Credit crunch

Despite being in Australia for more than six months now, there are still things that take us by surprise. Mostly, when we are caught off guard, it has little consequence other than to teach us something new – like a new piece of Aussie slang, or the curiosity of getting a day off for the Queen’s birthday when they don’t get one in Britain – but occasionally the surprises are slightly more problematic, as we found when applying for a credit card this month.

Although Australia is a country built on mass migration, it occasionally seems ill-equipped to offer much continuity to those who have chosen to move here.

This wasn’t much of a problem with driving licences – our UK entitlements were converted into Australian equivalents in a short 20-minute appointment. Even our car insurance provider recognised the no-claims history we had accumulated in Denmark and built it into the premium they charged us.

But in other areas, it really is as if we have just stepped off a spaceship rather than an aeroplane. So, despite years of prudent management of our finances, and having a bank full of cash from the sale of our house in Europe, it seems our credit rating is as non-existent as a snake’s bikini.

This only came to light a few weeks ago when, ahead of a trip back to Europe, I tried to book a hired car. Aah, but you can’t book a hired car without a credit card, just in case you run off with the car and the bank card you registered is for an empty account.

No problem, we’ll just get a credit card then. In any case, it’ll come in handy for booking air tickets so we have a little extra protection if an airline or travel agent should go out of business.

Of course, anyone with an awareness of how credit ratings work will know what’s coming.

“How long have you been at this address? “ About six months.

“I see, and what was your previous address in Australia?” There wasn’t one. We’re new here.

“I see.” Pause. “How long have you been with your current employer?” About three months.

“And your previous job?” Well, that was in Denmark, but… “I see.”

“Do you own your own property?” No, we’re renting. “Mmmm.”

You can see where this went. But here’s the thing – the application was for a Visa card… or was it a Mastercard… one of those anyway. And we had both in Denmark for many years, only cancelling them when we left the country. Surely in this era of global brands and the easy transfer of data, it shouldn’t be impossible for a credit record to move along with a person?

As it is, we are starting from scratch, as if we were school leavers once more, with it all to prove. It’s a hindrance but not a disaster. But if my dentist can accept and make sense of the records from my Danish dentist, surely MasterCard can look at their own files and vouch for my years of good account keeping. It’s not a lot to ask, is it?

17 thoughts on “Credit crunch

  1. Zultan says:

    Not much help in your situationI realise, but in my case American Express was able to do just this. Even ran parallel UK and AUS accounts and cards for a while.

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    • Wow, that’s pretty organised — and makes sense for them, rather than losing a valued customer. Sadly, I never had an Amex card, so that approach might not be open to me. But knowing they would do that for their customers is worth a lot, so maybe now is the time for me to switch (credit score permitting)?

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      • Zultan says:

        TBH I found getting credit here quite easy. When we arrived (2011) the banks operated a system by where your credit score was great until you missed payments, so was able to get a mobile phone and so on quite early on – but I think they’ve moved to a more UK model. I’ve read of arrivals on 457s been treated favourably for car loans and mortgages, so fingers crossed there is a way for you too.

        I’ve had an Amex card since 2003 and I like having it in my wallet ‘just in case’ – (where accepted) it has never been declined, or blocked whilst abroad for ‘security’ reasons and their customer service is excellent (will reverse any charge you query and hassle retailers on your behalf). That said, according to a report this week, they haven’t paid any tax in Aus since 2008 – so may not be the most ethical..

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      • I used to have a Diners card for similar reasons — not so widely accepted, but the idea of a card with no credit limit in case of emergencies was hard to argue against. I think it gave me lounge access for some airlines too. As for ethics, my stepfather just suggested I call Visa and tell them I work for FIFA and need a card for occasional ‘business smoothing’ expenses. As a Fifa partner they should understand what I mean and just hand over the plastic. I’ll tell them Uncle Sepp can vouch for me.

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  2. One thing I still find utterly confusing in Turkey is that individual branches of the same bank work independently of each other – so for instance after we moved I was closer to a different branch than the one I’d originally registered with, for every transaction / deposit whatever I try to do, they first have to call my bank to check it is ok for them to go ahead. It turns a 5 minute process into a 30 minute one.

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    • That’s truly bizarre. That’s like the fact that electronic transfers still take time to ‘clear’ even though the transfer is actually instantaneous — just a hangover of working practices from a bygone age.

