You’ve worked hard to build up your credit score, and now you’re moving abroad or considering purchasing property abroad. You may be wondering whether that credit score has any value or if you’ll have to start over.
That depends. Many other countries have some form of credit score or mean to assess creditworthiness. But as you’ll see below, systems vary between countries that use credit scores. Whether credit score information can be shared across international borders also varies. Find out more below.
When did credit score tracking begin?
In 1970, the Fair Credit Reporting Act passed in the U.S. and created a regulated system that tracked what information would be collected, for how long, what exactly was reported, and how to obtain copies of your credit report. It wasn’t until 1989 that the first general-purpose Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO) score was created.
What countries have credit scores?
Countries around the world including Canada, the U.K., Spain, China, and Japan use credit scoring systems. Not all countries that use credit scores have systems like the U.S. Some only track negative marks like late or missed payments, while others track total debt or debt history. Below we’ve compiled a list of a few major countries and their unique credit scoring systems.
Germany is one of the countries that uses credit scores, but there is only one credit bureau. It’s called the Schutzgemeinschaft für allgemeine Kreditsicherung, or SCHUFA for short. SCHUFA is a private enterprise known for fair credit-building steps to ensure you start on the right foot.
The company works much like a U.S. lender, tracking loan activity, open accounts, unpaid balances and fines. Unlike U.S. systems, with SCHUFA, every citizen begins with 100, and the score slowly diminishes as you borrow more money. A score of 90 is considered above average with the SCHUFA system. The top credit tier starts at 97.5.
Canada’s credit scoring system is the most similar to the U.S. It operates through Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada. Much like the U.S., each creditor keeps track of payment history, age of accounts, and credit utilization. Based on your track record, you will receive a score between 300 and 900. 680 is considered an above-average and can help you qualify for a loan with a lower interest rate.
Japan has three credit bureaus: Association’s Personal Credit Information Center, the Japan Credit Information Reference Center Corp. (JICC), and the Credit Information Center Corp. (CIC). Unlike other countries on this list, Japan doesn’t issue credit scores. But it does track information like account terms and payment history.
In Japan, having a healthy relationship with your bank is more important than a specific credit score. As a Japanese citizen, maintaining a responsible relationship with your bank and your employer should be enough to get credit approval. The bank is responsible for taking into account details about employment history, salary, and history at the bank.
Non-Japanese citizens or newcomers to the country could encounter more difficulties because of the lack of Japanese credit bureau data for them to pull from.
Of countries that use credit scores, the U.K. is one of the most similar to the U.S. If you’re planning a move to the U.K., the names of these three credit agencies should ring a bell. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion (previously called Callcredit) work in the U.K. much as they do in the U.S. The only difference is the scoring ranges. In the U.K., Experian credit scores range from 0 to 999, while TransUnion goes from 0 to 710, and Equifax goes from 0 to 700.
To earn a line of credit or qualify for a mortgage, you must show good standing in payment history, credit utilization, and age of accounts. As a bonus incentive, the U.K. offers a boost to your credit score if you register on its Electoral Roll.
In Spain, credit history is tracked in its risk-management center, Central de Información de Riesgos del Banco de España (CIRBE). To receive any type of credit, the CIRBE must first complete a credit check to highlight any past payments or current debts. The CIRBE only tracks negative points, like unpaid debt. It can stay on your record for up to six years until the debt is cleared.
Unlike other countries that use credit scores, CIR information is only available to financial institutions, not to consumers. If you’re considering applying for a loan, make sure you bring the information about your credit report from your home country. Most Spanish loan approvals for non-Spanish citizens require a 30% downpayment and proof of income.
Up until 2014, Australia only reported negative marks. As of 2021, there are four credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Dun and Bradstreet, Experian, and the Tasmanian Collection Service. This new credit reporting system — similar to the U.S. — allows lenders to make a more balanced assessment of a borrower’s likelihood of repayment based on their history and current accounts.
To determine your credit score they collect the following: credit file age, type of credit, amount you’ve applied, negative marks, court judgments or defaults, payment history, and open and closed accounts.
Is my credit score useful anywhere in the world?
Even though many countries use credit scores, there is no international credit scoring system. If you want to apply for credit or a loan internationally, you can bring a copy of your U.S. credit report, although lenders may choose to disregard it. To apply for credit overseas, you’ll need proof of income or assets. In some cases, you may be asked for rental history, and referrals from the U.S. could help your case.
Is there an international credit report for individuals?
There is no international credit report for individuals. Countries that use credit scores each have their system. Credit scores built in the U.S. are only valid within its borders. Because of international privacy laws, credit scores are not shared between countries. However, if you get residence or citizenship in another country that uses a credit score system, you can establish a credit score in multiple countries.
Can I build credit abroad?
Yes, you can build credit abroad, but this depends on the credit scoring system of your adopted country and whether you have the appropriate identification to be considered for credit in the country. Usually, you’ll start as a brand-new credit file. In countries that only track negative marks, this won’t hurt you. But in countries that build credit on length of credit and on-time payments, you’ll need to build credit history over time.
As a possible alternative, Equifax operates in 15 countries across Europe and Latin America and may allow you to transfer some credit score information. You can check Equifax International Credit Reports. You must know the local laws because there are laws in place that forbid sharing of credit information overseas.
Summary of what countries use credit scores
Countries that use credit scores include Japan, China, the U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany, and the Netherlands. While you cannot transfer your credit scores internationally, many of the principles of building a good credit score are the same in all countries.
If you’ve built a good credit score in the U.S. and are moving to a country where Equifax operates, you may be able to carry that good credit score with you to the new country.
Are credit scores international?
No, credit scores aren’t international. Each country uses its own credit scoring system.
Is America the only country with credit scores?
No, America is not the only country with credit scores. Many countries use credit scores.
Do all countries have credit scores?
No, not all countries have a credit scoring system like the U.S.