How To Improve Your Credit Score With 5 Easy Steps
Whether you’re signing up for a mobile plan or looking to buy a house, your credit score can play a huge role in each stage of your financial life. It can determine whether you’re successful with taking out a mortgage, buying a car, and even applying for a credit card. And, like many things, it can be a lot easier to hurt your credit score than it can be to rebuild it.
If you’ve found yourself with a poor credit score, it’s not the be-all, end-all. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list below of the steps you can take to rebuild your credit.
What is a credit score?
A credit score is a metric that lenders use to determine whether or not you are a responsible borrower. Lenders assess your credit score to decide whether or not it’s risky to lend you money and to determine the likelihood of you paying back the loan.
Your individual credit score is based on the information in your credit report. For most people, this will include their borrowing history and repayment history. It also includes any record of bankruptcy. If you have poor credit, you may struggle to be approved for finance from traditional lenders – or have to pay higher fees and charges to compensate for the risk the lender is taking on.
|Credit score range*||Illion||Equifax||Experian|
|Excellent||800 – 1,000||833 – 1,200||800 – 1,000|
|Very good||700 – 799||726 – 832||700 – 799|
|Average||500 – 699||622 – 725||625 – 699|
|Fair||300 – 499||510 – 621||550 – 624|
|Low||0 – 299||0 – 509||0 – 549|
*Please note: Based on Illion’s categorisation terminology
How can I find out what my credit score is?
In Australia, you are entitled to access your consumer credit file for free once every three months. Aside from this, you can also request a free copy of your report if you have been rejected from receiving credit within the past 90-days, or have had personal financial information on your report corrected. If you are wanting a copy of your report outside of these times, you can still request a copy from a reporting body at a small fee.
In terms of credit scores, there are plenty of online tools and apps to check your rating. If you are planning on applying for credit at some point in the future, downloading a reputable app that can provide you with your credit score is a good idea.
How do I improve my credit score?
Understanding how to check your credit score is one thing, but how can you improve your rating? Below, we’ve put together simple steps to help you improve your credit score:
1. Pay back debts (and bills) in a timely manner
It may sound simple, but one of the best ways to help improve bad credit is to ensure you pay any debts and bills in a timely manner. This means ensuring you meet repayment deadlines for loans and always keep enough cash set aside for upcoming bills.
If you struggle to remember due dates for utility bills and other regular household expenses, contact your provider about setting up automatic payments. This will ensure that you don’t miss any payments and risk damaging your credit score.
2. Don’t over-apply for credit
It’s not always common knowledge that credit applications are logged on your credit report.
Whether you’re applying for a credit card, personal loan, or even a mortgage – lenders can see how many times you’ve applied for financing. While it might not seem like much of an issue, applying for multiple loans in a short period of time is a red flag for many lenders, as it can indicate financial hardship.
On the other hand, applying for a debt consolidation loan to combine multiple debts can be beneficial in improving your rating, given you meet the lender’s repayment criteria.
3. Check your credit report for inaccuracies
Plenty of Australians have incorrect information on their credit reports. If your scoring is lower than expected (or even if it’s not), it’s a good idea to cross-check your report against bank statements and other financial documents to check for any inaccuracies.
Common inaccuracies that people spot are incorrect or duplicate debt amounts and listings, missing repayments, and recorded debts that you did not take out. The latter can be a sign of identity theft or fraudulent activity, so it’s important to flag this with your credit provider or reporting body to amend.
4. Reconsider your credit cards
For many people, credit cards are a financial tool for everyday spending. If they’re used to cover expensive bills or necessary purchases, they can be utilised safely and responsibly. However, a large number of people abuse the power of these cards by overspending and end up paying high-interest fees each month.
Having a credit card doesn’t have to negatively impact your credit score. In fact, holding onto your credit card can help improve it. If you manage to pay off your statements each month to avoid high-interest rates, you can demonstrate financial responsibility – which will be recorded on your credit statement, thanks to comprehensive reporting.
Important note: If you’re struggling with overspending on discretionary items, contact your provider about reducing your credit limit. For example, stepping down from a $5,000 limit to even $2,000 can drastically reduce your spending habits and credit card debts.
5. Seek help when you need it
Finding yourself in financial hardship can be distressing and isolating. However, it’s important to understand when you need to seek help.
For many, the most effective way to handle this is through requesting financial hardship assistance from your credit provider. Financial institutions are legally required to provide you with such assistance on request.
Another option is contacting an independent financial counsellor, who can provide you with confidential and free services to help establish positive financial behaviours.
Important note: Be very wary of credit repair companies who offer to “clean” your credit report. Some of these businesses are most likely trying to scam you, as it’s impossible to remove information from your report – no matter if it’s positive or negative.
A final note
Improving your credit score is the first step to financial security and stability. While it takes persistence to do so, the outcome is highly valuable for all aspects of your financial health. If you’re interested in learning more about credit scores and reporting in Australia, check out our other articles today.