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It’s true! You have more than one credit score. These scores are usually different. That’s why we think it’s important to be aware of both these scores – Experian and Equifax. These are the two biggest credit bureaus in the world.

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What’s considered a good credit score?

* The credit score scale above is for Experian. 

While credit scores range between the various credit reporting body services, the general idea is that your credit score is separated into five ranges: below average, fair, good, very good, and excellent. 

RateCity's credit score check looks at both Experian and Equifax for your credit score, helping you to determine whether you fit in the range of what a good credit score is, essentially from 622 and higher.

What is a credit score?

Your credit score is a number that indicates how reliable you are as a borrower. Banks and lenders use your credit scores when deciding whether to lend you money or approve your  loan application, be it for a home loan, personal loan, car loan, or other forms of credit. Credit providers know your credit scores, so should you.

How can I improve my credit scores?

Your credit scores cannot be improved overnight – you need to work towards improving them. RateCity can provide you with up to date information and smart tips to help you with this. If you haven’t already, the first step is to check your credit scores. 

Understanding credit files and credit scores

Your credit score is a number, usually between 0 and 1000 or 1200, that tells banks, credit card companies, loan agencies and other financial institutions what your history of paying your bills and debts has been like.

Your credit score indicates whether lenders can trust you to repay a loan or debt in the future, based on your credit history - your experience of repaying loans and settling debts. Australians can typically check their credit score online for free by providing a few personal details. To understand how your credit rating is worked out, you may be able to access your credit report, which can tell you more about what's affecting your score.

Credit rating bureaus categorise credit scores in five tiers ranging from “below average” to “excellent”. Your credit rating can fall into any of these tiers based on the positive and negative events affecting it. Positive events include borrowing money less often and repaying your credit card debt, while negative events include paying only the minimum amount due on your credit card or defaulting on a loan payment. Other factors that affect your credit score may include how long you have occupied your current residence, the length of time you have been employed, and the length of your credit history. 

If you register a series of positive events, credit rating bureaus are likely to view your credit profile more favourably, resulting in a higher overall credit rating. Lenders reviewing your loan or credit applications may consider you a less risky customer if you have a high credit score, and your credit history is sufficiently detailed, without controversial events. 

On the other hand, a low credit score reflects more negative events and may make it more difficult for you to be seen in a favourable light, affecting your loan and credit applications. From a lender’s perspective, an average or below-average credit rating may reflect that you're more likely to incur further debt. 

While your credit score indicates how successfully you manage debt, it can change over time. Checking your credit score isn’t considered either a positive or a negative event. This means you may want to consider checking your credit score periodically, and take actions to remedy a bad credit rating.

Sometimes, a low credit score may not be your fault at all, due to incorrect or misreported credit information affecting your credit rating. Requesting a credit rating bureau to rectify such errors can help fix your credit score, though credit scores can vary between the credit reporting bureaus.

A genuinely low credit score isn’t the end of the world, but knowing why can help you find out how to improve your credit rating, much like how knowing if you don't have a credit score can help put you on the right path to getting one

How is your credit score calculated?

In Australia, comprehensive credit reporting requires that banks and other lenders report your financial status and activities to credit rating bureaus. Since 2014, these reports can include positive changes to your financial profile as well as negative events; previously, it was mostly negative. Credit bureaus use this credit information to build your credit report and compute your credit rating. 

Note that there must be credit information available for you to have a credit score. Never borrowing money doesn’t automatically mean that your credit score will be high - as far as your lender is concerned, if you’ve never taken on debt of any kind, your borrowing behaviour is unknown.

When calculating your credit score, credit rating bureaus may assess your bank and credit card accounts for any past issues. The history and frequency of your recent credit transactions may be examined to understand your financial profile. For example, too many instances of borrowing money can reflect uncertainty on your part in estimating how much money you need, which may make lenders feel you pose a higher credit risk. 

Another important factor in gauging your creditworthiness is your repayment history: lenders need to know the likelihood of you missing payment deadlines or being unable to pay within a reasonable time. If you own one or more credit cards, how often you pay only the minimum repayment can affect your credit score. Using a credit card with a moderate borrowing limit, not spending the full credit limit, and repaying the card debt entirely may help improve your credit rating, while defaulting on the card or not making payments, even for brief periods, can have negative consequences. 

Your credit score can also be affected by your utility and phone bills. Every bill of significant value that you need to pay periodically can affect your credit rating and be included in your credit history. 

To get a direct understanding of how specific positive and negative events affect your credit rating, consider reaching out to any of the Australian credit reporting bureaus to access your free credit report. 

Each credit reporting bureau has its own method for assigning credit scores. For example, Equifax, a popular consumer credit reporting agency in the United States that acquired VEDA in Australia, assigns a score between 0 and 1200.  This is known as the Equifax Score and is calculated after considering your credit history and related details.

