Your credit report is a comprehensive record of your borrowing history and it may directly affect your ability to access credit. If you’re keen to learn more, then read on. Monzi has put together a complete guide covering everything you need to know. Let’s go!
Monzi is a lender-finding service. We do not offer financial advice. Consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice to check how the information and ideas presented on this website relate to your unique circumstances.
What is a credit report?
A credit report is a record of a borrower’s credit history. In other words, it provides a summary of how you’ve managed your credit contracts in the past.
It will list the types and details of your credit contracts including account balances and repayment history. Furthermore, it will list any issues you may have had including defaults or bankruptcies as well as a number of other details.
In short, your credit file is a profile of you and your money borrowing habits. Lenders can access it in order to assess your trustworthiness and reliability when it comes to making repayments. In many cases, it will directly impact your access to credit.
As a result, it’s important to understand and stay on top of your credit history. So, read on and we’ll show you how.
Why is my credit report important?
Whether you’re applying for a personal loan, a mortgage or even just trying to rent an apartment, your credit history will almost certainly come into play.
Lenders often consider your credit history when you apply for an instant approval personal loan. It’s simply part of their decision-making process and gives them an insight into you as a borrower. From this, they can determine if they should extend credit to you.
If in the past, you’ve made repayments on time and been consistent and reliable in paying off your debts, then lenders may consider approving you.
On the other hand though, if you regularly default on repayments or have been bankrupt in the past, lenders may see you as a risk and be unwilling to lend you money.
Above all, the importance of credit history can be summed up by the old adage, past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.
Who controls my credit report?
Credit reports are typically a mystery to most people because, unless you seek out a copy, it is kept updated and monitored without you even knowing.
In Australia, this is done by a few credit agencies, namely Equifax and Experian. Veda was another credit agency however, they have since been acquired by Equifax. So, in the past what was a Veda report is now an Equifax report.
In any case, these agencies exist to keep a record of your credit information. They receive and collate information about you from lenders, banks (including neobanks), credit card companies and a host of other sources in order to build your individual file.
What’s listed on my credit report?
The exact details of your report and what is listed will typically vary between agencies. In any case, there are plenty of common examples of listings that will always be present.
In general, an Experian and Equifax free report will list the following information:
- Personal information: name, date of birth, address etc.
- The types of credit you’ve applied for (e.g. bad credit loans)
- The amount of credit borrowed
- Your repayment history (including missed repayments etc.)
- Any credit inquiries
Note that the introduction of Comprehensive Credit Reporting has meant that more information is now recorded and as a result, consumers are benefitting. Moreover, this is also related to the new legislation regarding open banking.
How long do listings remain on my credit report?
The nature of the listing will determine how long it remains on your credit file. Some listings may be present for just two years while others can hang around for up to seven.
As a result, see below for typical listing time frames:
- Repayment history.
- Credit enquiries
- Overdue accounts listed as defaults
- Court judgements: a decision made by a court that requires you to pay a credit provider
- Bankruptcy (although this may last longer).
- An overdue account that is listed as a serious credit infringement.
What’s the difference between my credit report and score?
To be clear, your report and credit score are two different things.
Firstly, as we’ve discussed, your credit file is a comprehensive record of your history as a borrower. It details the loans and credit accounts that you’ve held or applied for in the past.
On the other hand, your credit score is simply a number calculated by taking into account the information listed on your credit score. The number, which can range from 0 to 1000 or 1200, reflects your creditworthiness. In short, your trustworthiness as a borrower.
What does my credit score mean?
Based on your report, a credit score will be calculated for you. In Australia, you will be rated on a five-point scale based on your credit score. The higher the score, the more trustworthy you are viewed as.
From lowest to highest, the five ratings are below average, average, good, very good and excellent.
Bear in mind, reporting agencies may vary in how they calculate your score. Therefore, it may be worth accessing your score from more than one provider.
Breaking down the scale
Before getting to the credit score itself, it’s handy to know what each rating means. While an “excellent” credit score sounds wonderful, it probably means nothing to you.
