Find out where your credit history stands and take the next step towards better credit.
A listing on your credit file such as a defaulted payment, a debt agreement or even multiple credit enquiries, can all make up what is known as "bad credit". While bad credit is a blanket term, it means a lot of different things to different people and can last varying amounts of time – from a few months to seven years. In the guide below you'll learn more about what bad credit is, what options you have for bad credit finance and how you can improve your credit standing.
What is defined as "bad credit history"?
Speak to two different people who have bad credit and you will likely hear two very different stories. If you look at their credit files it's also likely you'll see varying degrees of what bad credit can mean. Any negative listing on your credit file can mean you have bad credit. This includes a late payment, a bankruptcy, or making multiple applications for credit in a short space of time. However, all of these are not equally "bad".
For example, someone who is bankrupt will have a harder time getting a loan than someone who has three credit enquiries listed on their credit file six months ago. Typically, when you apply for a credit account the lender will use the information on your file to judge whether you are a good candidate for a loan. Defaults, bankruptcies, debt agreements and similar listings will be taken seriously, so you may need to consider your bad credit loan options if you have these on your file. If you have other listings, such as late payments or you have made multiple applications for credit recently (in the last three months) the lender will consider this when you apply, but you may not necessarily be automatically disqualified for a loan or credit card.
How does having bad credit history affect you?
Having bad credit can affect you in more ways than you may realise. Any type of provider that requires a credit contract will check your credit history, and if you have negative listings you may not be able to be approved. While you may be aware that most lenders check your credit file when approving you for a loan or credit card, other providers will check your credit file as well. For example, if you want a mobile phone contract, the mobile phone provider will check your credit history. If you have negative listings on your file you may not be approved for the contract.
If you're applying for a personal loan, credit card or home loan, you may find your options limited to lenders with more flexible criteria; bad credit products; or products with tiered rates (with bad credit applicants charged a higher rate).
Types of negative credit listings
There are various types of negative credit listings, and not all remain in your credit file for the same amount of time.
- Late payments. If you make your loan or credit card repayments more than 14 days past the due date it can be recorded on your credit file. This information stays on your file for up to two years. While one late payment may impact your credit rating, regularly making your payments late may indicate to lenders that you can't manage your credit accounts.
- Credit applications. Applying for credit accounts is not in itself a sign of bad credit. However, making multiple applications in a short space of time, for example, one to three months, may indicate to lenders that you are financially stressed. It's best practice to space out your applications for credit if possible.
- Overdue accounts. An overdue debt, such as a phone or electricity bill, can be listed on your credit report when it's overdue by 60 days or more and when the debt is at least $150. This is referred to as a consumer payment default. The telco or utility provider needs to be licenced credit provider to list the debt on your credit file and they need to have sent a written notice. Once the debt is paid the listing will be updated, but not removed, and will remain on your file. If the account is still open the listing will show "payment status – current".
- Serious credit infringements and clearouts. If you owe a credit provider money and appear to, or leave your current address without providing a new address, this is a serious credit infringement. For a credit infringement to be listed the provider needs to first list the default, have attempted to contact you a number of times and not had contact from for you for six months. Credit infringements remain on your report for seven years, but if they're paid they revert back to a default and remain on there for five.
- Bankruptcies and debt agreements. If you enter into a debt agreement or bankruptcy this will be listed on your credit file. Bankruptcy remains on your file for five years from the date you became bankrupt or two years from the date you're discharged, whichever is later. If you enter into a debt agreement it will appear on your credit file for five years, or longer in some cases.
What options do you have if you have bad credit?
If you have bad credit you should find out exactly what’s in your credit file to know where you stand. You can order a copy of your credit file for free once each year, which takes 10 days to be delivered. You can pay a fee to have it delivered sooner. Once you have your credit file you can go through each listing to ensure they are accurate and to see what your situation is.
If you have defaults and other similar negative listings on your file you still have options for finance:
- Personal loans. Whether you're looking for a larger loan up to $5,000 or even up to $10,000, there are lenders that may consider you. You can also consider some of your short-term loan options where you can borrow smaller amounts – between $100 and $2,000 – for between 16 days and one year.
- Home loans. If you are in a stable financial situation and don't want to wait for the negative listings to come off your file, you can consider some of the bad credit home loan options that are available.
- Credit cards. There are no "bad credit" credit cards available in the Australian market. However, there are other ways for you to access your money. You can opt for a prepaid debit card to access your own funds, or if you already have a loan with a short-term lender, you can take advantage of some of the prepaid debit cards they have on offer. Depending on your credit history and your relationship with your current bank, you may also be able to get a low limit credit card from them.
Frequently asked questions
What details do I have to provide to get a copy of my credit file?
You’ll need to provide your name, date of birth, current and previous addresses, daytime phone number, and the name of employer. You’d also have to submit a copy of your passport, driver’s license, proof of age card, or birth certificate and indicate where you last applied for credit.
How do I go about fixing an error on my credit file?
If you spot an error, get in touch with the lender in question and ask it them to rectify the mistake. If you’re not happy with the way the lender handles this, you can always get in touch with the relevant Ombudsman service.
Can you have information removed from your credit file?
You can only have listings removed if they were listed there in the first place. You can find out more about credit repair on this page.