I briefly mentioned what is credit in this post where I was describing how I applied for SSN. Well, I read many tutorials and watched many videos, how to build a good credit score from scratch (without any history) Below is my strategy for the first six months.
In order to build good credit, I will use two secured credit cards. The Secured credit card means that the bank will give you a credit line but you have to deposit usually the same amount of money to a bank that is your credit line. Let’s show an example: Your limit is $1,000, then you have to deposit to bank $1,000. After some time (typically 6-12 months) bank reviews your history and gives you your deposit back and you get a regular credit card if the bank sees that you are a responsible borrower.
What will I do to build good credit?
- use only 10-30% of credit line from both cards
- Pay my credit cards off in full every month
- Pay my credit cards on time every month
- Have two secured cards from different banks or credit unions
- One card is Visa and the second is Mastercard
I applied for a secured credit card in Bofa with a limit of $1.000 three weeks ago. Today I increased my limit to $5.000. I called the bank and the banker asked me about my monthly income and rent I pay. I also already had enough funds on my checking account (at least $4,000) because how I said the bank will take this money as a safe deposit.
- no monthly or annual fee
- $5.000 limit – will use only $500-1,500 every month
- 3% back from gas
- 2% back from grocery purchase
- 23% Interest – I don’t care about interest because I will pay the whole credit in full every month
Tonight, I also applied for a second card from Capital One entirely online. They wanted me to send a copy of my passport and a copy of my SSN because I am not a US citizen or resident. Now I am waiting for the result from Capital One.
- no monthly or annual fee
- $1.000 limit – will use only $100-300 every month ($1,000 was max limit at the moment)
- 27% Interest – I don’t care about interest because I will pay the whole credit in full every month
I didn’t really explain my strategy but trust me I spent a couple of hours putting this strategy together so let’s see if is a good strategy in a couple of months!
LA, SF, and NYC are probably the most expensive cities in the US. When you are considering to move to these cities you should be aware about the cost of living. Below is my current list
- lease (2 bedroom apartment including utilities) – $2,000
- food (I don’t cook often) – $1,000
- gas – $150
- car insurance – $50
- cell phone plan – $40
- other expenese (gym + some shopping) – $300
Total approximately: $3,540
I bought the used car with cash so I don’t have to pay monthly lease or rent but if I would pay for car financing my expenses would increase to $4,000 per month. We are still talking about I don’t spend for any uselessness. On the other hand, if you would really need to keep expenses below I believe you could share an apartment and pay probably around $1,000 and also maybe cut your food expenses to $500 so let’s say minimum expenses here could be like $2,000 per month. It is not life you would like to live here though.
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I just finished complete tutorial about how to start a business in California entirely online and without any help. I included two most common types of businesses: LLC and Corporation. The tutorial is here on Mail on Screen blog.
For the American citizens is nothing extraordinary to have this nine-digit SSN. The parents in the US. usually apply for their children’s social security number in the hospital after birth. This number lives with his or her holder for whole life, literally.
Who can apply for SSN?
Generally only US citizens, permanent residents (green card holders) and non-citizens (foreigners) who has authorization to work in the US. may apply for SSN.
Why is SSN so important?
- SSA – Social Security Administration is responsible for tracking all your life earnings. All your records are connected to your SSN and when you retire, the SSA calculates your benefit payments according to your contribution to the system.
- Most importantly your credit or credit history is connected to your SSN and if you don’t have SSN you cannot build credit. I can truly tell you that without SSN is life in the US very difficult. I don’t mean if you are a student for one year or on vacation for two weeks. If you are here for a longer time then it is problem because without SSN you cannot build credit and if you don’t have the credit you cannot apply for a credit card, car loan, mortgage. In most cases, you will have a problem applying for a lease (I tried to apply for a 1-year lease in two places and they told me it is not possible without SSN) If you have a good credit score the lenders consider you a responsible person and they will lend you money with low interests. Honestly whole of America live on depth and if you are not a dollar millionaire you will live on the debth too 🙂
How did I apply for my SSN with E-2 visa?
