If you have borrowed money, whether as a loan or even signed a mobile phone contract, you have earned yourself a credit history. Each time you apply for further credit, the lender will run a check on your credit file to determine the level of risk they take on by lending you money.
With the increasing incidence of identity fraud, it’s smart to check your file every year. Don’t wait until a loan application is denied to find out if your history is affecting your future.
Know your credit history
A credit report includes information on whether or not you have paid your bills; if you have paid them on time; or defaulted on any loans. It also includes your repayment history and credit limits. Based on the information in your file, lenders may choose to increase your interest rate to cover your perceived risk, or may refuse you credit altogether.
Visit the website of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner www.oaic.gov.au and go the page on “Accessing your credit report” where you will find details on the various free and paid services available.
It’s a good idea to get a copy of your credit history before you apply for finance. Knowing your rating not only improves your chances of getting your application approved quickly, but if you have an excellent history, you may be able to use it to negotiate a better deal.
Clear up disputed records
If you come across one or more entries on your credit report that you believe are unfairly impacting on your rating, whether it’s a disputed phone bill or a card limit being exceeded, contact the credit providers direct to resolve these issues. Be aware that a payment default will remain on your file for five years.
A check will also show you if there have been any attempts at identify theft, in which people have tried (successfully or otherwise) to gain credit in your name. The federal government’s website dedicated to monitoring and reporting scams, www.scamwatch.gov.au, reported that 12,800 Australians fell victim to identity theft in 2019.
Improve your credit report
If your credit report is not as good as you’d hoped there are measures you can take to improve it, including:
- Paying more than the minimum payment (or entire balance) on credit cards and paying the full amount of all bills by the due date;
- Gaining more credit and always making repayments on or before the due date (good credit outweighs bad);
- Consolidating multiple loans and credit cards into one loan with a more manageable interest rate and always meet the repayment schedule.
If you would like more guidance on how to reduce debt and improve your credit rating, please talk to us.