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Are you in control of your credit profile?

A good credit record is as important as drawing up a good budget . Photo: ISTOCK
A good credit record is as important as drawing up a good budget . Photo: ISTOCK

Have you ever applied for credit and been turned down because of a bad credit profile or because you were considered a high credit risk? For many of us this often comes as quite a shock.

Many South Africans are surprisingly unaware of the importance of a good credit profile. Many do not know what a credit profile even is - and even if they do, they seldom check their personal credit profile.

Today, many potential employers look at credit profile reports as a way to judge a person's character and level of responsibility.

So what is a credit profile?

It all starts with information from the Credit Bureau. The organisation records all credit applications, credit agreements, payment history and payment behaviour, as well as other consumer credit-related information. Your information - both positive and negative - is stored by the Bureau. Importantly, to get good credit, it helps if you have existing credit.

A good credit profile is gained when you borrow money and pay it back on time and for the full amount. Having a good credit profile enables you to borrow more money on more favourable repayment terms.

If you default on payments your credit profile is affected, which could make it much more difficult for you to obtain credit in future. While adverse legal information is cleared as soon as the account is settled, the negative repayment history remains for a couple years.

If you want to access and improve your credit profile, first look at the accuracy of your credit profile reports.

You can do your own credit check free of charge every 12 months through one of several credit bureaux such as TransUnion (086-148-2482), Experian (086-110-5665), Xpert Decision Systems (086-112-7334) or Compuscan (086- 151-4131).

If you find you have an unhealthy credit profile, investigate the reasons listed. A big part of fixing your credit profile is determining what caused it to go "bad" in the first place. Was it one dramatic incident, like a foreclosure or bankruptcy? Or was the problem a series of smaller things, like late and missed payments?

Important information that you should take note of on your credit report includes:

- Whether all personal information is up to date, including your address, contact details and so on;

- Whether any accounts have been opened fraudulently in your name;

- Whether any inquiries reflected on your credit report are made by credit providers you have no relationship with;

- Whether any accounts that you closed reflect as open on your report; and

- Whether any accounts that are still open reflect as closed on your report.

Improving your credit profile

It starts by keeping outstanding balances relatively low on credit cards and other credit accounts. High outstanding debt can affect your ability to repay credit, so importantly only apply for and open new credit accounts as and when needed and don't open accounts just for the sake of it. Rather pay off debt than simply move it around.

Of interest, it is not only a poor credit history that may affect your ability to get credit. A lack of positive credit information, for example not having a history of paying on time, can cause an application to be declined or result in an increased cost of credit - this could have a notable impact on the amount that you need to repay.

Ramosedi is African Bank's group executive for sales and marketing

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