So, we’ve provided the table below to give you context.
Equifax credit scores
Credit scores with Equifax range from 0 to 1,200. Ratings of these credit scores are defined below:
- Excellent over 833
- Very good between 726 and 832
- Good between 622 and 725
- Average 510 to 621
- Below average 509 and below.
Experian credit scores
Experian, on the other hand, will provide you with a credit score between 0 and 1,000.
- Excellent 800 – 1,000
- Very good 700 – 799
- Good 625 – 699
- Fair 550 – 624
- Weak 549 and below.
How is my credit score calculated?
While the formula might be tricky, the logic is easy. Your credit score is a reflection of your credit history. In other words, it boils your borrowing history down into one simple figure.
By looking at your credit score, potential lenders can get an instant idea of you as a borrower.
So, to calculate your credit score, agencies will typically consider the following information.
- Your past borrowing habits: what kind of credit have you applied for? How much have you borrowed?
- The number of credit applications and inquiries you have made
- Your repayment history
- Outstanding, overdue or unpaid debt
Improving your credit score
While it is possible to improve your credit score, there is no instant fix. After all, your credit score is based on your credit history. Given that listing may be present for up to seven years, it can take time for your past mistakes to be erased.
In short, consistently displaying good borrowing will help improve your credit score. Here are some examples of how you can begin to repair your credit:
- Stop making new applications for credit
- Make all repayments on time
- Pay off any outstanding debts and keep credit account balances low
- Regularly review your report; ensure there are no mistakes of incorrect listings.
Will my credit report and score be the same across all agencies?
While it may be similar, if you request a copy of your credit score from two or more agencies you will likely notice some differences.
Firstly, your credit score will likely be different. This is because while some agencies will use a 0 to 1,000 scale, others use a 0 to 1,200 scale.
Moving beyond this, differences in listings may exist because each agency will receive information from various sources. These sources may not be identical meaning agencies may receive differing information.
Typically, the differences will not be major and will only result in slight variances. Large differences may reflect errors or incorrect listings and should be followed up.
Can I access my free credit report Australia?
You are more than welcome to access a copy of your report Australia at any time. Moreover, you’re entitled to one free copy per year. That means you can complete an annual report check to ensure there are no errors or issues.
In order to access your credit file, get in contact with one of the following credit agencies and they may be able to provide you with a copy.
- PO Box 966, North Sydney, New South Wales 2059
- Call 13 83 32
- PO Box 7405, St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Victoria 3004
- Call 1300 734 806
- GPO Box 1969, North Sydney, New South Wales 2060
- Call 1300 783 684
In most cases, it may take up to 10 days to receive a copy of your report. However, you may need to pay a fee if you wish to speed the process up.
How often can I check my credit report?
The short answer is as often as you like. However, this does come with a caveat.
You can receive a free copy of your report once a year by getting in touch with the relevant agency. Typically, there will be a wait time of about 10 days and you will be required to prove your identity. That means you may need to provide a copy of your driver’s licence, passport, birth certificate or other such documents.
You are more than welcome to request a copy of your credit file at any time and as often as you like. However, if you need more than one copy in a year, you may have to pay a fee.
In general, accessing your report annually is wise. That way you can stay on top of your credit listings and check your report for any errors.
What will I need to get a copy of my report?
In order to access your report, you must confirm your identity first. Typically, this will involve providing some or all of the following details:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Current address
- Contact information
- Copy of driver’s licence, birth certificate and/or passport
- Proof of address.
Does checking my credit report change my credit score?
Checking your own credit score is “soft inquiry.” These inquiries have no impact on your credit score. In fact, depending on your credit bureau, they may not even be recorded.
On the other hand, “hard inquiries” will impact your credit score. A hard inquiry occurs when you apply for a cash loan or credit card. Lenders will view your credit history and this will be recorded. Multiple inquiries in a short period can lower your credit score.
Errors, mistakes and incorrect listings
Unfortunately, errors are a part of life. When it comes to your credit file, it’s no different. While they will never be made intentionally, from time to time an inaccurate listing may appear on your credit history.
