Your credit score helps to determine your borrowing power – find out how you can keep an eye on it and take action to give yourself the best possible rating.
Your financial history as a borrower is documented in your credit report, and your credit score is calculated using that information. Lenders can use this score, along with your report, to assess the risk involved in lending to you, and how likely it is that you will miss a payment or default on your loan.
Keeping tabs on your credit score can help keep your financial reputation in check and improve the chance of an application being approved. However, keep in mind that you should still check your credit report regularly to get a comprehensive view of your credit history.
What is a credit score?
There are a few credit reporting agencies in Australia that collect your financial information and document it on your credit report. As each credit reporting bureau collects data differently, each credit report may be different. Each credit bureau may also calculate a credit score to support your credit report and help lenders make better credit decisions.
Each of these scores is calculated by the individual credit reporting agency and so will be different.
How does a credit score work?
Credit providers use your credit history to determine whether you are eligible for credit. Equifax has a unique scoring system that ranks all credit-active individuals in its database on a scale of 0 to 1200. Higher scores indicate lower credit risk while lower scores indicate the likelihood of a default. Here is the risk grade used on a Equifax Score:
|Credit position||Equifax Score||Percentile||What it means|
|Excellent||833-1200||0-20%||It's highly unlikely an adverse event will harm your credit in the next 12 months.|
|Very good||726-832||21-40%||You're twice as likely as the rest of credit-active population of Equifax in Australia to keep a clean credit report and it's unlikely you'll incur an adverse event, such as a default or court judgement, in the next 12 months.|
|Good||622-725||41-60%||With this score range, you're less likely to declare bankruptcy, miss a payment on a debt or have a court writ or judgment included in your credit file, indicating less likelihood of a default.|
|Average||510-621||61-80%||A credit score in this range indicates it's likely an adverse event such as a default, bankruptcy or something similar will be recorded on your file in the next year.|
|Below average||0-509||81-100%||This score range indicates a very high likelihood of adverse events being listed on your credit file within the coming year. Such events may include court judgments, bankruptcies, insolvency or defaults.|
How is my score calculated?
Your credit score is displayed as a number and lenders apply it to their own lending criteria to determine whether you are eligible to borrow from them. For example, your Equifax Score will be a number between zero and 1200. Here is a guide to the factors looked at while calculating your credit score:
- The type of credit provider. Lenders apply different criteria to approve your credit application, so the type of credit provider listed on your file is factored in when determining your credit score. For instance, the level of risk associated with a utility company will differ from that of a bank.
- Type and size of credit. Different types of credit will carry different types of risk, as will larger loan sizes and credit limits. However, secured loans such as mortgages, while larger, will be calculated differently.
- The age of your credit report. If you've only had a credit report for a short while it will be treated differently to a credit report that has been active for a number of years. A new credit file may be riskier than an older credit file.
- Credit enquiries. Every time you apply for a loan, credit card or even interest-free finance it will be listed on your credit file. If you have multiple loan applications in a short space of time it could hurt your credit score. Your pattern of credit enquiries over time is also looked at. For instance, if you have a new credit report with multiple credit enquiries it will be treated differently to a credit report with the same number of credit enquiries spread over time.
- Personal details. Details of your employment history, age and length of employment, or even how long you have been at your current home address, could affect the level of credit risk assigned to you.
- Negative credit listings. Equifax looks at the number of serious infringements on your credit report to better understand your financial reliability and hence your credit score. The number of defaults, clearouts or outstanding debts on your credit history directly impacts how high your credit score will be.
- Court writs or default judgments. The number of court judgments, personal insolvencies, writs and bankruptcies or other public documents on your credit file will determine how high your score will be.
How do I check my credit score?
To check your credit score you need to submit a request to see it to one of the Australian credit reporting agencies. This score may be free or come at a charge, depending on the agency. Here's how to access your credit score:
- Equifax. If you want to find out your Equifax Score you'll need to sign up for a one-year package with Equifax, which costs $79.95. You can access your file for free but your credit file can only be seen with the package. The Equifax Starter pack includes instant delivery of your credit report, your Equifax Score plus additional discounted credit reports.
- Experian. Your Experian credit score is sent free with your credit report, which you can get for free within 10 days. Email an Experian Credit Report request with the required documents to receive your credit score and report.
- Dun and Bradstreet. You can check a company's D&B rating as part of the D&B credit report. The rating combines a company's size and balance sheet information to help clients evaluate its financial credibility and risk.
- GetCreditScore. If you want to access your Equifax Score for free you can do so through this online service. It has been developed by SocietyOne and Equifax.
- Credit Savvy. Also a free service, you can receive your Experian Credit Score and a credit report with Credit Savvy. This online service is backed by Aussie.
Do I need to check my credit file as well as my credit score?
It's important to keep an eye on your credit file as well as your credit score. You're entitled to one free credit report check per year and you can also order a copy if you've recently been denied credit. Keeping an eye on your credit file can help keep the following things in check:
- Checking for incorrect defaults. In some cases, erroneous listings are a reason for a bad credit score. Checking your credit report can reveal incorrect accounts, debts wrongly listed as defaults or debts listed twice, which can then be removed to improve your score.
- Looking for incorrect personal information. Incorrect information about your current address can be detrimental to your credit reputation. This would mean that bills and other notices from credit providers would not reach you, leading to more default listings on your credit file.
- Monitoring instances of identity theft. Check your credit file regularly to ensure that there are no foreign credit applications or bills not known to you, as these might indicate that you have been a victim of identity theft.
How do I get a copy of my credit file?
You can receive your credit file from any of the main credit reporting bureaus in Australia. You can order a free copy once a year and receive it in 10 working days, or you can pay a fee to access it in 24 hours as often as you need to.
Credit reporting agencies can also help you make sense of the information in your credit file and correct personal details that could be entered incorrectly. Should you find any erroneous listings on your credit file, you can request corrections or have notes added to the credit report to better your credit reputation and raise your credit score.
FAQ about your credit score
What is a Equifax Score?
This is a credit risk ranking score that compares different credit-active individuals held in the Equifax database. It may be used by a credit provider to assess the risk associated with approving your request for credit. The score is calculated using factors derived from the information in your credit history.
How can erroneous credit applications be corrected?
Credit applications made by fraudsters or credit accounts that are not yours but are wrongfully listed on your credit report can only be removed by the credit provider who listed them. You should get in contact with the credit provider to remove the listing or follow up with the Credit Ombudsmen if the issue is not resolved.
How can I improve my credit score?
You can do this by spacing out or limiting your credit enquiries, paying all your debts on time and clearing your credit card debt in full every month. Utility bill payments and rent payments should also be made on time.