Imagine if every part of your life was being monitored and rated by a number. Maybe you’d get an 90/100 for eating, but only a 30/100 for cleaning! There are plenty of scores related to your health – weight, blood pressure and so on – but the idea of constantly keeping score on other parts of your life might seem a bit odd.
Well, it turns out that you’re constantly being scored for your history of borrowing and repaying money. If you have applied for credit or a loan in the past, you will have a credit report, and subsequently a credit score, which is calculated based on the information in this credit report.
“Credit scores are used by lenders to help them decide whether they will give you credit or loan you money, and how much credit or money you will get,” says Laura Higgins, Senior Executive Leader, Financial Capability at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
Three major agencies – Equifax, CheckYourCredit (illion) and Experian – put together credit reports in Australia and each can hold different information. These agencies calculate your credit score on a scale between 0 and 1,000 or 1,200 based on the information they hold, with a lower score indicating a higher level of risk to a potential lender.
“Banks and credit providers may decline your request for a loan or credit if they are unsatisfied with your ability to service a loan and repay credit,” Laura explains.
While credit reports used to just focus on negatives, such as overdue payments and defaults, the introduction of Comprehensive Credit Reporting in 2018 allowed for the inclusion of positive information, such as repayment history as well.
How do I request a credit report?
“You can receive a free copy of your credit report each year to check it’s correct,” Laura says.
Requesting a copy is as simple as visiting the websites of the major credit reporting agencies, entering your personal details and verifying your identity. You do not need to pay anything unless you require the credit report in sooner than 10 days, or if you are requesting a copy within 12 months of a making a previous request.
You can request your credit report from the three major agencies, using the links below:
Moneysmart.gov.au also has more information on the kind of information you will see on your credit report and what you can do if there are any mistakes.
How do I check my credit score?
While your credit report is used to calculate your credit score, you may not receive your score along with your requested credit report and may need to use online credit score providers.
“There are a number of online providers you can access your credit score from for free, and usually within minutes,” Laura notes.
These providers include GetCreditScore (which uses information from Equifax), Credit Simple (which uses information from illion) and Credit Savvy (which uses information from Experian). Some of these providers can also send monthly updates of your credit score and alerts to any changes to your credit report.
“When dealing with any organisation that can access your personal data, keep in mind your privacy and take the time to understand how they might use it for marketing purposes,” Laura says.
How can I improve my credit score?
If you’ve checked your credit score and it is lower than you expected, the next step is to understand how to improve your score, as well as your likelihood of being approved for a loan or credit in the future.
“To start with, you can lower your credit card limit, and limit how many applications you make for credit,” Laura explains.
While improvements may not be evident straight away, you can use the information in this article, in your credit report and on Moneysmart.gov.au to get a better understanding of the things credit reporting agencies know about you.
“Credit reports can be affected by your track record of paying your rent, mortgage, credit card debt and bills each month. If you’re meeting your obligations on time each month you’ll likely improve your credit score over time,” Laura says.
Important: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. Consider the appropriateness of the information in regard to your circumstances.