Credit Q&A: Can Overseas Debts Affect My Score?

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Q: When I left Iceland after living there for two years, I left a credit card with an outstanding balance. Will that affect my credit in the states? – Greg, Brooklyn

A: In most cases, any international debts you may have incurred while overseas won’t be held against you in the states.

“International and U.S. credit files are maintained separately, as each country has different credit-related regulations and laws,” Demitra Wilson, a spokesperson for Equifax, tells MainStreet.

However, there is a chance that an account opened at an international financial institution that also has a U.S. presence could follow you home.

“It depends on both the location of the lender and the address of the consumer,” says David Blumberg of TransUnion. He explains that someone living, for instance, as an ex-pat in the U.K. who opened an account with a bank that also had branches in the U.S. wouldn’t see that account pop on their U.S. credit report as long as he or she was living at an address in Great Britain when the account was opened.  

However, this person could find their credit score affected by this account if he or she moved back to the U.S. and the bank reported a delinquency using the person’s new address in the states, regardless of where he or she had lived when the account was open.

It’s also important to note that the system works both ways, meaning that international accounts in good standing won’t help you build credit here either.

“In order to have an Equifax U.S. credit file, you must have established a credit account with a U.S. based company that is a reporting member of Equifax U.S.,” Wilson explains.

Want to know what can and can't affect your credit score? Email your questions to editors@mainstreet.com.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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