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Canada Credit Report

I have $20,000 in US credit card debt. Will it follow me to Canada? What affect will US debt have on a Canadian credit report?

I have around $20,000 credit card debt. I will not be able to pay this debt at all. I am also a non-U.S citizen. I am planning to move to Canada soon. Will the collection agency find me out and give me all those harassing calls? Will it affect my credit in Canada? I mean, is there any cross country credit history relations? What do you suggest?

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Bill's Answer
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Updated: Oct 21, 2014

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Your question raises two issues: Canada credit report and its relationship to your US credit report, and a US creditor collecting a debt from a Canadian resident. This answer does not explore the unspoken issue regarding the legality of your residing in Canada.

Will a US credit history follow a consumer into Canada?

The main credit reporting agencies in Canada are Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada. These are the Canadian equivalents and subsidiaries or sister companies to the US companies. The Canadian credit score and history is based on Canadian financial records. The Canadian reporting agencies will accept information from foreign agencies when asked for and provided by the individual. There is no indication the two Canadian credit reporting agencies confer with each other. (See the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada FAQ Can my credit history from another country be recognized in Canada? for more information.)

It is unclear if the credit reporting agencies share information across the US-Canada border routinely. As mentioned, your US credit history will not follow you unless you cite your US credit cards. If you do not, then your Canadian credit score starts at zero. You will need to provide the Canadian credit card company your address and former addresses when applying for a new credit card.

It is theoretically possible for a US credit reporting agency operating in Canada to correlate these two addresses. It is also possible for a creditor to correlate your US and Canadian identity if you apply for credit card with a bank that does business in the US. In Canada, you must provide a Social Insurance Number (SIN), which is functionally similar to a US Social Security Number (SSN) when opening a bank or credit account, but the numbers are unrelated and there is no known database that correlates the identities of people in both databases.

Because the SIN and SSN are unique to you, and both are used in credit score reporting, it is theoretically possible for a US credit reporting agency to determine your address in Canada. However, as I mentioned, there is no known database or mechanism in place today to allow this functionality on a wide scale.

Will a US credit report affect a Canada credit report?

For the reasons mentioned above, it is unlikely a person with a US credit history who relocates in Canada will have their credit history appear on their Canada credit report. The opposite is also true. Canada credit reports are similar to their US counterparts in the information contained. See the Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs document Credit report, credit score and credit rating and Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's document Understanding Your Credit Report and Credit Score.

Domesticating a US judgment in Canada

In the US, the judgments in one US state receive the full faith and credit of sister states. Before a judgment is enforced in a sister state, the judgment must be domesticated. This process is fairly automatic, though comes at a cost to the judgment-creditor.

There is no law that requires a Canadian court to enforce a United States civil judgment automatically. However, the US and Canada are long-time trading partners with treaties that create close economic ties between the countries. The debtor may attempt to domesticate a judgment in a provincial court.

As a practical matter, if a US resident enters into a credit card contract with a US bank, incurs (for the sake of argument) $1 million in debt, and then changes residences to Canada without repaying the debt, that creditor has the legal means to domesticate a US judgment in Canada. On the other hand, if a US resident incurs $100 in credit card debt and flees to Canada, it is unlikely that the US bank would go to the time and expense of finding the deadbeat and domesticating a judgment in a Canadian court.

The US credit score would be affected in either hypothetical situation. If the deadbeat returns to the US, he or she will face a grim credit score. Plus, the creditors will to locate the current address of the deadbeat because of the SSN. See the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's document Tips for Dealing with a Debt Collector.

Recommendation

There is a slight risk to your Canadian credit report if you leave your US credit report in shambles. You do not indicate if the debt is with many creditors or a few. If the debt is sufficiently large with one creditor, a financially motivated US creditor has the option to domesticate a judgment it obtains in the US in Canada. Therefore, it would be best if you could negotiate a reduction in the debt and pay what you can before changing your residence. See What are my debt resolution options? to see the pros and cons of the plans available.

You are responsible for the debt in the US regardless of where you live, so it is best to resolve these debts, even if you pay the debt while residing in Canada. If you move to Canada, develop a plan to resolve your US debt.

Your question does not involve bankruptcy, but for the benefit of other readers, see the Bills.com resource Canada Bankruptcy to learn more about the requirements for filing bankruptcy in Canada. I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

23 Comments

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  • PN
    Sep, 2013
    Patricia
    Does anyone know if a citizen of the USA owning real property in Canada, was visiting Canada fell ill in Canada,and now owes a substantial hospital bill in Canada, if Canada can take any property real or otherwise, located in the USA, and owned by this USA citizen? I would appreciate any help anyone can give. Thank You
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Sep, 2013
      Bill
      What you described is possible under US law. Whether the Canadian government or a Canadian private medical provider will take the time and expense to do so is a more difficult question to answer. You should assume that the larger the amount due, the more likely it is for a non-US creditor to domesticate a local judgment in your state of residence. What the threshold value is is anyone's guess.
      0 Votes

  • MW
    Jul, 2013
    Monique
    What if I live in Canada and establish credit in the U.S. using my SIN to fill out the form. Will this now negative item report in the U.S. or in Canada or both?
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Jul, 2013
      Bill
      There are two parts to your question:
      • Will a US consumer credit reporting agency include your Canadian history in your US credit report?
      • Will a Canadian consumer credit reporting agency include your US history in your Canadian report?

