Checking your credit report at least once a year is crucial to keeping your financial health on track, just like seeing your doctor for a regular checkup supports your physical well-being.
However, the language in credit reports isn’t always simple to understand, especially if it’s your first time reading one.
Here’s a few of the key terms and what they mean in simple language, to help you decipher your report:
Consumer Credit Liability Information
This includes basic information about loans you have taken out and credit cards you have obtained.
It describes the type of debt, the credit limit, and the types of payments you are making, for example whether they are principle-and-interest or interest-only payments.
When you apply for a new loan or credit card, lenders use this information to help determine the amount of debt you have and assess whether you can afford to borrow more.
This information stays on your credit report while the loan is open and for two years after it is closed.
Due to recent changes to the credit reporting system in Australia, your credit report can now show if you make your loan repayments by the due date.
The report includes a 24-month history of your repayments, showing for each month whether you made your scheduled repayment on time, and if not, then how far behind you were.
It indicates to lenders how good you are at repaying your accounts and whether you manage your debt responsibly.
People with little credit history previously may now find it easier to get a loan, because lenders can see that they have been regular with repayments on an existing loan.
However, it also means that if you’ve been falling behind with your repayments, and you apply for a new loan, the new lender may be concerned that you’re struggling to pay your existing debts and may be less inclined to lend to you.
A missed payment will only be included if you are at least 14 days late. So, if you forgot to make the payment but catch up within a couple of days, your credit report will show that you made the payment on time.
If you have a default listed on your credit report, it means you have fallen at least 60 days behind with a repayment. A default listing is serious and stays on your credit report for five years.
During this time, it will make it much harder for you to get a loan or a new credit card. So, it’s important to seek help before you get to the point of default.
Lenders are required to assess you for “hardship variation” if you ask for help. Depending on your circumstances, the credit provider may agree to change your payment terms to give you more time to pay, or to reduce what you are required to pay. This may help you get back on track.
If you have a default listed, you can still improve your credit report somewhat by making sure the debt is paid or settled. If that happens, the credit provider has to update your credit report to say that the debt is no longer owed by you.
Also, if you have other loans, and keep making your repayments on time for those loans, that will help show lenders that you have been responsible with your debt and able to meet your financial obligations since the default.
Serious Credit Infringement
A serious credit infringement means a credit provider thinks that you either obtained credit on a fraudulent basis or are now trying to avoid paying back the money you owed. (This doesn’t apply if you want to pay the money back but just don’t have the money.)
As suggested by the name, a serious credit infringement is a serious indicator of bad conduct and will stay on your credit report for seven years. During that time, it will make it very hard to get a loan or a new credit card.
You can make sure a serious credit infringement isn’t recorded on your credit report by always letting your credit providers know your up-to-date contact details. If you are having difficulty paying a loan, make sure you keep in regular contact with the credit provider you owe money to.
The Consumer Credit Enquiries section will contain information about the amount of times you have made an application for credit, the date of the application, the purpose and the amount you applied for. This information stays on your credit report for five years.
It does not show whether the application was successful or not – although if a loan is opened as a result of the application, then the details of the loan may be shown as Consumer Credit Liability Information.
This can be important information for credit providers when you apply for a loan or credit. If there are a lot of applications on your report, the credit provider may worry that you are trying to get too many loans or buy too many things on credit (particularly if the applications are very recent).
To ensure your privacy, when you get a copy of your credit report, it will list everyone who has accessed (i.e. looked at) your credit report. It’s important to separate ‘Access information’ from ‘Enquiries’ – only you are shown the ‘Access information’.
This is not shown to credit providers when they get a copy of your credit report and it doesn’t impact your credit score.
Click here to open up a summary credit report.