel anytime before that. They are not FICO scores but I found them to be close to what lender pulls. To get FICO score for the first time, one has to make minimum 6 payments on at least one revolving account. Also, I don’t agree that we should not apply for store credit card. Creditors look for variety in your history. It helps if we have one Auto, revolving and retail loans in your account. Regarding store credit card, Walmart card or any card managed by GE consumer finance is very good as they give auto CLI every 4 months if you pay on time.

  4. Hi,

    I have been in US under h1b for last 8-9 months.. I didn’t had any credit card for first 4-5 months. Then i took two credit cards ($300 & $5000) from credit unions. I was checking for my credit score yesterday and came to know that i have zero credit score. Could you please let me understand how much time it take to have a credit score atleast???.. Thanks in advance

    • Bijoy,
      The credit card companies will start reporting data back to the agencies within 1-2 months. This would result in change of credit score.

      I don’t think you can have 0 credit score. It can be bad but the worst it can be is around 300 something. Where are you checking your score?

        • Bijoy,
          You can get scores from all 3 credit agencies for free at least once every year. I would suggest getting your score from either of the 3 agencies to see what your real score it.

          There is also this website creditkarma.com, which gives you your TransUnion score for free along w/ analysis of where you are. I have used it for several years and really like it. You can check it out as well.

  5. hiee…y can’t we hav jst one credit card instead of 3-4, so that we can use only that to make payments so that our credit history also builds good in a short period of time???

    • More credit cards are better because avg of your activity used for each card will add to credit history.
      More credit cards better doesnot mean that you can be defaulter for any payments in any one of the cards. be prompt payer..be secured not to be victim of fraudsters. or can do onething take credit card and destroy it. age of the account and positive history will build just being non defaulter and under limit user.

      keep on increasing the limit every year, it will help to take personal loans or medicals sometime when you are really in need.


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