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Getting a good credit card is now a little easier for certain newcomers to the U.S. who already have good credit in other countries.
American Express has launched a new feature with international credit-reporting startup Nova Credit that allows immigrants and expats in the U.S. to instantly translate certain international credit reports into U.S.-equivalent credit reports when applying for an AmEx consumer credit card. Currently, the feature in AmEx's online application powered by Nova Credit's technology can access credit reports from five foreign credit bureaus — one in each of these five countries: Australia, Canada, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom. The issuer says it's working to add more countries and credit bureaus in the future.
If you have good credit in one of these countries but no credit in the U.S., this is an extremely valuable feature. That's because when you move to the U.S., your credit score doesn't move with you. Normally, to qualify for a good credit card in the U.S., you'd have to build your credit from scratch — say, with a secured card that requires a deposit, or a less-rewarding card — and that could take a year or longer. Using what Nova Credit calls your "Credit Passport" to translate good foreign credit reports to the U.S. equivalents could potentially help you qualify for a generous rewards card from AmEx right away, assuming you meet all of AmEx's other criteria.
How the new feature works
The feature, which is now live, is seamlessly integrated with AmEx's online applications. Here's how it works:
On the online application, check the box that notes you have a credit history in a different country. When applying for an AmEx card online, you'll see a checkbox under the section titled "Social Security number" that states you don't have a U.S. credit history, but you have had a credit card or loan in Australia, Canada, India, Mexico or the United Kingdom. After checking this box and completing the rest of the information on the page, AmEx will ask for more information to get your credit history from that country and make an instant credit decision. If you have a credit history with these five countries, a Social Security number is not required for approval. But if you have a Social Security number, AmEx strongly encourages you to include it on your application, because it can make it easier to verify your identity and process your application faster.
Add personal information. You'll be prompted to provide personal information, including your full name and date of birth. The application process requires proof of identity and verification of a U.S. home address through a bank account, driver's license, utility bill, phone bill or other official documents that qualify. You may also have to verify your identity using government-issued identification from your home country. Specific requirements vary. Applicants with credit histories in Australia, for instance, will have to provide two types of government-issued identification. And applicants with credit histories from Canada, Mexico, India and the United Kingdom will have to answer knowledge-based authentication questions.
Add U.S. contact information. The application requires a U.S. address (not a P.O. Box) and a U.S. home or mobile phone number. You'll also have to answer questions about your employment, income and financial assets.
When applying, you can opt to receive a copy of your Credit Passport — a U.S.-equivalent credit report of your foreign credit report — from Nova Credit by email.
Cardholders can establish a credit history in the U.S. even if they don't have a Social Security number, the issuer confirms. Their credit histories will be established instead with other details from their credit application. And those who get a Social Security number after being approved for an AmEx card can call AmEx and ask for the number to be added to their accounts, too. Adding this information to the account ensures that all the cardholder's credit history will be contained in a single credit file.
AmEx is the first major issuer to offer such a feature, which uses Nova Credit’s Credit Passport technology. It's available on all AmEx consumer cards, but not on AmEx corporate or business cards.