Published in October 11, 2023
Managing your credit is crucial for getting loans or credit cards in Australia. One important factor is how credit enquiries affect your credit score. When you apply for credit, the lender checks your credit report, and this creates a credit enquiry. Too many enquiries in a short time can lower your credit score.
In this article, we’ll share practical tips to protect your credit score and how you can reduce the negative effects of credit enquiries on your score.
Credit enquiries, often referred to as credit checks or credit pulls, are requests made by lenders or credit providers to access your credit report and evaluate your creditworthiness. These enquiries play an important role in the credit assessment process, as they help lenders determine whether to approve your credit application.
When you apply for a loan, credit card, or any form of credit, the lender initiates a credit enquiry to gather information about your credit history. They use this data to assess your ability to manage and repay debt. Essentially, credit enquiries provide lenders with insights into your financial behaviour, including your payment history, outstanding debts such as credit card debts, and any previous credit-related issues.
There are also different types of credit enquiries: soft and hard enquiries. Soft enquiries, also known as “soft pulls,” occur when individuals or organisations request access to your credit report for informational or promotional purposes. These enquiries may stay in your credit report for up to five years but they don’t impact your credit score and are typically generated when you check your credit report or when a potential employer performs a background check.
On the other hand, hard enquiries, often referred to as “hard pulls,” are triggered when you apply for credit with a lender or financial institution. These enquiries are more significant and can affect your credit score, as they indicate that you are actively seeking new credit. Lenders use hard enquiries to assess the risk associated with extending credit to you, and too many hard enquiries within a short period can potentially lower your credit score. Hard enquiries typically stay on your credit report for about five years.
When applying for a mortgage, lenders assess your creditworthiness by conducting a hard credit enquiry. They review your credit history, including your payment history, outstanding debts, and credit utilisation. A strong credit history can lead to more favourable mortgage terms, such as lower interest rates.
Credit card applications also involve hard credit enquiries. Lenders evaluate your credit file to determine if you’re a responsible borrower. A positive credit history can result in approval for credit cards with higher credit limits and better rewards.
When applying for a personal loan, lenders typically initiate a hard credit enquiry. They use this enquiry to gauge your creditworthiness and assess your ability to repay the loan. A good credit score can help secure a personal loan with a lower interest rate.
Auto loan applications involve hard credit enquiries as well. Lenders use these enquiries to assess the risk associated with lending for a vehicle purchase. A strong credit history can lead to more favourable auto loan terms and lower monthly payments.
Utility companies and service providers may perform soft credit checks when establishing services like electricity, gas, internet, and mobile phone plans. These checks are typically used to verify your identity and may not directly impact your credit score. However, late payment or unpaid debt can eventually be reported to credit bureaus and affect your credit so it’s important that you pay your bills on time.
Rate shopping is a crucial process for consumers when seeking loans or credit. It involves comparing interest rates and terms offered by various lenders before committing to a specific loan. This process allows borrowers to make informed decisions and secure the most favourable loan terms.
By exploring multiple lending options, consumers can potentially save money over the loan’s life, reduce monthly payments, or find a lender that aligns with their financial goals. Credit scoring models in Australia recognise the importance of rate shopping and have measures in place to mitigate its impact on credit scores.
To engage in smart rate shopping while minimising the impact on your credit score, consider the following strategies:
The timing of credit enquiries can have a significant influence on your credit score. When you apply for credit, each hard enquiry typically results in a temporary dip in your credit score. The effect may vary depending on the credit scoring model used, but in general, multiple enquiries within a short time frame can raise concerns with lenders. This is because it might indicate financial instability or a high degree of risk. Therefore, it’s crucial to be mindful of the timing when applying for credit. Spacing out credit enquiries strategically can help you mitigate any potential negative effects on your credit score.
To minimise the negative impact of credit enquiries, consider adopting a strategy of spacing out credit applications. Instead of applying for multiple forms of credit within a short period, such as a few weeks or months, spread them out over time.
For example, if you plan to apply for a credit card, wait a few months before applying for a personal loan or a mortgage. This approach allows credit enquiries to have less of an impact on your credit score, as they won’t accumulate in a short period. Additionally, before applying for credit, thoroughly assess your financial readiness and creditworthiness to ensure that you’re likely to be approved, reducing the need for multiple applications.
Monitoring your credit report is a crucial financial practice, allowing you to monitor your financial health and detect potential issues that could negatively impact your creditworthiness.
