Turns out there are a bunch of ways to get a great credit score.
Good credit is ideal. But how do you get there? Perform a quick search for "How to get a good credit score" and the majority of articles will be filled with phrases such as credit utilisation and FICO. These US terms are of little use to us Australians, and unfortunately, the path to good credit is a little murkier down here.
We wanted to clear that path up a bit, so we hunted down five people with "excellent" and "very good" credit score ratings (the top two tiers in Equifax's rating system) to find out what we can learn from their good credit behaviour.
Who are our good credit scorers?
Who are our good credit scorers?
- Brian (excellent)
- Laura (excellent)
- John (very good)
- Alexa (very good)
- Lee (very good)
How did they get such good credit?
- Making payments on time
- Having a long credit history
- No or few credit accounts
- Debt consolidation
Brian believes it's because he's never defaulted on a credit card payment and never taken out a loan.
"Apart from the home loan, which I took out after I got this score," he said.
Paying on time was the story for Laura and John as well.
"I have no debt, no loans (other than HECS) and I have a credit card but I don’t use it. I’m never late with any of my payments for bills or anything like that. I have no personal loans or car loans," said John.
Laura also has no credit accounts and has set up automated payments to make sure she pays everything on time.
"I’ve had a few credit cards, I have a personal loan at the moment and I’ve opened and closed these credit accounts a few times to get a better deal or to consolidate debt. I've also never been late with payments. Unless my account hits $0 or something," she said.
Alexa, who does have a few credit cards that she uses for travel, believes it has to do with her long credit history: "I think I started on a phone plan when I was 18."
And as for Lee, he believes the secret lies in debt consolidation and closing credit accounts.
"I’ve had a few credit cards, I have a personal loan at the moment and I’ve opened and closed these credit accounts a few times to get a better deal or to consolidate debt."
Have they actively done anything to get such good credit? Would they do the following?
- Order their credit file and educate themselves
- Focus on managing and improving their finances
- Make sure their bills get paid
Not many of our good credit scorers have actively worked at improving their credit score. Good credit, it seems, came naturally with good financial behaviour. Take Alexa, for example.
"After I got my score, I read up on it. I was interested because I want to buy a house in the future. I always get things in the post talking about borrowing capacity and credit limits, and now I’m glad I haven’t taken up those offers because I might not have as good a credit score."
"Plus," she added, "I've lived overseas and I've lived in a few rental properties so I was worried about unpaid bills. Just to be safe I get my bills sent to my parent’s house."
Laura and Brian both admitted they wouldn't know how to improve their credit score if it dipped below its current level but would look into it if that happened.
"I would probably order my credit file," Laura said.
John said the problem of improving his score is that because he has no credit products, such as loans or credit cards, he wouldn't know what to do.
Lee didn't focus on improving his score but rather on improving his finances.
"When I was paying too high a rate on my personal loan, I refinanced it and cut my rate in half. At the same time, I consolidated my credit card debt into the loan. When I was younger, I took out a credit card I didn’t need, and while I could have left it open and just not used it, I closed it because the banks see the credit limit you have, not the debt you owe. I suppose this was all good for my score."
Have these great credit scores actually helped with the following?
- Helped get a low rate on a peer-to-peer loan
- Helped get a home loan
- Provided future potential to access credit
For a few of our good credit scorers, they have yet to reap any of the benefits.
"It hasn't helped me yet but, it's given me the confidence if I want to take out a loan in the future," said Laura.
There's more in the potential of the score for John as well.
"I have a credit card but I know it will be easier to be approved for a loan and my credit score has the potential to be very helpful," he said.
And while Alexa has had a couple of credit cards for travel, she believes her credit score will help her in the future.
"I want to take out a home loan, so I want to keep it high."
For Lee and Brian, the effect of their good credit scores was more apparent.
"I was paying a high rate on a personal loan from a bank. When I refinanced it with a peer-to-peer lender, my credit score directly led me to get half the rate my bank was offering me," Lee said.
Brian also believes it helped him access credit.
"It’s helped me get a home loan," he said. "It’s also always been easy for me to get credit cards. At one time, I was with about four or five different banks with no issue."
There are a number of ways people get their credit score in the top tiers. Find out what strategies work for you and see where your credit is now by checking for free with finder.com.au.