It was a story. The next day after my arrival I gathered all necessary documents for applying for my SSN. I needed:
- Passport with valid visa (your visa must allow you to work in the US. With the E-2 visa that I have I can legally work in my business so I am eligible to apply for SSN)
- Form I-94 is arrival record that says when did you arrive in the US. Visit offical website
- Form SS-5 is the application for SSN. You can download it here
I Applied only for I-94 and downloaded it for free. Then I filled Form SS-5 and printed both documents in the closest UPC store (you can print your documents there if you don’t have a printer)
I went to the nearest SSA in Torrance and when I arrived I found out that all offices in the US. are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 On the door was the number for emergency requests. I called this number several times without any luck. After 2 hours of calling, I was finally able to speak with an employee SSA. She told me that I can apply only in person and asked me many questions and put me on the list of applicants. Then she added wait for two weeks and we will call you with the date of your appointment. Well, I waited two weeks and nobody was calling. I was frustrated and called them every day and finally, they asked me if I wanna come the next day? I said definitely and the next day I applied for my SSN in that office (they only open for invited applicants) They gave me confirmation and I told me to wait, your SSN card will arrive by mail in one week. Well, it arrived in two weeks but it arrived, finally! I’ve got my SSN and I already opened my first personal bank account and secured credit card in the US. In some next posts, I will share my strategy on how to build the best credit in the shortest time!
This is gonna be a quick post! If you buy a used or new car from a dealer in California they should not let you leave without proof of insurance (this information I found on Google) On the other hand if you buy a car in a private sale (from someone else), the seller probably will not take the car too much about your insurance. It is your responsibility. Always remember it is illegal to drive an uninsured car in California and you should insure your car as soon as possible. The minimum state requirements for insurance are here.
When I got home after buying my firsrt car, I was looking for auto insurance. One of my friends recommends me Geico (it is the second-largest insurance company in the US). You can insure your car completely online. It took me less than 15 minutes. However, when I added my debit card and wanted to confirm the whole process, the payment was denied. After few moments I got an email from Geico that I should call them. I called them immediately and talked to some guy from the support department. He just said they need to validate my Canadian driver’s license and asked me several questions. In the end, he said your insurance is approved and the auto insurance is valid from today.
- VIN (Seach on Title)
- California Address
- Some Driver’s License (I provided my valid driver’s license from Canada and it probably saves a lot of money because they recognize history from Canada. I am not sure you will able to insure your car with a driver’s license outside from the US or Canada)
- Debit or Credit Card
You don’t need:
- Title on your name (they will ask you register car to your name in 30 days)
- Geico is good because according to your state they will offer you only auto insurance that meets minimum state requirements. The lowest cost I got was $49 per month (trust or not it is cheap) However I chose more expensive insurance with higher coverage. My monthly cost is $62
(this is mandatory in California)
When you hit someone or something and it is your fault.
- Bodily Injury Liabiality – $50,000/$100,000 (
- Property Damage Liability – $25,000
Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Coverage (you don’t have to have this in California)
When some drivers without insurance or with low coverage hit you this insurance should help you cover your medical bills and sometimes the damage cost of your car.
- Uninsured Motorist & Underinsured Motorist – $15,000/$30,000
Additional Coverage: (I don’t have)
Due to I have an old and cheap car I don’t wanna spend money on additional insurance. However, when I buy a new car or car less than 5 years old I will use the coverage below.
Comprehensive Coverage (you don’t have to have this in California)
Basically, the comprehensive insurance cover situation like theft, fire, hail or vandalism.
If you are involved in some accident and it is your fault this insurance will cover repair costs for your own car.
I am glad I pay only $62 per month. I would like to know what is the average cost for Americans with long insurance history but I don’t think so they pay far less than me! When I was calling the guy from Geico support I asked him if the insurance will help me build the credit history and he told me it is a different system. However, if you drive without accidents and fines your insurance should be cheaper!
