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Check both of your credit scores

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 score companies in the world. 

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This will not affect your credit scores.

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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. Credit providers know your credit scores, so should you. 

What’s considered a good credit score?

* The credit score scale above is for Equifax. 

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.

How many different credit scores do I have?

Depending on how long you've had a credit card or taken out any form of loan, you may have more than one credit score in Australia, and your credit history may cover a number of activities. That's because there's more than one credit bureau in Australia, which means you have more than one score.

In Australia, there are three main credit reporters, with Experian, Equifax, and Illion, though there are others around the world. For your credit score, RateCity works with both Equifax and Experian, providing two credit scores to better understand your credit history, and keep your financial health in tip-top shape. 

Why should I check my credit score?

You have a good credit score, you may be able toconfidently apply for loans with lower interest rates and extra features and benefits. If your credit score isn’t so great, you can get a more realistic idea of what credit products you may be eligible for, and adjust your budget accordingly.

Knowing your credit history gives you a better idea of what goes into your credit score, including what credit behaviours to avoid in the future to grow your credit score and keep it high.By ordering a copy of your credit report, you can look into getting any errors in your credit history corrected, setting the record straight to help improve your credit score in the future.

How often should I check my credit score?

Even if you’re not planning to apply for loans or other credit products any time soon, you may want to think about checking your credit score once per year. This can help you work out if there are any errors in your credit report that may need correcting.

You can typically order one free copy of your credit report per year, though some credit reporting bureaus offer a free copy every three months. You may also be able to order a free copy of your credit report immediately after being declined for a credit application, or after a correction has been made to your credit history.

Credit reporting bureaus may update your credit score every month as new information is added to your credit report, and may be able to send you alerts when your credit score changes.

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

What does my credit score mean?

Excellent (Experian: 800-1000, Equifax: 833-1200)

A credit score that falls into the ‘Excellent’ category indicates a high level of creditworthiness. The individual is likely to service a credit product without issue and is unlikely to experience negative events, such as a default, over the next 12 months. The individual is most likely to be approved for all credit products and be offered the most competitive deal, assuming they meet all eligibility criteria.  

Very Good (Experian: 700-799, Equifax: 726–832)

A credit score that falls into the ‘Very Good’ category indicates a strong level of creditworthiness. The individual may not have reached the ‘Excellent’ category yet due to a shorter credit history but has still displayed positive credit behaviours, such as no late payments or defaults. This individual is also unlikely to experience negative credit events in the next 12 months. The individual is likely to be approved for credit products, assuming they meet all eligibility criteria, but may want to consider boosting their score into a higher category.

Good (Experian: 625-699, Equifax: 622-725)

A credit score that falls into the ‘Good’ category indicates a moderate level of creditworthiness. The individual may be a young Australian with a short credit history, or an individual who has faced a negative credit event and is rebuilding their credit score. The individual is somewhat likely to be approved for lower-risk level credit products, such as a car loan or basic credit card, assuming they meet all eligibility criteria. They may want to consider boosting their score into a higher category for approval for a home loan or premium credit cards.

Average (Experian: 550-624, Equifax: 510-621)

A credit score that falls into the ‘Fair category indicates a lower level of creditworthiness. The individual may have faced a negative credit event in the past, such as a default. The individual is less likely to be approved for credit products than those in higher-tier categories. They may want to consider boosting their score into a higher category before the apply for any credit products.

Below Average (Experian: 0-549, Equifax: 0-509)

A credit score that falls into the ‘Fair category indicates the individual has recently faced a negative credit event, such as bankruptcy and/or default. The individual is less likely to be approved for credit products than those in higher-tier categories. They may want to consider working on repairing their credit history and credit score before applying for any credit products. 

Your credit score explained

Your credit score is a numeric measure, usually between 0 and 1000, that tells banks, credit card companies, and loan agencies what your history has been like with paying your bills and debts.

Credit scores are a good indicator of whether lenders can trust you to repay a loan or debt in the future, and base your score on your credit history or experience of repaying loans or 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 also tell you about the incidents 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 incidents affecting it. Positive incidents 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 the duration you have occupied your current residence, the length of time you have been employed, and the depth of your credit history. 

If you register a series of positive incidents, credit rating bureaus are likely to view your credit profile more favourably, resulting in a higher credit rating overall. 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 rich yet without controversial events. On the other hand, a low credit score reflects more negative incidents and may make it 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 reflects your likelihood to incur further debt. Checking your credit score, however, isn’t considered either a positive or a negative event. 

While your credit score indicates how successfully you manage debt, it can change over time. This means you may want to take actions to remedy a bad credit rating, one of the reasons to consider checking your credit score periodically.

Sometimes, a low credit score may not be your fault at all, as incorrectly added personal details or a misreported debt can affect 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 requirements oblige banks and other credit lenders to report your financial status and activities to credit rating bureaus. Since 2014, these reports include both positive changes to your financial profile as well as negative incidents, whereas previously, it was mostly negative. 

