Your credit score (or credit rating) gives lenders a general picture of how trustworthy you are as a borrower. It is calculated based on information in your credit report, including how much money you’ve borrowed, your repayment history and the number of applications for credit or loan products you’ve made.
It’s a good idea to check your credit score regularly. If you do have a low score, there are steps you can take to help improve it and potentially increase your chances of getting approved for credit or a loan in the future.
How do you check your credit score?
You can check your credit score for free through a number of online providers, including Canstar. Generally, checking your credit score involves completing the following steps:
- Verify your identity using your driver licence number
- Provide other information including your name, date of birth and residential address (if you have lived there for less than three years you may need to provide other recent home addresses too)
- If all the information has been entered correctly, your score should be generated within a few minutes
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How do you check your credit report?
You can also request a copy of your credit report from a credit reporting body. Your credit report is a record of your credit history. It includes your personal details, as well as financial information including any credit or loan products you’ve had, your repayment history, applications for credit or loans and information about any bankruptcies, defaults or court judgments in your name.
There are three main credit reporting bodies in Australia: Equifax, Experian and Illion. You will have to provide identification information to get a copy of your credit report. For example, you may need to provide documents such as copies of your driver’s licence and Medicare card.
Checking your credit score and credit report does not have an impact on your score. But bear in mind that if you apply for credit or a loan, the creditor or lender will normally check your credit report to determine your creditworthiness and this can affect your score.
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Why do you need to check your credit score?
Lenders use your credit score to help them decide whether to approve your application for credit or a loan. People with a low credit score may be viewed by lenders as being risky and a lender may charge you a higher interest rate compared to someone with a good credit score. If you have a high credit score, you may have a better chance of getting your application approved.
→ Read more: Interest rate ranges: How is your rate determined?
It’s also worth checking your credit report to make sure that the information in it is correct. If something is incorrect or out of date, you can contact the credit reporting body and ask for this to be changed. This is free to do. It can be particularly beneficial to check that all the credit and loans listed on the report are yours. If you do not recognise a debt, this could be a sign of identity theft.
Can I check my credit score for free?
It is free to check your credit score with a number of online providers. Using Canstar’s credit score checker, you can check your credit score once each month.
You can get a free copy of your credit report once a year from Equifax, Experian and Illion. However, you may need to wait up to 10 days to receive it. According to Moneysmart, you may have to pay for your credit report if you want a copy quicker than this or if you request more than one copy per year.
According to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, you can also request a free copy of your credit report if:
- If you have been refused credit within the past 90 days
- Your credit-related personal information has been corrected
Credit reporting bodies may have different information about you so, you may want to access a copy of your credit report from more than one body.
How often should you check your credit score?
You can check your credit score as often as you like and you may want to do this regularly. With Canstar’s credit score checker, you can check your credit score each month. You may also want to check it in certain circumstances, such as:
Moneysmart recommends checking your credit report once a year.
Learn more about credit scores
Main image source: Kite_rin (Shutterstock).