What’s a good credit score? Depends on your age
How credit scores vary across Australia, and why it matters to you.
Australians who have checked their credit score are more likely to have a missed a credit card repayment, and far more likely to have missed a mortgage repayment. This suggests that many people only check their score once they have run into some financial trouble, and have been declined for a loan or credit card. This is just about the worst time to find out that you have a bad credit rating. There’s a general perception that checking your credit score will have some sort of negative effect on it - in fact in a recent survey we found that one in four Australians believe this. The reality is that you can check your score for free, and doing so will not affect it. The video below discusses what exactly makes a good score.
So - are Territorians really that bad with credit, and what’s so special about Tasmania? First it’s important to note that all of the state medians fall into the bracket of a “very good” credit score (726-832). Now have a look at the second chart - this depicts the median credit score by age in our sample data. Perhaps unsurprisingly, credit scores increase with age. The average credit score for an 18-year-old, the age at which most Aussies will sign their first contracts and start establishing a credit history, is only 424. One year later, however, the median jumps to 672. From here, for most, it’s a fairly predictable journey involving graduating from school or university, starting a career, buying a first car or home, getting married, starting a family, sending kids to university and eventually retiring with a paid-off mortgage. Family capital increases through this whole journey, and as this happens credit becomes easier to access. This can, to a degree, help explain the difference between the states.
Tasmania, with the highest median credit score of 789.5 also has the highest median age (42). The Northern Territory, with the lowest score (758) has the lowest median age (32). The states in between don’t really fall into line. South Australia and Queensland, for example, have the same median age of 40 but very different median credit scores, so there's more to the state-by-state variance than just median age.
Your credit score can make a big difference. Not only will a low score nullify a lot of credit options, a good score will often mean you can get a lower interest rate, which matters. A 0.50% difference in an interest rate could save you $54,000 over the life of a $500,000 loan. So what if your score is below average? The first thing to do is order your credit report from Equifax and check it for any errors. If there are any, you can report them to Equifax’s resolution centre. Secondly, if you don’t currently have a credit card, try applying for a free low-interest product. Even if you only use it moderately, it will help build your credit history. You can find more tips here.
Graham Cooke's Insights Blog examines issues affecting the Australian consumer. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.