“Where do I even begin?”
This is a common question we ask ourselves when trying to sort out our credit health. Bettering your financial future needs to start somewhere, and the first step for many South Africans is to get a free credit report.
In our helpful, step-by-step guide on how to get your credit report in South Africa – we unpack everything you need to know.
Better yet, we will go through the entire credit report journey, so you aren’t left scratching your head when you have downloaded your own free credit report.
First, let’s get down to basics…
What is a credit report?
Your credit report is an important piece of information when it comes to determining your credit health. Every active credit user in South Africa has a credit report from a credit bureau. The purpose of a credit report is to provide financial insight into your current credit status. Your employment history and current income both form part of your credit report and help determine your credit score.
Credit providers (whom each have their own criteria) in South Africa use your report, to determine what credit you’ll get. For example, you could be applying for a Woolworths store account, vehicle finance or a home loan. Having a good credit score will mean you have access to higher credit limits and possibly a lower interest rate.
If you want to become a credit health genius, where you have the power to better your financial future, check out our credit health course.
Why Is a Credit Report Important?
Your credit report is a summary of your credit history. Credit health education is valuable if you want to take out a personal loan, credit card or home loan. Getting access to your credit report is the first step in improving your financial position.
What is a good or bad credit score?
Before you receive your credit score you’ll need to understand what is a good or bad score in South Africa. Your score can range from 330 to 850. A higher credit score means you are a more responsible borrower, and lower scores suggest you may be less responsible. How can you determine if you have a good credit score in South Africa in 2022, here is a loose idea of how credit scores are viewed by creditors.
- 800+ – Exceptional
- 740 to 799 – Excellent
- 670 to 739 – Very Good
- 580 to 669 – Good
- 579 & below – Poor
What are some factors that may contribute positively or negatively to your credit score? Store account and credit card late payments, are examples of “Black marks”. Paying accounts on time and limiting the number of new accounts, will positively impact your credit score.
How is your credit score calculated?
A credit score can only be determined if you’ve accumulated debt. The formula used to calculate this score, assesses your spending habits, timeliness of account payments and current debt. Your credit score is a single number that summarises the information in your credit report.
5 steps on how to get your free credit report:
1. Find a reputable credit score checker
South Africa has an array of credit score checking companies and credit bureaus that offer ‘free’ credit reporting services. There are a number of things you need to keep in mind when finding the right one. The first is to make sure the bureau or company offering these services is recognised and reputable. Here are the 3 largest and trusted credit bureaus in South Africa:
The second thing to look out for when finding a reputable credit report is that you need to make sure the report is in actual fact free. A lot of these sites may have sneaky hidden charges, but as mentioned previously, you are entitled to one free report each year from these credit bureaus. myFincheck offer a completely free and easy to understand credit report, which you’ll get access to in 3 quick steps.
2. Enter your personal details
This is probably the most ‘tedious’ part, and for most credit bureaus or companies, it shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes to complete the entire credit score check. A few handy tips:
- Ensure you have your cellphone right next to you for any OTPs
- Have a folder on your desktop with all the relevant documents you may need to upload in the process. Some of your information might be out of date, for example, your home address, or current employers, the bureau will need to update and verify this information.
3. Request your credit report
You are very close to the finish line. You’ll now need to request your credit report from the credit bureaus. In this step, you’ll probably be asked a few more security questions to verify your identification before your credit report can be sent to you.
Helpful tip – it’s important to remember that if you feel that your information isn’t secure, or you are unsure about any of the questions – contact the credit bureau or credit check company for assistance.
4. Generate your report
Knowledge is power, and the final step is actually receiving the report. Once you’ve been given access to your report you’ll need to download it for safekeeping or ask the credit bureau either to post or email the results directly to you.
5. Review, dispute and settle
The most vital step in all of this and the reason you signed up to receive your credit report, is to improve your credit health. In this process, you’ll need to make sure all your personal information in the credit report is correct, as well as any of the transactions. You’ll really need to go through your report with a fine-tooth comb as any false information can affect your credit score negatively.
Here are a few credit report errors you’ll need to look out for:
- Incorrect home address and full name
- Closed accounts
- Accounts that are not in your name
- Account balance error
If any of the above information needs amending, you’ll need to dispute it with the credit bureau. Credit bureau details:
The investigation process will typically take a month, and once they’ve reviewed the errors they will remove this information from your credit report.
Why does my credit score change for different credit bureaus?
No this is not a mistake, credit bureaus in South Africa are sometimes only given certain information by specific lenders, in turn generating a different credit score. Another reason could be that false information was logged, for example, accidentally listing an account as outstanding when it’s been settled.
It’s important to remember that each credit bureau uses different formulas to calculate your credit score, and they may regard a certain detail with more concern than another. For a more accurate understanding of your credit score, it’s best to consult all 3 of the major credit bureaus and calculate your average.
If you’d like some help in improving your credit health you can enrol in our credit health course to kickstart bettering your financial future.
How do I understand my credit report results?
Your credit score is in your credit report. If your score is closer to 0 this means you have a higher chance of failing to repay your debts (for a lender that is). Whereas someone with a score over 650 has lower chances of failing to repay debt. Overall your credit report and score are a reflection of the risk you pose to lenders based on your credit history.
Now, that you know all the steps involved in getting access to your credit report in South Africa, the power is at your fingertips to decide what to do with this information.
Frequently asked questions about your credit report:
How can I get a good credit score?
You’ll need to start off by knowing whether you have a good or bad credit score. After this you’ll need to make sure that you have your OWN credit score, so be sure to leave relationships out of your finances. Splurging can sometimes become a little bit too easy with a credit card, so if you are serious about improving your credit score it’s best not to max out your credit card. Keeping your life stable in all regards – your residential address and your employment are all good signs to lenders. Last but not least you need to pay back the money (on time), late payments are a big no no, so settle all your debts promptly.
What is the minimum credit score for a home loan in South Africa?
Your credit score lies at the heart of loan approval, and in this case specifically a home loan. Buying a residential property is a big financial risk, so lenders want to make sure you’ll be able to pay back your home loan. On average lenders in South Africa will only give you a home loan if your credit score is higher than 600, however, the lending criteria varies from lender to lender. There are a few banks that will grant you a loan with a much lower score.
How often should I get a credit report?
Obviously, this depends on your financial future, the number of loans you already have compared to loans you still want to take out. Realistically you can check your credit score whenever you want for free by using services like MyFincheck. It’s recommended to check your credit score once a month, especially if you are wanting to improve your score – this way you can keep an eye on your spending.
Do I still need to check my credit report if I pay my debt on time?
Yebo, maintaining a good credit score is vital if you want to borrow money at a later stage. So it’s important to check up on your credit report regularly to ensure that the information is accurately reported to the credit bureau. Getting access to your credit report is a great way of detecting any fraudulent activity in your name.
Who might request your credit report besides you?
Your credit score and report can be accessed by various different companies and organisations if they have your personal details. Here are a few examples of companies and individuals who’ll be able to access it:
- Lenders – when applying for a loan or credit card
- Property groups – when you take out a rental agreement
- Mobile providers – taking out a cellphone contract
- Insurance companies – rates depend on your credit score
- Employers – only if you’ve given permission to your employer to receive your credit score will they do this.
If some of the financial jargon is a bit over your head, consult our comprehensive list of financial terms and definitions for some assistance.