Saturday, December 22, 2007

Credit Unions - the banking solution of the Immigrant family.

A final guest post by Lemony, a friend from a message board. I enjoy chatting with her about the role immigration plays in financial decisions. Being married to an immigrant, and having many, many immigrant friends, I understand that it does impact a family's financial decisions. It can be as simple as a checking account or credit card, or as large as the choice to stay or move home and saving for retirement in the new versus old country. So immigrants have a unique financial perspective not easily understood or even perceived by those who have never left everything they've known behind. But perhaps this post will help enlighten others about challenges faced by newcomers to this country.

Credit Unions - the banking solution of the Immigrant family.

Upon arriving in America, we were at a loss as to where to bank. Thank goodness we had used an international bank in Canada, because they were able to help us out with opening up a US dollar account, so at least we had some cash. However, to open a regular bank account in America required a credit check that would have proved fruitless. We had no American credit history!

Wells Fargo was happy enough to offer us a checking account, but said we could not get a credit card without a credit history. Seeing as we needed the credit card to establish a credit history, we walked out of their bank. Where to next? WaMu was a little more trusting and said we could open a credit card based on our Canadian credit score, but the credit limit would be a mere $300. That's not too bad but it's hard to remember to use the card when the amount isn't really useful.

Finally, we walked into a local credit union. They were only too pleased to help us. My husband worked for a great company so using that knowledge they were only too pleased to give him a credit line of $4000. Yay! We've never used more than $600 at one time and we always pay in full at the end of the month, so the utilization % would help my husband establish credit quite quickly. Unfortunately, they could not put me on the card as an authorized user, as I had no social security number. Nonetheless, it was a good card.

It took six months for the first credit report to show up at the major CRAs (Transunion and equifax) Three months after that we were able to negotiate a mortgage on a new house. Our interest rates are still very high because our credit is so new, but we took what we could get.

Six months after that, I got approved for a social security card. We took it immediately into our little credit union and applied to make me a joint cardholder. They approved me within 20 minutes and I'm just now awaiting my card. In six months I'm hoping Equifax belts out a credit report with my name on it.

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