What is a credit report?
A credit report is a record of your credit history. It may include information on applications for credit that you have made in the past; repayment history information on credit cards, personal loans and mortgages, as well as other publicly available information such as court writs and judgements relating to credit and bankruptcies.
Credit reports are available to all consumers that have a credit history and are built using information provided by applicable credit providers and public record information.
What goes into a credit report?
In your credit report you will find information about your history with credit. Your credit report is divided into a number of sections:
Personal information / identity details
This includes information like your name, date of birth, names you may be also known as, address history as well as your driver’s licence number and employment history.
Consumer credit information
The consumer credit information section includes:
Details of credit enquiries that have been made on you by a credit provider when you have made an application for consumer credit. Consumer credit relates to loans for household or family purposes as well as for the purchase, renovation or re-financing of a residential investment property. Well known types of credit include credit cards and loans like mortgages, personal and car loans. It also includes credit contracts such as telephone, electricity, gas and internet. Other forms of credit include interest free and ‘buy now pay later’ store finance and store cards.
Consumer credit liability accounts – this is an account that you currently have open or may have had in the past. It includes the type of account, the open and/or close date as well as the credit limit. Please note that not all credit providers supply consumer credit liability information to credit reporting bodies like Equifax.
Monthly repayment history on credit accounts such as mortgages, personal loans and credit cards. This reflects whether you have paid the minimum amount required on time each month or not. Please note that not all credit providers supply repayment history information to credit reporting bodies like Equifax.
Overdue accounts such as defaults and serious credit infringements.
Public record information like:
- Court judgements
- Directorship details
- Proprietorship details
- Bankruptcy, debt agreement and personal insolvency
Commercial credit information
Details of credit enquiries that have been made on you for commercial credit. Examples of commercial credit include a mobile phone contract or credit card for business use or a business loan.
Details of any overdue commercial credit accounts and other debts.
File access information
This outlines third parties who have accessed your credit report including brokers, credit repair agencies and Equifax itself; for example if you order a copy of your own credit report or your credit score from Equifax you will see a file access by Equifax here.
You can view a sample credit report here.
How do I read a credit report?
Once you have received a copy of your Equifax credit report it is important to go through the detail to make sure everything is correct. At first it may seem a little overwhelming but soon you will become familiar with the terms.
There are a couple of different ways you may receive your Equifax credit report and there are slight differences between how they look. Below is a guide on what to look out for.
Personal / identity information – make sure that your name and personal details are correct. The address details will show the address you were living at when you last applied for credit which may not always be your current address. Let us know if there are any administrative errors such as an incorrect date of birth, or a misspelling of your name or street address.
Your Equifax credit report contains a credit overview or summary which is a good place to start. This section gives you a snapshot of the number of credit enquiries, any accounts you have, overdue accounts and details of commercial credit you may have. You can then review this information in more detail within the report. You should check that the credit information listed on your Equifax credit report, such as an overdue debt or enquiry, is accurate. An explanation of the key terms on your Equifax credit report can be found below.
If you come across anything that is inaccurate whilst reviewing your Equifax credit report, it is important that you have it investigated. This is something you can do for free. You can either contact the credit provider the information relates to using a handy list of creditor contacts or contact Equifax using our corrections process.
It is important to note that Equifax takes reasonable steps to ensure that your credit report is accurate. However, as we rely on information provided by a number of different sources, errors can occasionally occur.
Learn more: CreditSmart provides some information about what to check in your credit report.
Credit report definitions
What is a credit enquiry?
A credit enquiry may be added to your credit report when a lender conducts a credit check on you as part of an application for credit. It is listed on your credit report as a 'credit enquiry'.
A credit enquiry may include the date, the type of credit you have applied for (a personal loan, credit card, mortgage or phone contract), whether you are a sole or joint borrower (including acting as a guarantor for another loan), as well as the amount.
Let's take a look at a real-life example...
David is buying a new car and he applies for a car loan with ABC Car Finance. David completes his application form and as part of the assessment on whether to accept his application, the credit provider conducts a credit enquiry.
As a result of this credit check, David's application for the car loan will be recorded on his credit report. This is regardless of whether ABC Car Finance accepts his application or David decides to proceed with the loan.
This credit enquiry will stay on David's credit report for five years from that date.
Do credit enquiries impact my credit score?
The type of credit applied for, the amount of credit and the number of credit enquiries over a period of time can all have an impact on your credit score.
One of the biggest impacts of credit enquiries that often catch people unaware is 'shopping around for credit'. If you make a number of credit applications in a short space of time, it can result in a number of credit enquiries being listed on your credit report. This can have a negative impact on your score.
Did you know....? Many applications in a short space of time can be an indicator of credit stress.
What is repayment history?
Whether you meet your minimum monthly repayments on your credit card and loans each month can be recorded on your credit report as repayment history. The repayment history information section of a credit report includes whether your minimum monthly repayments have been made on time or how many days overdue the payment is.
There is a 14 day grace period before an overdue monthly payment can be reported by a credit provider and included as part of the repayment history section of your credit report
Regularly making your minimum repayments on time each month is a good way to demonstrate good credit behaviour. Whilst one late repayment, depending upon how late the payment is, is unlikely to significantly impact your credit worthiness, a number of late payments could be an indication you are in financial stress and may negatively impact your credit report.
Repayment history information is recorded on your credit report for a period of two years.
What is a default?
A default is also known as an overdue debt. There are two types of defaults; consumer and commercial payment defaults.
Consumer payment default
A consumer payment default can be reported by a credit provider and listed on your credit report if you have an overdue debt of equal to, or more than $150 and it is more than 60 days overdue. For example, if you have a mobile phone bill of over $150, and it was due more than 60 days ago, it could be listed on your credit report as a payment default by the phone company.