Checking your credit report is considered a soft enquiry, which does not impact your credit score. This makes it a safe and responsible practice to regularly check your credit report to ensure accuracy and stay informed about your financial history. In Australia, consumers have the right to access a free annual credit report from major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and Illion. This allows them to stay informed about their credit history without incurring any costs.
To access the reports, consumers can request them directly from these agencies online, stagging their requests to receive one report every four months.
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Identifying unauthorised or inaccurate enquiries on your credit report is a critical step in maintaining your financial integrity in Australia. Pay close attention to the list of credit enquiries, checking for any that you don’t recognise or that seem suspicious. Unauthorised enquiries may indicate potential identity theft or fraudulent activity. Additionally, scrutinise the enquiries for accuracy, ensuring that the date, name of the lender, and the type of credit requested align with your actual financial history. Any inconsistencies or unfamiliar enquiries should raise a red flag and prompt further investigation.
If you identify unauthorised or inaccurate enquiries on your credit report, taking prompt action is crucial. Start by contacting the credit reporting agency that issued the report where the inaccuracies appear. The three credit report bodies all have dedicated channels for dispute resolution. You can typically initiate the dispute process online or by mail, providing detailed information about the inaccuracies and attaching any supporting documents, such as correspondence with the lender in question.
The credit reporting body will investigate your dispute, typically within 30 days, and notify you of the outcome. If the enquiry is found to be unauthorised or inaccurate, the agency will remove it from your credit report. Be sure to follow up to ensure the correction has been made.
Seeking assistance from credit reporting agencies and regulatory bodies is an option if you encounter difficulties in resolving disputes. If the credit reporting body fails to address your concerns satisfactorily, you can escalate the matter to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). The OAIC is responsible for overseeing credit reporting in Australia and can intervene to ensure disputes are resolved fairly. Additionally, if you suspect identity theft or fraud, it’s advisable to report the issue to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) or your local law enforcement agency. Their involvement may be necessary to investigate and prosecute any criminal activity related to unauthorised credit enquiries.
Limiting unsolicited credit card offers and marketing enquiries can be achieved through several effective strategies.
First, consider registering for the Australian government’s “Do Not Call” Register. This registry allows you to opt out of receiving telemarketing calls and messages from businesses promoting their products or services. It’s a practical way to reduce unwanted marketing calls, including those related to credit card offers. Additionally, you can contact individual financial institutions and ask them to remove your name from their marketing lists. This proactive approach can significantly reduce the number of credit card offers you receive in the mail.
The “Do Not Call” Register plays a crucial role in limiting unwanted marketing enquiries, including those related to credit cards, by enabling you to opt out of telemarketing communications. By registering your phone number on this list, you can significantly reduce unsolicited calls from businesses attempting to promote their credit card products. Additionally, consider the “Do Not Mail” lists offered by some marketing organisations. These lists allow you to opt out of receiving unsolicited direct mail marketing materials, including credit card offers and promotional materials. By proactively managing your preferences on these lists, you can gain more control over the marketing communications you receive.
To further limit unsolicited credit offers, you can opt out of pre-approved credit offers in Australia. The Privacy Act 1988 provides consumers with the option to request that credit reporting agencies exclude their credit reporting information from pre-screening lists used by credit providers. This means that credit providers won’t be able to access your credit information to send pre-approved credit offers without your consent.
To opt-out, you can contact credit reporting agencies directly and request this exclusion. This step allows you to have more control over the credit offers you receive and can help reduce the volume of unsolicited credit offers in your mailbox.
Managing one’s credit effectively involves a multifaceted approach that encompasses understanding the intricacies of credit enquiries, monitoring credit reports, and exercising legal rights and protections. Consumers need to be aware of the impact of credit enquiries on their credit scores and employ smart strategies to mitigate negative effects.
Regularly monitoring credit reports and credit files and promptly addressing inaccuracies or unauthorised enquiries ensures the maintenance of a healthy financial profile. Moreover, knowing and asserting one’s rights under Australian credit reporting laws, including seeking assistance from regulatory bodies and ombudsman services when necessary, empowers consumers to safeguard their privacy and financial well-being.
By navigating the credit landscape with knowledge and diligence, individuals can make informed financial decisions and protect their creditworthiness in an ever-changing financial environment.
While we at Tippla will always do our best to provide you with the information you need to financially thrive, it’s important to note that we’re not debt counsellors, nor do we provide financial advice. Be sure to speak to your financial services professional before making any decisions.
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