We saw in our introductory article why credit worthiness matters. We learnt that law changes in March 2014 altered what information is collected for your credit file—and how this ‘positive’ reporting can help you. But your credit score is not fixed. Here are our top 10 tips to improve it.
1. Check out your credit file to see where you stand
See if there’s an area you need to address. The credit reporting bodies we use are:
You’re entitled by law to get one free credit report every 12 months, or within 90 days of receiving a credit rejection. For a small fee you can request a report at any time.
2. Ensure your credit file is fair and accurate
Many Australians have errors on their file. It might be identity theft; it might be just a simple mistake by the lender. But when there’s a mistake on your report, you’ll need to contact (a) your credit provider, (b) the credit reporting agency, (and then, if need be) (c) the office of the Privacy Commissioner.
3. Create a relationship with your bank
If you’ve got money regularly coming in, and a bit of a savings record building up, it’s proof you’re a sensible soul (and a good risk).
4. Have a credit card
Oddly, having no debt at all doesn’t make you more creditworthy. Instead measured credit card use (and prompt on-time payments) is evidence of an ability to manage debt. If you’re not good at managing a credit card, cut your credit card limit right back. It’s also wise to only use it for purchases you know you can afford to repay.
5. Don’t apply for too many credit cards
Each credit application you make is added to your file and lowers your score. Why? Because too-frequent applications can be a sign of financial desperation.
Unfortunately, the ease of online applications—and the fact some customers enter ‘trial’ submissions (to work out what the best deal is)—mean many have a heap on their file.
So do your research online—but talk to lenders rather than formally applying (until you’re sure what you want).
6. Pay your credit card and loans on time
Have a reminder system so you’re never late with your credit card bill. Even better set up a direct debit to cover your minimum payment.
Your credit card—and loan—info is recorded on your report for two years.
7. Demonstrate general bill-paying reliability
Although your credit report does not include information about your repayments of utility bills (electricity, water or gas) or phone bills (home, mobile and internet), it’s important to pay these bills when they’re due.
If you don't make payment on these services, your credit provider may refer your debt to a debt collector and/or report your debt to a credit reporting agency — asking them to record the default on your credit report.
8. Use a variety of credit types
If you’re able to successfully manage several debts—say a car loan, a credit card, a mortgage— your credit score will rise.
9. Don’t throw away a rarely-used card
Even if you’ve finished paying your credit card debts, don’t close the account. Keeping it open, with no negative reports, will impact favourably on your overall score.
10. Don’t change houses and jobs frequently
Lenders want evidence that you’re a stable character. They want to see you have staying power—that you’re not here one day, gone the next. They want evidence of stability.