Oh Beautiful Credit

by Jonathan Sterne on January 9, 2005

I would say that the two most difficult aspects of moving from the U.S. to Canada have been institutional:

1. Getting US institutions to mail things to a Canadian address is surprisingly difficult. Related to this is the fact that US bills arrive sometimes after their due dates, and only some US institutions accept checks from Canadian banks, even when those banks issue checks in U.S. currency. All but one of our U.S. credit card companies are among the worst offenders in both categories. Another time, I\’ll rant about the address thing, because it reveals a lot about a lot of things. But today, we\’re onto

2. Getting Canadian credit is also wickedly tough. It turns out the U.S. does this to Canadians who go the other way, so it\’s only fair, I guess. Still, I\’m going to slap the next person who talks about how national borders don\’t matter anymore and capital moves freely.

When we arrived in August, having had credit cards for over a decade, having owned a house for five years, and having earned and borrowed (and paid back all of) a good deal of money over that time, we learned that in Canada we had the credit ratings of 15-year-olds. It would have been impossible to get a mortgage without putting 25% down (though we couldn\’t buy anyway since we hadn\’t at that time sold our old house) and getting credit cards has been almost impossible. We tried the online application at the bank. No good. We filled out paper applications. No good. Finally, our bank rep actually took about an hour with me entering our information very carefully and practically begging the credit company to look at our U.S. credit histories, asserting various forms of class privilege (\”McGill Professors, owned a house\” etc.) and so forth — even thoguh we\’re not rich. I don\’t know what she did, but Friday she called back to say we\’d each been approved. Which apparently almost never happens for new arrivals from the U.S. The next option was to get one of those \”secured\” cards they have for bankrupt people. That would have worked too, but it just seemed wrong.

Part of me hates credit cards. I hate the idea of credit card debt, I hate the way they encourage people — like me! — to live beyond their means. But it\’ll just be a lot easier to buy stuff online and pay it off in Canadian dollars.

Anyway, it\’s a minor milestone in the quest to become (more) Canadian, and a major convenience. This week, I need to write my high school for a certified copy of my diploma (and send off a bunch of other letters like that) — the next step in applying for permanent residency.

Cynthia January 10, 2005 at 10:22 pm

ah, the joys of moving countries. we\’re probably doing this in the next year as well. A certified copy of my high school diploma? sheesh.

I remember how rough it was for Jane to get credit in the US, and she had good credit in Canada. I\’m doomed.

Andrew Cantrell January 11, 2005 at 2:48 pm

Speaking of relocating … looks like I\’m Chicago-bound in Feb. Do you have any contact info — aside from Toby & Loretta — for folks of our mutual acquaintance still liivng there?

I hope y\’all are well!

Jonathan January 11, 2005 at 8:32 pm

Andy — I replied over email.

Cynthia — that\’s not even half of it. You can move quickly, thanks to NAFTA (that\’s a sequence of three words I never thought I\’d write before I moved here) but it\’s the permanent residency thing. Apparently the US is just as bad, as is Australia. I have a friend who just did it there and she passed on some good tips. If you\’re coming this way, I\’ll be happy to do the same for you.

Cynthia January 12, 2005 at 10:02 am

I\’m betting it\’ll be simpler for me than for you guys, simply because Jane\’s a Canadian Citizen and she can sponsor me. Not that the process is much fun (and we\’ve just started it), but at least as long as I\’m not an axe murdered, the result is pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Then again, hints are definitely welcome. (Currently working on the \”every place you\’ve lived since you were 18\” question and it\’s making me crazy.)

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