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  3. Banking and finances are a mystery to me. I don’t understand either why these god multinational cards can’t get it together when you move. Plain weird. I’ll never forget the shock when I was in the US for work in the early 2000s, about 2004, and I suddenly found my credit card fail. Yes, it had been cancelled because, guess what, there had been some overseas transactions. Well, don’t people travel AND don’t we sometimes order things from overseas. Yes, but it seems that now, when you travel you must tell your bank. And then there’s that weird thing where some vendors, out of the blue, won’t take a debit card, just a credit card. When we travel, we often use those travel debit cards for our main purchases but every now and then a merchant won’t take it – such as an airline in Toronto when we had to pay for extra luggage (we were bringing some things back for our daughter). Why?

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    • Yes, I nearly missed that. I phoned my bank just before heading off on my current trip and they told me that, had I not made the call, they would probably have blocked my card the first time I tried to use it. And yes, we pretty much use our debit cards for everything, but there are some things they are not accepted for — car hire in particular, so a credit card becomes a necessity, whether you want ‘credit’ or not. I think doing much of these things with cash would be even more impossible, which seems odd when you think that the cards themselves are just a means of accessing the actually cash behind the transaction. Why indeed.

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  4. I feel for you. Sadly I will have the same issue when I return to the UK after 15 years away. No credit record, (newly) self employed and trouble getting a credit card despite having saved a fortune with the same bank since I was a teenager.

    I have an unsecured Visa card here in SK, and most banks have a system for low wage earners to pay a $1000 deposit, then their card has that as a limit. That’s a good way to start after a credit gap – wish the UK would try it.

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  5. Could you try setting up a bank account with a “Visa debit” card attached to it? I have gotten rid of all my credit cards (I am a spend-aholic) and now only use the visa debit card number (which is the same as a credit card number) to book things online – it works the same, only it comes from your savings account, so you can’t over spend.

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    • I do have one of those Erin, but thee are just some things that require a credit card – hiring a car chief amongst them, and nearly all the rental companies have small print saying that they won’t accept debit cards. It’s a bit irritating but there it is.

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      • Oh how annoying! I thought the whole point of debit cards was that they acted the same way as a credit card (minus the debt). It’s actually really disappointing that in a society that was close to recession they demand credit cards. Boooo!

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  6. Kobi says:

    Hi CBR family.
    I’ve been following your blog recently ( since last week actually and am now completely up to date!) and have found it extremely extremely helpful.

    Every post has given me and my good lady wife new insights in what to expect in Australia, particularly in Canberra.

    We tried googling as much as possible but Canberra really isn’t that much of a popular destination where there is helpful information readily available… Then fortunately we stumbled upon your blog.

    Just for info we have this very morning been granted P.R visas for Australia with the ACT state being the destination we applied for due to occupation lists etc.

    Now the real work starts as we convince ourselves and our family that uprooting 2 young children from excellent schools, a well established community in a leafy small town in Berkshire England and decent well paid jobs to go and experience life elsewhere is what it’s all about!

    We are going along the lines of … ” Make the most out of life. Try everything. If you have tried it you cannot say that you didn’t give it a go. Better to wish you hadn’t done something than wish you had and missed the opportunity “.

    Thanks again for taking the time to post your experiences, it’s been very helpful and much appreciated.

    kobi

    P.s I too am a red!

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    • Hi Kobi, Well, you’ve made my day. The reason I started this blog in the first place was because I could find no similar resource dedicated to migrating to Canberra, so to hear that it has helped you as you prepare to make the same leap has put a broad smile on my face. Congratulations on your visas. I remember us all being near to tears the day ours were granted — finally having confirmation that our adventure was real and not some grand pipe dream. Your attitude sounds perfect — there will be bumps and frustrations (I met a family recently who spent their first month in CBR camping because they couldn’t find a rental property) but I can honestly say that, six months in, all the frustrations were compensated for threefold. Good luck with the planning and if there’s anything that you want to know or would like some help with, just ask. I look forward to welcoming a fellow red to town. With best wishes, Mark

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    • We did keep our Danish cards for a few months, but cancelled them because they were registered at our old address and I wasn’t sure about the legality of that, since I know credit records are also held against addresses. It seems a bit too efficient now, and perhaps we should have held on to them for a while until we had replacements. Thanks for the kind words, but I fear even character references may not be enough in this situation :-/

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