If you do come across what you think is an error, get in contact with the reporting agency immediately so they can investigate. If it’s found to be erroneous it can be removed from your report.
Given that errors can occur, it’s a further reminder to check your report on a regular basis. Go over it with a fine-toothed comb to ensure all the information is accurate. The last thing you want is to be denied a credit application because a mistake is present in your report.
What are some examples of mistakes?
These errors can take many forms. While some may be minor and will have little impact on your credit score, others can be more serious.
Common examples include:
- Incorrect personal details. These errors are minor. It may be something as simple as an incorrect address that has yet to be updated.
- Expired listings. Listings should only be present on your account for a certain period of time. Check to make sure there are no expired listings on your report.
- Loan details. Are the debt amounts and repayment records correct? Are there any duplicate debts listed?
- Incorrect defaults. Includes processing errors. The creditor failed to provide updated information as to the status of your debt. Can lead to defaults being recorded.
- Fraudulent applications. Fraudulent transactions and applications may be listed on your report if you’ve had your identity stolen.
How do I get an error removed?
If you do come across an error, then there are steps you can take to resolve the situation. Credit reporting agencies are obligated to investigate reported errors and it is their responsibility to prove that the listing is valid.
Generally, the process will be as follows:
Step one: check your records
If you believe there’s an error, your first step is to verify it. Check your bank statements and payment history to confirm your suspicions.
Step two: gather evidence
Supporting documentation is critical. If you have evidence that the listing is incorrect then it should be dealt with quickly.
Step three: submit your complaint
In order to contest a listing, you will need to contact either the credit reporting agency or the credit provider directly. They will work with you to investigate the situation to provide you with a resolution.
Step four: escalate it
If the agency fails to investigate your error or you feel their response is inadequate, there are further dispute resolution options available. You can take your complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority who will act on your behalf.
Further steps to fix listings on your credit report
If, after contacting your creditor about a listing you believe is erroneous, you are not happy with their response, there are options available to you.
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) provides free assistance and will look into whether the credit listing in question is incorrect and should be removed. As the ombudsman responsible for providing fair and independent solutions for financial disputes, they will assess your complaint in an unbiased fashion and have the power to order credit reporting agencies to remove incorrect listings.
The relevant ombudsman will depend on your debt type as well as your location. See below for details.
Australian Financial Complaints Authority
- Relevant debts: Personal loans, credit cards, bank loans, investment products and insurance
- Call AFCA on 1800 931 678 for free from anywhere in Australia.
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
- Cover debts related to landlines and mobile phones as well as internet service providers.
- Call 1800 062 058
State-wide utility ombudsman
- Debt types: electricity, gas or water
- New South Wales – 1800 246 545
- Victoria – 1800 500 509
- Queensland – 1800 662 837
- Western Australia – 1800 754 004
- Tasmania – 1800 001 170.
How often does my credit report update?
The information in your report changes and updates all the time. Credit reporting agencies get information from a number of different sources and when they receive this information, your report is updated.
For example, new listings will be made if you apply for credit, close an account or default on a payment.
Do keep in mind though that it will not update right away. In other words, your report cannot be updated until the credit provider sends the necessary information.
Scammers: be aware
As a word of warning, it’s important to be vigilant when it comes to your credit history. If you search terms like “get credit report today” on Google you may come across a number of misleading websites.
In many cases, these websites will pretend to be reporting agencies and will lure you in with promises such as get your free instant online credit report today. In reality, they are simply designed to trick you into providing your personal details.
As such before getting a report online, be sure the agency you are dealing with is verified and genuine (e.g. Equifax).
As a rule, never respond to unsolicited emails offering free services. Furthermore, credit agencies won’t require your credit card details so if this is requested it should be viewed as a red flag.
While we’ve tried to provide you with a comprehensive guide of all things credit history, there’s plenty more information online. For example, ASIC’s Moneysmart website is an excellent tool that provides Aussies with detailed and impartial financial information.