      In theory, it is possible for account history to cross borders. I know of no US law that prohibits a US consumer credit reporting agency from publishing accurate information about non-US accounts. I do not know if Canada prohibits non-Canadian information from appearing on Canadian credit reports.

      In practice, it is difficult for the consumer credit reporting agencies to make the connection between "Jane Smith" who moves from Alberta to Montana because "Jane Smith" is a common name and the US and Canada don't share common serial numbers to identify residents. However, if a consumer has an unusual name or indicates their former address in a credit application, then the consumer credit reporting agency will have an "aha" moment, and make the connection.

      0 Votes

  • EC
    Feb, 2012
    Emma
    My fiance is an American citizen who was attending college in Canada. The GI Bill agreed to pay the full international tuition amount, but we received and email today (almost 6 months after the one year course has been completed) that we owe the college almost $10,000 in arears. If we do not pay we will be taken to collections. We now reside in the USA and the college has little or no contact information for my fiance other than his email and old address. If they take us to collections, will they be able to A)find hi in the states B) come after us for a debt owed to a college in Canada and C) will his US credit be affected? Thanks!
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Feb, 2012
      Bill
      Contact the GI Bill people at the VA to learn why the tuition was not paid. If your spouse resolves this problem, you will not need to worry about any possible impact on his credit score, or legal actions the school may take to domesticate the debt in the US.
      0 Votes

    • EC
      Feb, 2012
      Emma
      He did call. His course one was full year of classes with no summer break. The VA told him that they only pay for so many credit hours PER SEMESTER, and because there was no break they considered it all one big semester. This clearly meant there were more credit hours in this "giant semester" than what they are willing to pay for. So at this point, we are stuck owing this money because the course was not broken into two separate semesters by the college. Help!
      0 Votes

    • BA
      Feb, 2012
      Bill
      Aside from trying to work with the VA system and appeal the original ruling, I don't know what you can do. I agree with you that one full year of schooling should not be viewed as equivalent to a semester. The only other option I can think of is to work to negotiate a settlement with the school.
      0 Votes

  • JB
    Oct, 2011
    Jacqueline
    I am a Canadian citizen, currently residing in California. Have Permanent residency. I am unable to continue to make payments on my Canadian credit cards. My American credit is impeccable. Although, MBNA Canada has hired an attorney in CA, who has placed this negative account onto my American credit. Is this possible? Can I fight this? I have never given my SSN to the attorney, nor the bank themselves. Look forward to your response, have not been able to find anyone to answer these questions. Thanking you in advance
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Nov, 2011
      Bill
      First of all, it is legally possible for a Canadian judgment-creditor to domesticate a Canadian judgment in a US court. You should contact a lawyer to help you determine whether MBNA has acted in a legal manner and what alternatives you have to dispute this credit entry.
      0 Votes

    • MS
      Feb, 2012
      Mike
      Hello Jacqueline B. I am in the same position as you with MBNA/Canada and are wondering if you have any advice regarding this matter! What was the outcome in the end? Thanks, Mike
      0 Votes

  • HM
    Aug, 2011
    Heather
    I have a US retail credit card. I just received a phone call saying that I still owe over $200 for this card in late charges. I haven't heard anything from them since Nov 2010 as I sent a letter and a money order clearing up my balance. Apparently, there are still late fees due to the postal service. They received my money order; but, because it arrived late, I am subject to late fees(this company does not take a major credit card over the phone). They have claimed to report me to credit agencies and therefore ruining my good credit rating. Can this affect my Canadian credit rating? I am now being asked to pay double what I owed on my credit card in late charges. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    0 Votes

    • BA
      Aug, 2011
      Bill
      From what I know, it is possible but unlikely this issue will affect your Canadian credit, although I can't give you any assurances.

      Most retail cards are backed by some bank. If yours is, here are a few ways you can raise a complaint.
      1. As of July 21, 2011, a new agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) takes consumers' complaints about credit cards online. CFPB forwards complaints to the credit card company, and keeps consumers updated about the status of the complaint.
      2. .You can call CFPB to make a complaint at 1-855-411-CFPB (2372).
      3. You can try "going up the food chain" by speaking with a supervisor at your card issuer, and try to come to some mutual understanding.

      Good luck!

      0 Votes