For some reason, the DMV clerks around the world have similar mentality and behavior. I can tell you how horrible is visiting DMV in the Czech Republic and now also in the US. I finally decided to visit the local DMV in Torrance in order to register my Mercedes to my name. The Department of motor vehicles (DMV) is not far from my current place. Before I went there I texted my friend I was going there and he texted me back: Good Luck! The DMV is the worst nightmare for all Americans. 😀 When I arrived at the DMV parking and saw the line of maybe 20-30 people gathering in front of the DMV. I had to admit he was right. I wasn’t in good mood that day so I didn’t even stop there and went back home 🙂
At home, I checked the official website of DMV in Torrance and the good is that you can see the estimated waiting time at the office. The current estimated time was more than one hour without reservation (my case) so I searched for more DMV offices nearby. I found DMV in San Pedro just 15 minutes from me and the estimated time for customers without reservation was less than 20 minutes. I arrived at San Pedro DMV around 2:30 PM, then took all the car documents that I had and found the end of the line. There were two lines of people. so rather I asked some guy if this line is for people without reservation. Compare to Torrance, in San Pedro were less than 10 people waiting outside of the DMV. After 20 minutes of waiting, I got the first point where were two ladies that measured all coming customers’ temperatures and they were asking all the people if they have some COVID-19 symptoms. Then one of the ladies asked me what is the purpose of my today’s visit. I told her that I need to register the title in my name and then I showed her the title (ownership of the car) in the front page you can find data of the car + previous owner information such as name and address. On the other side of the title is a blank form dedicated to the new owner. I didn’t fill this in before because I was expecting them to help me with that at the DMV office. I told her it is my first time here and she just said fill this rear page with your name, address, and so on. I asked her if I can borrow a pen and she said no (she had maybe 5-10 pens on the table) then she gave me some paper with a number and told me to wait in the hall. There were at least 10 counters for clerks and their customers. I was a little bit desperate and asked one clerk if she would be so nice and lend me the pen. The answer was no. After five minutes of waiting, one of her colleagues gave me a pen! I quickly filled the form and suddenly my number appeared on the monitor. I went to the counter with my number. I gave the clerk title and she quickly checked the title. She said you didn’t fill in the California driver’s license number. I told her I don’t have a California driver’s license yet. She said okay – you don’t need it. (I knew before that I don’t need it for the car registration). I also forgot to fill in the purchased price of the car so I added the price. (this is important because according to the purchased price you will pay sales tax) She took my title and told me the DMV will send a new title on your name to your address in 30 days. Then printed a new registration card with my name and address (this white paper is something like a copy of the title that you must have in the car all the time) On the registration card was the registration fee together with sales tax. I paid in cash but you can pay also with a credit or debit card. It is hard to find out the exact total fee before register your car in your name. It depends on many factors (purchased price, your address – there can be some local extra fee and so on) In my case the total fee was approximately 10,5% from the purchased price of the car. So you can expect something between 10-11% from the purchased price.
She told me you are ready to leave. When I came back to the car I checked the registration again and noticed she did a mistake in my address! Just one letter was wrong. Shit! I was exhausted from this experience and wanted to leave but then I realized when if the address is wrong on the card registration it will be probably the wrong address in their system and on my new title and what if I won’t receive the title in the mail thanks to the wrong address? So I went back and told another clerk that I have a problem with the address. She took the title and said wait outside, I”ll be back with new car registration soon! In 5 minutes she was back with the proper address! Honestly, I am glad I’ve never been shy to ask or tell the truth if needed. I am currently waiting for my title that should come by mail in 30 days.
Summarry before visiting DMV for car registration:
- Bring title and current registration card from previous owner (if you have both).
- Pass the smog test (the previous owner should) no older than 90 days.
- Bring also your own pen if you need to fill the form.
- You need to provide your name + address in California.
- You need to provide purchasee price.
- You don’t need Caifornia or US Driver’s License for car registration.
- You don’t need car insurance (but you do need it when you are driving the car!)
- Expect a total fee between 10-11% from the purchased price (pay cash or with card)
- Visit DMV website in order to check the estimated waiting time or make a reservation.
For those who don’t know what a smog test is or in other word the smog inspection, here comes my definition. The smog test is an emission test that measures pollution from your car. Basically, if the values of pollution are under the state limits your car will pass the smog test. If your car exceeds limits, then your car will fail the test. Simply right? I think we all know this from almost all countries.
My first experience with the smog test was recently I bought my first used car. The fun is that I found today while writing this post that the seller’s responsibility is to provide the car with passed smog test when selling you the used car. The smog test is valid for 90 days. The previous owner sold me the car without passed the smog test. According to the state law, he shouldn’t have sold me the car. However, I passed a smog test without any problem and I am glad I could learn something new. But remember if you sell a used car here in California, it is your responsibility to sell the car with valid and passed the smog test.
There are many exceptions what vehicles that don’t need the smog test. You can find them on the offical DMV website. DMV is Department of motor vehicles.
Alright, here comes the story. When I came to pick up my car after the first oil change. I asked the technician if they offer smog inspection there. He said no but gave me a recommendation to some smog test check nearby. A few days later I visited them after lunch. I didn’t know what to expect because passing the smog inspection in my country can take hours. The guy from smog service told me. I’ve got time now and it will only take 15 minutes. I said cool and asked him if he needs the title (document of car ownership). He didn’t need anything. He just checked the car and connected with his computer and a few minutes later he said your car is okay and you passed the smog test!
