How to fix your credit rating for free.

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Having trouble getting a new loan or credit? It may be because of your credit rating. It can be even more frustrating if the reason for your poor credit rating is because of incorrect information on your credit report.

The good news is you can get free access to your credit report and fix anything that is incorrect for free usually within 30 days. Westpac can help you do this for free.

The bad news, if the information is correct you may need to change some of your habits and wait for your credit score to improve. This may take a couple of years.

There are several ways to get free help for credit repair or to fix your credit rating. Beware of people or organisations who charge for credit fix solutions. They may be charging you for a service you can get done for free. Remember they cannot fix or remove correct information from your credit report.

What is a credit rating or credit score?

A credit rating or credit score is a number that lenders may use to help determine if they will lend you money. The credit score is generally based on your credit history as detailed in your credit report.

What is a credit report?

Your credit report is one of the most important financial assets you may have.  A credit report contains personal identification details about you and a record of your credit history including loan applications and missed payments.

Credit reports and credit scores are kept by credit reporting bodies. The three main bodies in Australia are Equifax, illion and Experian. Different lenders may use one or more of these services. If you are applying for credit (for example, a phone or internet plan, credit or store card, personal loan, car loan, home loan, etc.), ask which service they are using and check your credit report. You can get your credit report for free once a year.

More information is available at creditsmart.org.au.

What information is on my credit report?

The information kept on your credit report is subject to the Privacy Act 1988 and the Privacy (Credit Reporting) Code 2014 (Version 2.1). Creditsmart.org.au has information on how credit reporting operates in Australia. It is maintained by the Australian Retail Credit Association (ARCA).

Your credit report is likely to contain information on your:

Personal information

To help ensure the information relates to the right person.

Credit enquiries

Shows every application you have made for credit in the last 5 years even if you did not get the loan or service.  It does not reflect whether the application was approved, declined, or withdrawn.

Consumer credit liability

Shows all credit facilities you have (or had) with participating credit providers which may include lenders, phone companies and utility (electricity and gas) companies.  This information stays on your credit report for 2 years after the account is closed.

Repayment history

Showing you have made loan repayments to those credit facilities on time (or at least within 14 days) for the last two years. It will also show any late and or missed repayments more than 14 days overdue.

Defaults

If you have missed a payment by 60 days in the last 5 years and the credit provider has attempted to collect from you, this may show on your credit report. It will also show if you have since made the payment.

Court judgements

Shows if a court has made a judgement against you in the last 5 years in relation to unpaid debt.

Personal insolvency

Shows if you have been bankrupt, entered into a debt agreement or other personal insolvency arrangements within the last 5 years.

Serious credit infringement

Shows if in the last 7 years a credit provider believes you fraudulently obtained credit or are avoiding paying back the money you owe.

Other publicly available information

if relevant to your credit worthiness.

 

As lenders and credit providers may use this information to decide if they give you credit, how much they may give you and how much they may charge you, it is important that this information is correct.

You can request a copy of your credit report for free once a year. It is a good idea to obtain a copy of it before applying for credit and checking everything is correct. Asking for a copy of your credit report is not recorded but applying for credit will be.

How do I correct my credit report?

If you believe you have errors on your credit report, you can get them corrected for free by:

1. Contacting the credit provider and requesting they correct their records.  Credit providers are required by law to fix any errors once they become aware of them.  If you do not have contact details for the credit provider, you may be able to find contact details on the “My credit file” directory provided by Equifax.

2. You can go directly to the credit reporting bodies who are required to fix the error within 30 days unless otherwise agreed by you. Their correction services can be found on their websites here:

To fix any error, the credit provider and credit reporting body must be satisfied that it is a genuine error. The credit provider will do an investigation into their systems and documentation, but any information you have could speed up the investigation. Information like:

  • A copy of your credit report highlighting the information you believe is incorrect.
  • Documents like receipts, bank statements, emails, loan documents, letters, account numbers.
  • Anything else you believe shows that an error has been made.

Once the error has been verified, your credit report will be corrected, and the credit reporting body will notify any credit providers who were provided with your report within 3 months of the correction.

If it is decided the information is correct, your credit report will not be altered, and you will be notified.

If you disagree with the outcome, credit reporting bodies and credit providers are required to belong to an External Dispute Resolution service. These are independent bodies who investigate complaints. The credit provider or credit reporting body will provide you their contact details as they do not all use the same service. There should be no fee for using this service.

If you are still unhappy with the result, you can contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner – the independent government agency that is responsible for looking after credit reporting.

How do I improve my credit score?

If everything on your credit report is correct, then how long does it take for your credit score to improve? It will take time. Your repayment history will stay on your credit report for 2 years. Most other information will remain for 5 years and some as long as 7 years.

However, each change that is made on your report through any positive action you take or as each negative piece of history drops off should see your credit score improve. The sooner you take credit repair action, the sooner your credit score will improve. You can monitor how your score improves through one of the following services backed by the main credit reporting bodies.

Service

Credit reporting body the score is based on.

Get Credit Score

Equifax

Credit Savvy Australia

Experian

Credit Simple

illion

 

Here are 5 credit fix solutions to help you fix your credit rating over time.

1. Check everything is correct on your credit report.

2. Pay all your bills and repayments on time. This will demonstrate your ability to meet your commitments.

3. Pay off or resolve any outstanding debts or disputes. This will be noted on your credit report and show lenders that you have taken steps to improve your credit.

4. Ask your credit providers to reduce any limits on credit cards or credit facilities that you are not using or no longer need. Lenders consider all your credit limits, not just how much you owe on them, to determine your ability to repay the credit you are applying for.

5. Only apply to borrow what you need and avoid making multiple applications for credit. Applications for credit stay on your credit report for 5 years and may be viewed negatively, particularly if there are a lot of them.

Remember, it takes time. Have patience. If you can demonstrate good financial habits, over time your credit score will improve.

If you need help developing good money habits, consider doing our financial fitness course.

However, if your find yourself in need of more help, particularly if you are struggling to pay your debts, please contact the National Debt Help Line on 1800 007 007 or visit their website ndh.org.au. They are an independent not-for-profit organisation that has financial counsellors available to help you between 9.30am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday. Their service is free.

Conclusion

You can correct mistakes on your credit report for free, and you can improve your credit score. There are people who will help from the credit reporting bodies, credit providers (such as Westpac’s Privacy Corrections team), and the National Debt Help Line’s financial counsellors.

Reach out for help and start to get your credit report and credit score back on track.

 

This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness or the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. © Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.

 


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Rob Lockhart

Rob has helped thousands of people and organisations improve their financial confidence through delivering Davidson Institute short courses and webinars. His career started almost 40 years ago working with a mid-tier accounting firm. From there he moved into banking and has worked with people and organisations. As a CPA grounded in the realities of finance, he brings a unique insight and understanding to the numbers behind our lives.

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