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Checking your credit score is now just a SMS away

Woman holding cellphone - Stock
Woman holding cellphone - Stock

When last did you check your credit score? The answer is most likely to be never.

Despite South Africa’s credit bureau being compelled to provide consumers with one free check a year‚ less than 3% of the country’s 24.25 million credit-active people take advantage of that. Most only discover that they have one or more adverse listings on their record — usually referred to as “blacklistings” — when they apply for credit and are turned down.

TransUnion‚ South Africa’s largest credit bureau‚ is hoping to change that with its “SMS for your credit record” service‚ launched today‚ Tuesday May 2.

The new service allows consumers to get an instant snapshot of their credit worthiness via their cellphone‚ even if it’s not a smartphone.

“The product is vital in South Africa‚ where smartphone penetration is moderate — only 37% of people use smartphones‚ with 52% relying on phones without connectivity — and credit awareness is low‚” said TransUnion SA’s senior director Garnet Jensen. “Our goal is to help all South Africans understand and manage their credit so they can take control of their financial health.”

Competitive types may want to send that SMS to find out how their credit score compares to the national averages among other consumers listed with TransUnion.

Lenders use credit reports and scores to assess a borrower’s riskiness and to inform the terms of a loan.

Between October 2015 and September 2016‚ 1.7 billion credit profiles were queried with the credit bureaus.

Another incentive to check your credit record is that many “adverse” listings are not justified — some pertain to prescribed debts which may not legally be listed‚ for example. Consumers are able to lodge a dispute with a bureau about listings they feel are not justified‚ and many are removed in this way.

It’s also a way to check if fraudsters have applied for credit in your name.


To access the USSD service‚ consumers need to use their primary cellphone. Dial *120*8801# and first register by verifying your information. The service asks for your ID number. The company states your information is secured through validation of your cellphone number.

Once registered‚ you will have access to your TransUnion Consumer Credit Score through a SMS short code number.

A credit score costs R15‚ a credit summary R10‚ latest account status R10 and your score as it compares with those of others‚ R5.

- Wendy Knowler is TimesLIVE’s consumer champion. You can contact her on email: consumer@knowler.co.za or via Twitter: @wendyknowler

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