It's over six years since March 2003 when I moved to the States. I still remember that when I first got here there were a number of tangled hurdles to get through, for instance:
- You can't get an apartment without a US bank account to write rent and deposit checks against
- You can't get a US bank account without a Social Security number
- You can't get a Social Security number without an address (see step 1)
Credit is pretty much a whole other thing, though. Here there are no cracks through which to slip, and they tend to make damn sure of that (recent economic events and revelations notwithstanding). I remember asking US Bank for a credit card after I'd banked with them for three months; they offered me one with a $1,000 credit limit, but only if I give them a $1,000 deposit. I think they had a different understanding of the word "credit" from my own.
That same summer I bought my car for cash. I had to! Who's going to lend money to someone with no credit history? It turns out that no credit history is literally worse than a bad credit history. You're basically an apparition. At the age of thirty you've materialized from nowhere amongst people who've been in the system, leaving traces, for a decade or more. Credit is pretty impossible as an immigrant... and don't even get me started on auto insurance.
So against this backdrop you can imagine my pleasure finding that a friend of mine, Switchy McSwitchenstein, who blogs over at http://switchy.net, had no such trouble whatsoever. You might think that Switchy, having no US bank account, no credit history (and not even, between you and me, actually being a real person) might suffer some of the same problems getting credit in the States. You'd be wrong. He's been receiving, completely unsolicited, pre-approved credit card applications in the mail for quite a while now.
When I got here, it took about a year before I got my first pre-approved credit card application from a financial institution I'd actually heard of. I remember feeling at the time that the credit-score apparition which was me must have finally solidified: I'd "made it" as far as the system was concerned.
Switchy was offered pre-approved credit, from Amex no less, within three months of launching his blog. I bow to him!
In other news, Switchy has started blogging again. Check out http://switchy.net.