Before reporting a consumer default, the credit provider must take a number of steps such as sending two separate written notices to your last known address; first requesting payment and secondly communicating an intention to list the overdue payment with a credit reporting body (like Equifax).
Commercial payment defaults
In the case of commercial credit the minimum default amount is $100. Before listing commercial defaults or overdue debts commercial credit providers or their agents must send a notice to your last known address stating their intention to list the default amount with a credit reporting body such as Equifax.
Potential credit providers may look unfavourably on applicants with a history of overdue accounts if they consider the applicant’s credit information as part of their lending assessment. So it’s a good idea to avoid defaults getting onto your credit report. To do this, you need to ensure you make your repayments and pay your bills before they become overdue.
Both consumer and commercial payment defaults may stay on your credit report for five years, even when you have paid the entire overdue amount. When you have paid a default, the status is updated to ‘paid’ which can be looked upon more favourably by lenders but it will remain as part of your credit history.
Learn more: CreditSmart and MoneySmart have information to help you understand defaults.
What is comprehensive credit reporting?
Comprehensive credit reporting (CCR) means there is more ‘positive’ information that can be included on consumers’ credit reports. This provides a more detailed picture of an individual’s credit history and credit worthiness. CCR refers to the type of consumer credit information that can be collected by credit reporting bodies (CRBs) and can be used by credit providers when making a lending decision.
The positive CCR data that can be included on credit reports includes:
- account information such as the date an account was opened and closed;
- credit limit;
- type of credit account; and
- 24 months repayment history. Repayment history information can only be provided by and shared with licenced credit providers - this doesn’t include telecommunications and utility companies.
Previously Australia had a negative reporting system. This meant consumer credit reports could only contain information such as credit enquiries (typically applications for credit) and information from credit providers such as payment defaults and serious credit infringements. Most advanced economies in the world operate under a comprehensive credit reporting system.
CCR was introduced on 12 March 2014 as part of legislative reform. The Privacy Act 1988, which is the legislation governing consumer credit reporting in Australia, was amended to introduce comprehensive credit reporting.
Whilst CCR was introduced some time ago there has been limited CCR information supplied to CRBs. It is likely that during 2018, the amount of CCR data supplied by lenders to CRBs will increase dramatically as mandatory CCR reporting for the big four banks is due to be introduced into law by the Australian Government.
What is a serious credit infringement?
Amongst other things, a serious credit infringement relates to overdue consumer debts where a person owes a debt to a credit provider but has left, or appears to have left, their last known address without paying that debt and without providing the credit provider with their new or forwarding address. A serious credit infringement can be listed on a credit report in this case if the person has not had contact with the credit provider for six months or more despite attempts by the credit provider to contact them.
Serious credit infringements on consumer credit remain on a credit report for seven years from the date they're listed. However, if they have been paid they revert back to a default and will remain on the credit report for five years. The fact that an amount has become overdue and then been paid still remains part of your credit history.
In the case of commercial credit clearouts, if you can't be contacted and it appears to the credit provider that you have left your last known address and you have not provided the credit provider with a forwarding address, they can immediately list the debt on your report as a clearout, even it hasn't been overdue for 60 days or more. Commercial clearouts will remain on your credit report for seven years regardless of whether they are paid or not.
How long does information stay on my credit file?
This all depends on the type of data. Personal identity information including your name, date of birth, gender, driver’s licence and address history is held for the life of the credit report. For other information on your credit report, here are some of the typical timeframes.
- Repayment history information
- Any credit enquiry
- Overdue accounts listed as a payment default
- Overdue accounts listed as clearouts
- Writs and summons
- Court judgments
- Serious credit infringements
For some information the timeframe will vary
Information about consumer credit accounts you have with credit providers (known as consumer credit liability information). This information can be held for two years after the account has been terminated or ceases to exist. This means that the account information will remain on file for the length of the loan plus two years.
Similarly, if you are bankrupt, have a debt agreement or personal insolvency the length of time this information remains on file could vary depending upon when the bankruptcy, debt agreement or personal insolvency agreement was entered into and when it ends.
How often is my Equifax credit report updated?
There is no set frequency with which your Equifax credit report is updated.
Your consumer credit report from Equifax can be updated on a monthly basis with account repayment information such as if you have paid a credit card, or other personal credit, on time. If it has not been paid on time this will also be recorded. Your Equifax credit report may also be updated whenever you apply for credit, open or close an account, change your credit limit or agree to act as a guarantor for someone else. Credit providers may also update your report when they list any overdue debts you may have incurred and we may also add certain information obtained from third parties, such as default judgments, court writs and Bankruptcy Act information.
Your Equifax business credit report may be updated whenever you apply for business credit, change your credit limit or are listed as a new director. Credit providers may also update your report when they list any overdue debts you may have incurred and we may also add certain information obtained from third parties, such as default judgments, court writs and Bankruptcy Act information.
Why doesn’t my free Equifax credit report include a credit score?
Free credit reports from Equifax do not include an Equifax generated credit score which is generated using Equifax's proprietary algorithms (Equifax Score). There are, however, a range of monthly subscription products that you can purchase which provide you with your Equifax Score, along with your credit report, and also include a range of other features.
Find out more about these services.
Does checking my Equifax credit report impact my Equifax Score?
No. Checking your own Equfiax credit report does not impact your Equifax credit score. When you check your Equifax credit report you will have a File Access note added to your credit report however this does not impact your Equifax Score.
Learn more: Both CreditSmart and the Australian Government's MoneySmart have useful information about credit reports.