Locally in Australia, Clearscore relies on the Experian system for working out credit scores, applying a score between 0 and 1000 to work out how your credit is rated.

RateCity's credit checking system uses both Equifax and Experian to provide a more detailed understanding of your credit history, and to help you understand your financial health more clearly. The credit score ratings can be found in the table below:

Credit band Experian Equifax
Excellent 800-1000 833-1200
Very good 700-799 726-832
Good 625-699 622-725
Fair / Average 550-624 510-621
Weak / Below average 0-549 0-509

 

How credit scores affect your finances

Your credit score signifies your trustworthiness as a borrower, based on your credit history. Your credit score is based on your credit history and debt - using details from your credit file.

Banks and creditors check your credit score when deciding whether to lend you money or approve your application for a loan or similar financial product. A good credit score establishes your reliability as a borrower.

After you apply for your free credit score, you may be able to use this information when applying for a loan to negotiate better terms. For instance, if your credit report reflects your history of making regular repayments, you may be able to convince your lender to offer you easier repayment options. And if you know you have a good credit score, you may be able to more confidently apply for credit products like personal loans with lower interest rates.

However, just because you can successfully take on credit doesn’t mean you should go around on a borrowing spree, as a sudden spike in credit transactions may adversely affect your credit rating.

How can knowing my credit score help fix my credit?

Knowing your credit score can be useful for understanding the impact of each credit transaction, and in gauging if you need to take steps to improve your credit score.

When you review your credit report, you should examine every aspect of it in detail, starting with your personal details. If any of these details, including your name and driver's license number, are recorded incorrectly, someone else’s financial transactions can get registered in your credit report. This could also indicate possible identity theft - check that the rest of your credit file is accurate, and report any discrepancies.

Consider checking the most recently recorded financial transactions to verify their accuracy. Explore whether the number of credit applications is correct, or if a wrongly included debt is marked against your name. 

If you find an error in your credit report, contact the parties involved, or the credit bureau, to get it corrected. An error-free credit report should more accurately reflect your level of financial responsibility to lenders, and hopefully help to fix your credit score.

If you need to fix your credit rating, potentially positive moves may include paying down any outstanding debts, reducing credit limits on credit cards, and reducing the number of credit accounts you have. You can also check if you have simultaneously submitted loan applications to several lenders, or if you have missed any payment deadlines, and set yourself reminders to avoid doing so in the future.

Changing your credit history may not be easy, but you can certainly get help improving your credit score in the future. In Australia, there are several government agencies and community organisations that provide free financial counselling services. However, be careful about approaching agencies that claim they can repair your credit history or clear all previously recorded negative information for a fee. Instead, consider approaching any of the credit reporting bureaus directly to access and understand your credit report.

You can also discuss how to improve your credit score with an existing lender, especially if you are going through financial difficulties and struggling to keep up with repayments on time. If you feel stressed about being unable to make payments on time, or are worried about the risk of harassment from debt collectors, this can in turn affect your ability to make prudent financial decisions. 

Remember that a credit score can be low for many reasons, such as a lack of financial history. Even if past negative transactions continue to be reported in your credit report, accumulating positive transactions can mitigate their impact. You may want to set up annual milestones to gauge if the steps you're taking are moving your credit score in the right direction.

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Frequently asked questions

What are some advantages of a good credit score?

You should know about the advantages of credit score improvement as there are many occasions when having a good score is helpful. If your credit score is categorised as good, very good, or excellent, it can indicate you have strong borrowing power. This may encourage lenders to give you special discounts on interest rates and other loan terms. You may also find it easier to get approved for a credit card or a property rental. You can also try to negotiate terms using your superior credit score as leverage.

A high credit score indicates that you are financially responsible, but it requires you to be disciplined. If you currently have a good credit score, you still need to remember not to apply too often for credit cards or loans as these can quickly pull down your score. On the one hand, you may have better access to credit, but your good financial habits mean that you may not need to access this credit. Having some credit products can help build up your credit report, and therefore your credit score. You would just need to keep the debt and limits to a minimum and pay the bills on time. It’s never advisable to take out credit that you can’t afford to pay as it negatively impacts your credit history.  Even if you have a good credit score, you can always improve it further.

Do landlords check credit scores?

For landlords, credit score checks can tell if a potential tenant has a history of delayed or missed rent payments. Usually, a poor record of repayments is likely to result in a low credit score. Also, your credit history may include information from tenancy databases such as the number of times landlords have inquired about your credit score. 

If there are too many inquiries within a short time, landlords may conclude that you have had issues renting in the past.  However, there is no rule as to when landlords check your credit score. Some might check every time they receive a tenant’s application. In some cases, landlords may even rent out their property to tenants with a poor credit history if they can submit additional documents or sufficiently explain their situation and how they are trying to address it.

 What credit score do landlords look for?

