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Protecting & Improving your Credit Rating
While you probably don’t give it much thought until you are applying for finance your credit rating and credit file are some of your most important possessions. They help to determine if you qualify for credit to make those significant purchases that you want or need. They can also determine how much you pay for your credit, in terms of what interest rates you are charged.
What is a credit file or credit report?
Your credit report contains information about all of your credit activity over the past 7 years which is collected from credit providers, courts and other organisations by credit reporting agencies.
The type of information you will find in your credit report includes:
- Personal details – Your name, date of birth, current and past addresses, employment and driver’s licence number.
- Joint applicant – A joint applicant’s name will appear if you applied for the credit with another person and both your names appear on the contract.
- Credit cards – Information about the credit cards you hold will appear on your credit report.
- Arrears brought up to date – Any debts that were unpaid and overdue and have now been paid or settled.
- Defaults – Defaults and any other credit infringements are also listed. These could be utility bills or loan payments which are 60 days or more overdue and where debt collection activity has started.
- Credit applications – Any credit you’ve applied for.
- Debt agreements – Any bankruptcies, court judgements, debt agreements, or personal insolvency agreements in your name.
New information in your credit report – from March 2014 there is provision for additional information to be included within credit reports. This includes:
- Repayment history – On credit accounts like home loans, personal loans or credit cards, including the dates payments were due, whether or not you made the payments by the due date, and the dates which you made any missed any payments. No information will be included for utility or phone and internet bills.
- Commercial credit applications – Details of applications for commercial or business loans will also be included.
if you don’t make payment on a debt, your credit provider may refer to a debt collector and/or report your debt to a credit reporting agency and ask them to record the default on your credit report.
A credit default listing remains on your report for 5 years (in the case of a clearout it remains for 7 years). If you pay the debt, the listing stays but your credit report will be updated to show you have made payments.
What is a credit rating?
Lenders (banks, finance companies) can access all of the information contained within your credit file, and they use this information along with other details that they collect as part of their application process to determine your credit rating. Most lenders consider that analysing previous history is a useful way for them to predict future behaviour.
Lenders must tell you if your application has been rejected because of something in your credit report.
How to protect your credit rating
- Avoid multiple applications – Avoid making various applications with different lenders. The applications will show on your credit report and multiple applications have the effect of reducing your credit score. This is because many lenders assume that an application that they can see on your credit report that doesn’t result in a new finance agreement is due to the other lender declining the application. If they think that other lenders may have refused to give you credit then it makes them question why they should.
If you are just making an enquiry or getting a quote make sure that you don’t submit an application until you are ready and happy to do so.
- Pay your bills on time – Even in the event of a billing dispute it makes sense to not risk a potential default, pay the bill and resolve the dispute later.
- Contact your lender or credit provider if you have problems making your repayments – If you are having issues meeting your payment commitments then it is better to contact the provider in advance and let them know what’s going on. It could help to prevent the issue resulting in a default.
- Protect your identity – Identity theft is a major issue and it is good practice to put in place measures to protect your identity and privacy. Tips include:
Keep important documents, like your driver’s licence and passport, in a safe place;
Sign bank, credit and store cards as soon as you receive them;
Shred any documents that include personal or financial details before you dispose of them;
Ensure that your mail is delivered to a secure post box;
In the event that you suspect identity theft or fraud contact your financial institution and the Police.
- Get professional help – Using an experienced finance broker who can advise you on the best way to go about applying for finance can help you to protect your credit rating.
How to get your credit report
You can obtain a copy of your credit report to find out what’s in it and correct any wrong information. You are entitled to receive a free copy once a year. The process to receive the free report takes 10 days, but if you need it faster you may have to pay a fee.
You can obtain a copy of your credit report from the credit agencies listed below. Some agencies have a form to complete on their website, some allow you to email or post a request to them with your details.
PO Box 966, North Sydney, NSW 2059
Email – email@example.com
Tel. – 1300 762 207
CheckYourCredit.com.au (Dun and Bradstreet)
PO Box 7405, St Kilda Rd, Melbourne, VIC 3004
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel. – 1300 734 806
Experian Credit Report
GPO Box 1969, North Sydney, NSW 2060
Email – email@example.com
Tel. – 1300 783 684
Tasmanian Collection Service
GPO Box 814, Hobart, TAS 7000
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel. 03 6213 5555
You’ll need to provide the credit reporting agency with the following information to get a copy of your report:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Current address
- Previous address
- Day time contact telephone number
- Current or previous employer
- A copy of your driver’s licence, passport, birth certificate or Proof of Age card
- A document issued by an official body which includes your name and address (e.g. rates notice, utility bill or bank statement)
You could have a report with more than one reporting agency. If you live in Tasmania you may need to check with the Tasmanian Collection Service and Veda. If you live in other states you may need to check with Veda, CheckYourCredit.com.au (Dun and Bradstreet) and Experian.
Checking and correcting a wrong listing on your credit report
If you check your credit report and disagree with anything that is listed you can ask to have it changed or ask for your comments to be added to the report. It’s free to update your credit report to remove incorrect listings, but your report can only be changed if a listing is inaccurate or out of date.
- Mistakes by the credit reporting agency – For example, your name, date of birth or address may be incorrect. To fix these kinds of errors, contact the credit reporting agency that you obtained the report from.
- Mistakes by the lender / creditor – For example, you may have been listed as being in default in error, maybe you weren’t notified of an outstanding debt or a default was listed while the debt was in dispute. To fix these kinds of errors, contact the lender or credit provider. If you are unhappy with the response that your receive contact the appropriate Ombudsman.
If you’re unhappy with your creditor’s response an Ombudsman can help you by looking into whether the credit listing is wrong and should be removed. You won’t be charged any fees for this assistance.
Landline telephones, mobile phones and internet
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman – Tel. 1800 062 058
Electricity, gas and water
Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW – Tel. 1800 246 545
Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria – Tel. 1800 500 509
Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland – Tel. 1800 662 837
Energy and Water Ombudsman Western Australia – Tel. 1800 754 004
Energy and Water Ombudsman Tasmania – Tel. 1800 001 170
Credit cards, finance, bank, loans, investment products, insurance
Financial Ombudsman Service – Tel. 1300 780 808
Credit Ombudsman Service – Tel. 1800 138 422
If you are unable to resolve the problem with the assistance of an Ombudsman, you can lodge a complaint with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) on Tel. 1300 363 992. You have 12 months from the date you became aware of the problem to make a complaint to the OAIC.
LoanPlace.com.au is here to help you make sense of it all by providing you with information resources and connecting you with experienced professionals who will search their lenders to find the latest deals so that you get 3 Free Quotes to evaluate and compare.