The short answer: more information than there used to be. Like it or not, there is a record kept dating back several years, accessible by companies who need to see it, that shows your credit history.
Ever applied for a car loan, credit card, business loan, mortgage, hire purchase or investment loan? (Note that sentence reads “applied for” not “do you have”.) What about a utility bill – has your name appeared on a statement for gas, electricity, internet or for a mobile phone? If your answer is yes, you have a credit record.
Credit records are used by companies like banks to see how risky you are when it comes to repaying a loan, and businesses like telcos to indicate if you are likely to pay your bills on time. They’ve been around for years and include info such as how many times you have applied for credit, when you were given credit and when you have been late in paying. Your credit record will also show details of bankruptcy.
It used to be that this was pretty much all the stuff that was on your credit file, and the black marks would only appear if you were about 60 days overdue on your bills. But now that’s changed.
As soon as you are one day late on a bill, that information can now be recorded on your credit file. It’s bloody harsh and means that unless you have automatic payment plans set up for all your bills, you really need to be on top of things to ensure your credit file remains looking good.
If you don’t know what your credit file contains it is a good idea to get a hold of a copy of it. There’s two ways to go about it – the quick way (yeah, it’ll cost you) and the slow way, which, if you can wait a week or two for it, will be free.
Contact Veda Advantage, Dun and Bradstreet or the Tasmanian Collection Service (there are direct links to the forms you need for these guys under the Debt Elimination topic) and get them to send you a copy of your file. If you find something there you have forgotten about or something that shouldn’t be there at all, you will have every chance to sort it. That’s particularly important to do before you go cap in hand to your bank for your next loan.