Landlords may look for issues relating to repayment rather than a specific credit score, although a low credit score probably suggests that you’ve had repayment issues. In general, if your credit score is categorised good, very good, or excellent - which corresponds to an Equifax credit score range of 622 - 1,200, landlords may not scrutinise your credit history too closely.

Can I check my credit score without a driver's license?

In Australia, your driver’s license is the preferred identification document for credit reporting agencies. This means you may not be able to confirm your identity using another document, such as a proof-of-age card. You may have genuine reasons like concerns over identity theft for not wanting to provide your driver’s license number. Unfortunately, most credit bureaus won’t allow people to check their credit score without a driver’s license. 

If you don’t have a driver’s license, there’s a good chance you haven’t applied for credit in the past and don’t have a credit score at all. In case you are concerned about identity theft, credit reporting agencies can offer you paid packages that include insurance against identity theft. Such packages may also include monthly credit score checks or alerts whenever your score is updated.

Does breaking a lease affect your credit score?

When you sign a lease, you’re agreeing to pay rent for a certain period. But what happens in case you need to break the lease midway? Does breaking a lease affect your credit score? 

If you’re planning to break a lease early, you might be required to give a certain amount of notice, pay two months' rent and an early termination fee, or you should be willing to forfeit your security deposit.

If you’re able to pay all dues before moving out, breaking the lease is unlikely to affect your credit score. However, if you leave without paying, your landlord could use a collection agency to collect any unpaid rent. Your landlord could even sue you, and if you lose, you may have to pay the dues and court costs. While landlords typically don’t report unpaid rent to credit bureaus, there’s a possibility that a collection agency will report it. Collection mentions can stay on your report for several years and may affect your credit score.

Furthermore, breaking a lease could create issues when you're looking to rent in the future. A future landlord could contact previous landlords or check your rental history, and any mention of a broken lease could make you appear as a high-risk tenant, putting the rental application at risk.

Does home loan pre-approval affect credit score?

Home loan pre-approval can give you a better idea of the amount you can spend when buying a property. It can also tell you about the steps you need to take to finalise your home loan and receiving the funds. Depending on how you approach a lender, pre-approval could include a credit inquiry which does affect your credit score. Some lenders, however, may offer an online pre-approval which is faster and doesn’t involve a credit history check. An online pre-approval may only consider your financial capacity and offer suggestions on how to prepare yourself to take a home loan.

Most lenders, however, will likely prefer to make a full assessment of your financial situation by requesting a credit report in addition to your bank statements and tax returns. Such a credit inquiry, sometimes called a hard pull, is usually recorded on your credit file and can therefore affect your credit score. If you approach several lenders and all of them initiate credit inquiries, this will impact your credit score negatively. Sometimes credit reporting agencies make an exception in terms of including multiple credit inquiries if they are made within a certain period. It would still be best to avoid making multiple applications with different lenders.

Does a credit score check impact your credit score?

You may have heard that when a bank or lender performs a credit check, that it can impact credit score. But checking your own credit score isn't the same, and won't affect your credit score in the same way.

There are two types of credit checks that can be recorded in your credit history: hard credit checks and soft credit checks.

Hard credit checks occur when you apply to borrow money from a bank or lender, such as when you apply for a credit card or loan. A soft credit checks occur when your credit file is accessed outside of applications to borrow money, such as when you check your own credit score or credit history.

Checking your credit score is a request for information and not an application to borrow money, so it should not affect a lender’s decision to accept or decline your credit applications. As such, it's a soft credit check, and is unlikely to affect your credit score, positively or negatively.

 

Why should I check my credit score annually?

You may not need to get your free credit rating every year, but it can help you stay informed. A yearly free credit report can help Australians keep track of the impact of various financial transactions on their credit score.

Your credit score helps inform financial organisations, particularly lenders, about the sort of payer you are. Depending on how you've paid down debt in the past, it will have affected your credit score in various ways. In Australia, the inclusion of Comprehensive Credit Reporting (CCR) means that you can find out which transactions affect your credit score positively, as well those that have a negative impact.

Because of this, you may want to consider getting a free credit report once a year irrespective of whether you’re planning to apply for a loan or take on other debt. Checking your credit report can tell you if there are errors in your credit file, which affect your credit score and need to be corrected.

Does borrowing money affect credit score?

Whether it’s through a home loan, a personal loan, or a credit card, borrowing money will affect your credit score. Taking on a home loan or a credit card may have a positive impact on your score, but too many loan applications can bring your credit score down.  

Every time you apply for credit, an inquiry is performed against your name. Too many inquiries can reflect negatively on your credit report, and if your loan application is rejected it will negatively impact your credit score.

How you handle your debt can also make a big difference. As long as you make timely payments you may be able to improve your credit score and overall creditworthiness. However, any missed or delayed payments will likely result in a negative impact on your credit score.