Credit rating bureaus then use this information to build your credit report and compute your credit rating. Note that there must be information available about you to have a credit score. Never borrowing money doesn’t automatically imply that your credit score is going to be high; as far as your lender is concerned, your borrowing behaviour is unknown if you’ve never taken on debt of any kind.

When calculating your credit score, credit rating bureaus may assess your bank and credit card accounts for any past issues, including those that may have caused you to open further accounts, often to determine why you did so. As such, the history and frequency of your recent credit transactions may also be examined to understand your financial profile. Again, 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 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 the amount due 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 limit, and repaying the card debt entirely will likely 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 impacted by your utility and phone bills. Every bill of significant value that you need to pay periodically can affect your credit rating and can be included in your credit history. 

To get a direct understanding of how specific positive and negative incidents affect your credit rating, consider reaching out to any of the Australian credit reporting bureaus and access your credit report. You may then 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. 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 credit scores impact your finances

A 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.

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.

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

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. 

How you can help or hurt your credit score

Your credit history records both positive and negative events, which can influence your credit score for better or worse. Here are some of those beneficial and adverse events which can impact your credit score: 

Positive events which may help your credit score:

  • Checking your credit history for errors
  • Paying your bills on time
  • Growing a nest egg of savings
  • Paying off outstanding loans or credit card debt

Negative events which may hurt your credit score:

  • Multiple applications at once
  • Maxing out a credit card
  • Closing a credit card
  • Late payments on bills
  • Defaults
  • Bankruptcy

Are there any ways you can improve your credit score?

When you review your credit report, you should examine every aspect of it in detail, starting with your details. If any of your details, including your name and your driving license number, are recorded incorrectly, someone else’s financial transactions can get registered in your credit report. 

Consider checking the most recently recorded financial transactions to verify their accuracy. Explore whether the number of credit applications is mentioned correctly, or if there is a wrongly included debt marked against your name. An error-free credit report can be useful in understanding the impact of each credit transaction, and in gauging if you need to take steps to improve your credit score.

In case you need to fix your credit rating, one potentially positive move may be paying down any substantive accounts and reducing the number of credit accounts you have. The transactions already recorded in your credit report may guide you in identifying these accounts, or at least suggesting if you need to be more careful in applying for fresh credit. You can also check if you have simultaneously submitted loan applications to several lenders and if you have missed any payment deadlines to set yourself reminders to avoid doing so in the future.

Changing your credit history may not be possible, but you can certainly work on it with guidance. In Australia, there are several government agencies and community organisations that provide such counselling services for free. 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 by being unable to make payments on time, you may face harassment from lenders, which can, in turn, affect your ability to take prudent financial decisions and further affect your credit history. 

However, be careful about approaching agencies that claim they can repair your credit history or clear all previously recorded negative transactions. Instead, consider approaching any of the credit reporting bureaus directly to access and understand your credit report. 

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.

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.

Where can I check my credit report for free?

While you can get a free credit report in multiple ways, RateCity's own credit checking system allows you to find your score from two credit history systems, Experian and Equifax. 

When you request your free credit report, you'll likely need to supply some personal information, such as your name, contact details, and a personal identification, such as a drivers license number or another form of identification. 

Not only does a credit report show credit score, but it usually often contains positive and negative credit transactions covering the past five years of payments. 

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.

 

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.

What if your credit score has dropped for no reason

The importance of checking your credit score regularly is hard to overstate as the changes may not be as relevant to your life, and there may be the occasional error, but what should you do if it drops for no reason?

Credit reporting agencies calculate your credit score based on the information they receive from lenders, banks, credit card providers and utility companies, among others. This report takes into account both the credit enquiries these companies make, as well as your payment history with them, and may include other factors. But because some reports may come in at different times, delays can appear like drops. 

Suppose you missed paying a bill while on holidays and the supplier couldn’t reach you, or something like it -- in this instance, the provider may report the default to the credit reporting agency, which can cause your credit score to fall when the credit reporting agency eventually sees the information. Because of an obvious delay, the drop can seem random.

Regularly checking your credit score and the transactions that have appeared can provide some understanding as to why a credit score drop might have occurred, and even provide some understanding as to how you can fix the drop, improving your credit score in the process. 

How regularly does your credit score change?

There are plenty of things that can affect your credit score, but when they'll impact it can vary wildly, and often depend on when the information has been passed on.

Every credit enquiry is noted on your credit file, and this impacts your credit score. Thanks to Comprehensive Credit Reporting (CCR), it means you both positive and negative transactions can impact your score, but so, too, can the frequency. For instance, if you apply too often for credit cards or apply with multiple lenders for a home loan and aren't successful, you may see a decline. 

How long this information take to pass on is an important question, but the length of time often depends on the credit reporting agency. Some transactions can take a small amount of time, while others take much longer. For that reason, it's important to check your credit history regularly so you can be more aware of what your credit score looks like, and if you need to correct any of the statements made on it. 

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.