Credit can play an important role in life such as when purchasing a car or home, getting married, having a child or going on a holiday. Take control of your credit report now to help secure your financial future.
We understand that you may not know what a credit report is, have never seen your credit report before, or find it confusing. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to explain some of the basics such as what it is, how it’s often used and some of the ways you can use it to take control of your financial future.
What is credit?
Credit is typically money that you borrow from a credit provider (such as a bank or credit union) and then pay back later.
Loans, credit cards and overdraft facilities are examples of credit. Other types of credit can include phone and internet services, utilities and hired rental equipment.
What is a credit report?
A credit report contains details about your credit history. This can include your previous applications for credit, current credit accounts, overdue payments and bankruptcies.
The information on your credit report is governed by Australian privacy laws. Information that is correct cannot generally be removed.
How is a credit report used?
When you apply for credit, your credit report and your credit score may be used to help the credit provider work out whether you can afford the credit and how likely you are to repay it. Therefore your financial decisions can impact your ability to obtain future credit.
What is a credit score?
Your credit score is a number that is intended to indicate how likely you are to repay credit. It can be based on your credit history and you may have different credit scores based on the information that different organisations hold about you.
How you can benefit from your credit report
If you manage your credit effectively, this may be reflected in your credit report. Most credit providers use credit reports as one part of their process to assess applications for credit.
Poor financial decisions may impact your ability to obtain future credit. Conversely, some credit providers may offer a better interest rate as a reward for having a good credit history.
Under changes to the Australian privacy laws in 2014, credit can now be better matched to suit your individual needs. The introduction of comprehensive credit reporting gives a clearer picture to licensed credit providers of your ability to repay your debts by looking at the repayment history of your credit over the previous 24 months.
Get your free credit report
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from a CRB, or within three months of a denied credit application.
The CRB must provide the report within 10 days of your request.
The three main credit reporting bodies in Australia are:
Take control of your credit score
Did you know that your credit history can improve over time? This is because information is retained on your credit report only for a defined period of time.
Even if you pay your bills on time, you should check your credit report at least once per year to make sure that you haven’t been a victim of identity theft and that there are no errors in the report.
You may be able to improve your credit report by:
- Making sure all payments for bills and credit accounts are made on time
- Accessing a copy of your credit report and correcting errors on your credit report with the relevant credit provider or credit reporting body
- Turning on SMS or other notifications for upcoming payment reminders
- If necessary, take steps to correct inaccuracies with the relevant credit provider
- Checking out the CreditSmart website for more great tips on managing your credit
Improve your financial knowledge
Listed below are some resources that provide further information on credit, tips on managing it, and details of Australian privacy laws.
Credit Smart – an information website developed by credit experts in conjunction with consumer advocates and government bodies to help consumers understand credit reporting. The site has some frequently asked questions as well as a number of fact sheets on the following topics:
- Introduction to Credit Reporting
- How to Access a Copy of your Credit Report/What to Check on your Credit Report
- Taking Control of your Credit Report
- What is a Credit Score
- Credit Repair
- Myths about Credit Reporting
- How to manage your credit
Money Smart – a financial literacy website developed by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) to help people make the most of their money.
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner – an independent Federal Government agency responsible for freedom of information, privacy and information policy.
1. What personal information can be collected? Show content
In March 2014, the Australian Government amended Australian privacy laws to allow more information to be included in credit reports. Credit reports can now contain more information gathered from credit providers and publicly available databases, building a more complete picture of an individual’s credit situation, including how they are managing their range of credit accounts.
Consumer credit reports also now contain more information that individuals can access in their own reports, and the Privacy Act specifies the organisations permitted to access reports. The Privacy Act also sets out what information in credit reports can be used for, and who it can be shared with.
In addition to comprehensive credit information, the Australian Government introduced new obligations for handling complaints, correcting information on consumer credit reports, and managing identity theft and fraud.
2. What personal information does CUA collect about me? Show content
CUA takes your privacy and security seriously. You can find updated information on how we manage your personal information, including credit information and credit eligibility information, in the CUA Group APP Privacy & Credit Information Policy.
This policy contains information about credit reporting and our privacy practices, including the name and contact details of credit reporting bodies to which we disclose your personal information, the types of personal information we disclose and your rights in relation to that personal information.
CUA obtains and shares credit reporting information about CUA members with one or more loans, credit cards and/or overdraft facilities, with credit reporting bodies in Australia.
This information will be included in credit reports compiled by the credit reporting bodies CUA deal with. Missed payments and late payments may start to show on your credit record and may affect your credit score and future credit applications, so it is important that you stay on top of your payments.
3. Who can see my credit report? Show content
Both credit providers and credit reporting bodies must protect the privacy and security of your personal and credit information.
Your credit report can only be obtained by a credit provider if you have applied for credit with them – such as a financial institution, telecommunications or utilities company, or an organisation that offers mortgage insurance for a home loan.
Your credit report cannot be accessed by organisations that provide other types of insurance, real estate agents, your employer or any other individual.
You should be aware that when requesting your credit report from a credit reporting body (CRB) that they may ask you to provide your consent to receiving marketing material and/or offers from the CRB, their related entities and other partners.
We suggest you read all the terms and conditions carefully, particularly where it says things like, ‘I consent to…’ or ‘By signing up, I accept…’
If you do not wish to disclose your personal information for marketing purposes, you may need to take specific action, such as contacting the entity to cancel your consent or update your marketing preferences when you sign up.