The price was $60 and he gave me the paper copy of the passed smog test and then he added. The original smog test was just sent through the online system to the DMV and the test is valid for 90 days. He also said you don’t need to show a copy of the passed smog test when you will transfer the title on DMV but is always better to bring it there if there is some problem with the online system.
This was easy! The next story will be about DMV’s experience – How did I transfer the car to my name. DMV is a nightmare for all Americans and today I finally know why!
Yesterday I described a whole horrible story about buying the first used car in the USA but with the happy end!
The guy who sold me the car claimed me he just did an oil change a month ago but then he said you can change too 😀 So I was like hmm let’s do it again because you never know 🙂
Here in LA, you can find many car services almost in every street but which one to choose if you don’t know almost anybody here. I just searched on Google and was looking for something like European Cars service near me and then checked the review from customers. I found this service just 1 mile away from my current home. I took the car to service and talked to some guy: I told him that I just bought the car and wanna change the oil and check the car if is safe to drive. We also checked the tires and they were 7 years old (that’s a lot and I didn’t want to risk some trouble here especially on the highway) He asked me if I wanna buy tires from them. I wanted to buy tires by myself because I thought the price should be lower. He said, okay just bring your new tires and we will put them on the car while oil change tomorrow.
Then I search for the tires and found the Czech brand – Barum! The price wasn’t the lowest but still affordable so I decided to buy them. I still have to support my country even I am overseas 🙂
The store America’s Tire is just a block away from and the tires were on stock so no problem. I asked them about DOT (you can find from this number when the tires were made – I always wanna new tires not 1-2 years old!)
The next day I brought the car to the service at 9:00 AM it was our deal from the previous day with new tires in the trunk. They asked me if I want to wait and the estimated time is 2-3 hours. I gave them my number and walked back home instead of waiting there. A few hours later they called that car is ready. They also checked the car and told me, that car is in good condition: the brakes are almost new and they didn’t find any oil leaks.
- 4x Tires – Barum Bravuris 205/55/16 – $365 including tax
Oil Change + Tires Replacement
- 4X Tires – Replacent + balancing – $80
- Oil change (synthetic oil, oil filter, drain plug washer) – $136.54
- Total: $229.24 including tax
I noticed the only problem with the car. Sometimes blinks ESP light on display- but it does not affect drive at all.
Some friends from the Czech asked me if I could find how it works with exporting cars from the USA to the EU. Well, I will write another post about that, practically and technically it shouldn’t be a big problem.
In Czech, the new Chevrolet Corvette C8 cost around $100,000 and there are only a few cars available in stock. I used to be a seller in a VW dealership and still have a car export business in the EU so I just wanted to see how car dealers work here. I found the nearest dealer in Torrance, CA, and sent them an email: Hi, I am interested in the new Corvette C8, please give me a call! Trust me or not but in 5 minutes some seller called me! We said it’s better to talk in person at the dealership and 30 minutes later I was there! This is business guys! Not like in the Czech where you will wait two weeks for the response to your email.
I briefly introduced myself and told him that the cars would be for export to Europe. He said we don’t care what you will do with the cars if you pay for them. However there is a problem due to COVID-19, there no cars in stock available in the USA. Automakers don’t have chips for cars and demand significantly exceeds supply.
He offered me I can order the car without any discount (list price) and the estimated time of production will be 12 months + you have to pay an extra fee of $ 15,000 to the dealer because they don’t have enough cars for all customers.
f you want to get your Corvette in 6 months (the time is not guaranteed) you have to pay an extra fee of $25,000 above list price.
When I told this, my Czech friend. He said I don’t wanna Corvette anymore! 😀 Instead of that I’m gonna search for Charger Hellcat for him. We’ll see soon if the situation is the same or not.
It would be nice to be a Chevrolet dealer in the US right now! I can truly tell you that the average profit for dealers from the sold cars in Eastern Europe is between 0-3% of the list price. Some people believe that old times will return back before COVID-19 when it comes to car production. I am not an expert on the US market but in Europe, I don’t think so. The new cars will be more and more expensive and there will be a problem with production. It is not only due to COVID-19 but also because of EU new cars restriction. EU wishes to sell only hybrid and electric cars (generally cars with low or zero emissions) and automakers pay unbelievable penalties if they sell conventional cars (with gas or diesel engines) because the CO2 limits are too strict. My fellow Europeans, I would say you have last 10-15 years to enjoy conventional engines before they will be prohibited.