Tips on managing credit and finance for from an international student from France
We are excited to bring back our interview series with Stilt borrowers and friends. These individuals share their experience of coming to the U.S. as international students, employees, dependents, and entrepreneurs.
In our series, today we will talk to one of our early borrowers — Fryderyk Doerffer. He will share his personal story of being an international student and then working on OPT visa for a large company.
Fryderyk is a native of Le Mans, France. He finished his Bachelor’s in International Relations from Collegium Civitas in Poland.
Fryderyk came to the U.S. in June 2015 for his Masters in International Business at University of Florida and graduated in June 2016. He got a job offer before finishing his Masters, so he applied for OPT and started working immediately.
Let’s understand his journey a little better:
Q: When did you get your SSN?
A: I received my SSN when I started my job on OPT, I applied for it within a week of my starting date.
Q: Did you know about credit history and credit scores before moving to the U.S.?
Q: If you didn’t know, how did you learn about it?
A: When I started to look for a loan, I realized that there was such a thing as a Credit History in the U.S.A — but I did not realize how important it was. In fact, only when I started applying for different loans, I started to see more and more rejections piling up because I simply did not have any credit history. Before I was thinking that people with a credit history might only get better rates, but I was far from thinking that having no credit history would put you in the worst situation than somebody with a bad credit history! For me, this system still makes no sense, your personal capital or collateral that you might have in your home country does not count.
Q: How did building credit history help you with living in the US?
A: I think we should all start with a credit card and gradually build it if we wish to stay in the USA for a longer term. But as a first loan in the USA, Stilt is here for you as it was for me.
Tips for international students:
Q: Can you give some tips to new international students moving to the U.S.?
A: Look for the best places to live and the best districts in the city you are moving in — there are many websites that rank the areas of the city in terms of criminal activity, age range etc. so it makes it easy to find where you want to be located and where to start your research from. I would recommend you to avoid paying in advance for an apartment that you never saw in person before, I’ve experienced that and I will never recommend it. Believe me, you would not want to hear my stories. The best thing to do is to get a hotel for your first week, and see some apartments complex that constantly offers discounts — I did this for my last move-in and I am very happy with the place I found.
Q: How did you manage your finances during your school? Any insights for new students?
A: I recommend that you create your own spreadsheet (in Excel for example), and just start listing all your expenses. It will definitely help you to know where you can save and also sort the primary from secondary spending. I made a table with all my fixed cost expenses such as apartment rent, loan rates, car insurance and the another table with all the variable costs estimates such as food, electricity, and hobbies.
Q: You found your job soon after school. Any tips for students looking for a job right now?
A: The best of the best…. Linkedin job search! I found my job there, this is probably the most reliable website. I literally tried every single website before I graduated. As an international student, finding a job in the USA might be very challenging depending on what branch you want to work in. Many websites do not specify if the firm is up to sponsor internationals or not. Linkedin was very attractive to me in a way that you could get in touch with people that work in the company. This ease of access and communication will help you to start networking and increase your probabilities of finding the job that you love.
Q: What are the 3 things you wish you knew before moving to the U.S.?
1. How hard it is for an international to borrow money in the US. I had to struggle a lot before I got my first loan from Stilt.
2. How expensive the companies might want from you since you’re an out of state person, you probably experienced it with school tuition already, and you might face this issue of overpriced services probably with your future car insurance or any related expenses, so be careful and always try to find the best offers, internet is your friend.
3. Be aware of the tax rates, when you are on an OPT you are exempt from Social Security and Medicare Taxes, so be sure to inform your employer before you receive your first salary, it might save you a few hundred dollars each month.
Q: What are the 3 mistakes that international students should avoid at all costs?
1. Not counting your budget ratio with your salary might be a dangerous thing, so start doing it before you even start moving in.
2. Do not trust car dealers with their rates as an international, you might get more than 20% interests or just a rejection, they will always try to make you pay more than you normally should.
3. Be aware of the tax and healthcare system, make sure to understand it before signing a job contract, so insist on knowing your benefits before starting negotiating your salary.
Do not trust car dealers with their rates as an international, you might get more than 20% interests or just a rejection.
Q: What are the 3 challenges you faced during your higher education in the U.S.?
1. Job search: You will probably waste a lot of time to apply for jobs that do not accept internationals or OPT workers, so beware of that and try to find job description mentioning a possibility of employment and sponsoring.
2. Loans: If you want to borrow without credit history like me, save your time from applying for loans in different banks. To give you an example, even my own bank that I am with since 2 years did not want to help me with that. There is definitely a serious dearth of loans for international students in the USA, and that’s a fact I didn’t know before.
3. When I found Stilt it was hard to believe that something like this actually existed, I maybe made around 20 loans applications with 20 rejections before I found this service. I literally wasted 1 month for something that could be done in 2 days with Stilt if I had found this service beforehand.
Q: How did you fund your education in the U.S.?
A: I got a loan in my home country first, through a bank. Stilt was my first loan in the USA.
Q: Does taking a loan in the US make it easier for your family back home? (if you were taking money from parents)?
A: It makes it easier yes, especially with the fluctuating exchange rates, it is more interesting to make a loan directly to dollars and pay it off with a job you have here. I applied for a loan with Stilt on a Monday and on Wednesday the same week I had the swift confirmation that the money was transferred to my account, what else I could ask for.
Q: Your experience with Stilt — how did you learn about Stilt, how was the loan experience?
A: Before I found about Stilt, I kept typing into google different keywords, like you probably did, such as “Loans for internationals” or “Loans for non-residents” etc. You will probably run into many websites pretending to offer the best loans, but believe me, none of those websites are specialized or trained to provide loans to people with our profile, meaning internationals, with no credit history. After many long searches, I found an article talking about the top-ranked start-ups in the USA, dating from 2015. They had mentioned about Stilt and its high succeeding potential due to a high demand in loans for international students in the USA. I searched for their website and the first thing I saw was that they specialize in offering loans for internationals under OPT and F-1 visas. This comforted me a lot in my decision to apply. I told to myself that I finally found somebody that UNDERSTANDS my situation as a non-resident alien. I decided to apply for a short term loan of 1 year to purchase my car that I needed for work since commuting in public transportation is close to impossible in North Carolina. Stilt was just so helpful, I kept asking questions to the online chat being very responsive to all my requests. I slowly started to build trust into this website and this helped me to make the move and apply for my loan. This outstanding speed of application processing made the money fall into my account in 2 days time. The same weekend I was able to purchase my car without having to dig into my private “back up” funds.
You will probably run into many websites pretending to offer the best loans, but believe me, none of those websites are specialized or trained to provide loans to people with our profile, meaning internationals, with no credit history.
Stilt provides loans to international students and working professionals in the U.S. (F-1, OPT, H-1B, O-1, L-1, TN visa holders) at rates lower than any other lender. Stilt is committed to helping immigrants build a better financial future.
We take a holistic underwriting approach to determine your interest rates and make sure you get the lowest rate possible.