Want to be in a better position the next time you apply for credit? Find out everything you need to know about your credit file.
Your credit file contains information lenders and other providers use to assess you when you apply for certain products and services. Your credit file contains a variety of information including personal details, credit accounts you've applied for, accounts you've defaulted on and more. It's important to understand each part of your credit file and that you also know what's on there so that the next time you apply for credit you are in the best possible position to be approved. The guide below will take you through what you need to know.
What is a credit file?
A credit file is a collection of information obtained from credit card providers, banks, mortgage providers and utility service providers. The financial information in your file is used by lenders to assess your ability to repay debt and manage loans. Lenders and service providers look at credit files to avoid the risk of giving credit to known defaulters or people with bankruptcy or insolvency issues, or, if they are offering credit to those borrowers, they may usually charge a higher rate.
What information is in my credit report?
Your credit file contains all your financial information, including repayment history, current debt, commercial and personal loans applied for and other details to help lenders assess risk when giving you credit. Here are the details contained in a credit report:
- Personal information. Your name and date of birth, your current address, where you work, your driver’s license details and your gender are listed in your credit file.
- Default notes. This is information on any overdue debts you might have, payments you've missed on loans and utility bills and other serious credit infringements.
- Information that is public record. This section will contain any information that is held in the public record including bankruptcy notes, court writs and judgments, personal insolvency agreements and directorship or proprietorship information.
- Consumer credit information. This includes credit applications you've made in the last five years (whether they were approved or not), the type of those credit accounts, such as credit card or personal loans, account open and close dates, the credit limit of the accounts, your monthly repayment history on credit accounts and details on overdue accounts.
- Commercial credit information. Details of credit enquiries you may have made for commercial purposes and overdue commercial credit accounts are included in this section.
- Joint applicants. If you've applied for any loans or credit cards as a joint borrower this will be listed on your report.
How long is information held on my file?
Following the introduction of comprehensive credit reporting, both positive and negative listings are recorded by credit providers. However, it is the negative listings such as bankruptcies and overdue accounts that will be listed on your file for longer and impact your ability to access credit. Use the following as a guide for how long listings will appear on your file:
|Type of listing||Length of time it's listed (years)||Description|
|Payment history information||2||Monthly repayment history information on active credit accounts.|
|Credit enquiries||5||Applications made to utility companies, banks or lenders for services or credit products (whether approved or not).|
|Overdue accounts listed as a payment default||5||Overdue accounts of $150 or more that is 60 days or more overdue.|
|Writs and summons||5||An invitation to appear in court to settle a debt. A writ is similar to a summons but is for a higher court.|
|Court judgements||5||Once you've been through the court process the court judgement will remain on your credit file for 5 years.|
|Bankruptcy information||5||If you enter into bankruptcy it will be removed from your file two years from the date you're discharged or five years from the date you became bankrupt, whichever is later.|
|Overdue accounts listed as a clearout or serious credit infringement||5-7||Overdue accounts in default where the credit provider hasn't been able to contact you for 6 months. Can be listed for 7 years from the time they're listed but drop back to 5 years as a default listing once it's paid.|
How do I get a copy of my credit report?
It's a good idea to check your credit file for incorrect information and to ensure your credit position is where you think it is. You can order a free copy once a year or if you've been recently refused credit. You also have the option of signing up for a credit monitoring service or buying a one-off credit report.
You can get your credit file from any one of the three main credit report agencies; Equifax, Dun & Bradstreet or Experian. If you need your file sent urgently you will need to pay a fee, otherwise you can have it delivered to you for free within ten working days.
What should I check on my credit file?
When you order your credit file you should go through the following details:
- Personal information. Ensure all of your personal details are correct. This is to limit the chance of identity theft or being rejected for credit because of a misspelt first name.
- Incorrect defaults. Credit reporting agencies or lenders might list a default incorrectly into your file. A default could be listed twice or you could have a default listed for an account you paid on time. If you find an incorrect default talk to the credit reporting bureau first, then if that doesn't rectify it you should contact the credit provider. A full process for dealing with incorrect listings is outlined below.
How can I deal with incorrect listings?
- Contact the credit reporting bureau first. It may be able to remove it or contact the credit provider on your behalf to have it removed. If not;
- Contact the credit provider that listed it and explain why the listing is incorrect. The credit provider should have a dispute resolution team or process in place. You can also contact the Financial Ombudsmen Service or the Credit and Investments Ombudsmen. If that doesn't rectify it;
- Contact the Privacy Commissioner. This should be the last stop if the provider's dispute resolution scheme fails to rectify the issue. You only have 12 months from the date you became aware of the issue to file a complaint.
Frequently asked questions
I've never applied for a loan or credit card. Do I have a credit report?
Even if you have never applied for a credit product with a bank or standalone lender you may still have a credit report. If you've had a mobile phone contract or held a utility contract in your name, this is a form of credit. You may have also had interest-free store finance which is a type of credit card and listed on your credit file.
Do I have to request information be taken off my file or is it taken off automatically?
When it's time for the listing to be removed the credit reporting agency will remove it for you. If you find that the listing has not been taken off when it should have been you can get in touch with the credit reporting agency to have it removed.
Is my credit file the same with each provider?
There are different reporting bureaus and each will have access to different sources, so your credit score may be different with each one, but your credit file should remain the same. However, it's best to check your credit file with each bureau to ensure it's correct. If you live in Tasmania you should check your credit report with the Tasmanian Collection Service and Equifax. All other states should order their reports from Equifax, Dun and Bradstreet and Experian.
Can paying my bills late affect my credit file?
Yes it can. Unpaid electricity or phone bills that are overdue can be listed as defaults after 60 days, though the credit provider has to inform you of the overdue bill before adding a listing to your credit report.
If I'm refused credit does it affect my credit file?
Yes. All credit enquiries are listed on your file and any refused applications may be a red flag to lenders. Avoid making too many applications in a short space of time or you'll have a hard time being approved for credit.
Under what circumstances can you obtain a free copy of your credit file?
You can get your credit file from a credit reporting agency every 12 months or when you are denied customer credit, that is a loan or credit card in the preceding 90 days.