What's the difference between your credit history, credit file, credit report and credit score?
Do you get confused between what your credit history is, and your credit score? What about your credit file and your credit report? Well, here is a very simple way of looking at it, so you can easily remember which one is which.
This relates to your history with credit and service providers. In Australia, your credit history begins after you have turned 18, as this is when you can legally sign a contract. But who is responsible for keeping your credit history? The answer is credit reporting agencies. There are currently four in Australia. They are:
- Equifax (Previously known as Veda Advantage)
- Dun and Bradstreet
- Tasmanian Collection Service
Where do the credit reporting agencies get your credit history information? Each time you apply for a loan, credit facility or service (such as a mobile phone contract or utility service) the lender or service provider will notify a credit reporting agency (or agencies) of your application. For example, say you were to apply for a $2000 loan with Fair Go Finance. Fair Go Finance will notify a credit reporting agency (such as Equifax) and register the date and the amount ($2000) that you have applied for. Fair Go Finance will also be able to view your current credit history held by that agency, which can help with assessing your application.
When the credit reporting agency receives your information from the lender/service provider, this is then "filed" under your individual name. This is then referred to as your credit file. Your credit file is updated with details such as:
- Your personal details
- Details of any joint applications you have made with someone else
- Credit applications (credit cards, personal loans, housing loans etc.) This includes any loans you've agreed to be a guarantor for.
- Arrears (loans or debts that you are overdue in paying or those you have now repaid or settled).
- Debt agreements
- Commercial and business loan applications you've applied for
Your personal details are kept on your credit file forever. All other details have specific expiry dates ranging from 2 years up to 7 years. Each credit reporting agency maintains their own files of consumer credit information so it's possible you could have a credit file with all, some or one of the agencies. Be aware that your credit file may not be exactly the same if you compare them from different agencies because a lender/service provider may not send your information to every agency.
In simple terms, your credit report is an extract from your credit file. It is a snapshot or report outlining what is on your credit file at a particular time. You can obtain a copy of your credit report from a credit reporting agency once a year for free.
Your credit score is a number that is calculated using the information contained in your credit file. In Australia, your credit score (also known as your credit rating) will fall in a range. For example, with Equifax the range is between 0 - 1200. The higher your credit score, the better your chances are of getting a loan or service. Because your credit file is always changing, for example you may take out a new loan or had something expire that was listed, your credit score is also regularly updated. You also can have more than one credit score, because each credit reporting agency calculates their own credit score, based on the information they hold on you.
So how important are they all?
They should all be important to you, because they all contribute to whether you are successful or not in obtaining credit or a service. Looking after them will give you more bargaining power to negotiate the best rates. If you've still got time, please read our blog "5 simple tips to improve your credit score" which we hope can help you continue to go forward with your financial future.