Credit report changes: don’t be caught out

Credit Reporting Changes_Launch Finance

There have been a lot of changes within the finance industry throughout 2019 and one of the most important to stay up to date with are those that affect credit reporting. You may be making a good income however are your finances squeaky clean? Do they shine with “You’re paying attention to me and lenders are going to love me?” Do you pay your bills on time? Are you scoring well in the new positive credit reporting system?

If you applied for a home loan in the current financial environment, your lender would probably assess your application in the context of your credit score which is based on your credit history. By looking at the credit score, lenders are already considering your credit history – on top of your income, assets, liabilities and living expenses.

Your credit score is a number calculated by a credit-reporting agency, which compares you to other borrowers and categorises your credit risk profile. The higher your score, the lower your risk; i.e. positive credit reporting is now about more that whether you’re a default risk.  It looks at conduct in general on your credit file over the next 12 months.

What’s changed?

On 1 July 2018, Australia moved to a positive credit reporting system. This brings us in line with other OECD countries, and means credit providers are obliged to provide credit-reporting agencies with more information on what accounts you hold and how you’re managing them.

Previously, your credit file would only capture negative credit events: previously it didn’t capture overdues – that’s now part of the new reporting system; defaults, bankruptcies and court judgments. The new system however – also known as ‘comprehensive credit reporting’ – records your entire repayment history for each loan you have. This could include your:

The system details when you make payments on time or late, and when accounts are opened and closed. This means potential lenders have a much fuller picture of exactly what debt you hold and just how effectively you’re servicing it.

What does it all mean?

While this level of scrutiny may feel uncomfortable, if you have a positive credit score you may be eligible for a better interest rate than someone with a lower score. Demonstrating sustained good financial management prior to applying for credit will show up on your file and could offset a default notice from a few years ago. Also, if you’re a newer borrower or have little credit history, you should be able to establish a credit score more quickly.

What can you do?

Set up automatic payments

It’s more important than ever to make sure you don’t accidentally miss payments. With many credit providers, you can set up automatic payments as a safeguard.

Be on the front foot

If you think you may be late with a payment, get in touch with your credit provider – immediately. They may have a hardship provision that could offer you more time to pay, which could protect your credit score. See the ASIC MoneySmart website for more details on hardship provisions.

Be aware of what contributes to your credit score

Credit-reporting agencies calculate your credit score based on how much credit you have, what type of credit you have, and how you well you’re servicing it. Therefore, to improve your credit score you can:

  • Close credit cards you don’t need
  • Lower your credit limits (where you can maintain)
  • Pay all your bills on time
  • Settle any defaults
  • Limit new credit enquiries when applying for any loan.

Check your credit file every year

It’s a good idea to check your credit file regularly and especially right before applying for a mortgage. If you find any errors, you should dispute them immediately with the agency or the credit provider, as credit limits or late payments can sometimes be incorrectly listed.

More disturbingly, identity theft can sometimes also occur, making it even more important that you take ownership of your credit file, check it carefully, and keep your personal documentation and identification details safe.

You can access your credit report for free each year by contacting the following credit-reporting agencies:

More information: Go to creditsmart.org.au

Ensure you are managing your finances well and in line with the credit report changes, this will position you positively to achieve your financial goals. At Launch Finance, we are here to help, if you’d like some support and advice, contact your broker today on (08) 9367 4222, [email protected] or fill out the form on this page.

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