There are currently 23 million credit active consumers in South Africa. These are people who buy goods and services using credit, like store accounts and credit cards, and each one of them has a credit profile with a credit bureau. A credit bureau receives, stores and reports information on how you manage your credit, including both good (always paying on time) and less good credit behaviour (like skipping payments). The credit bureau does not decide whether you qualify for credit – this decision is made by the credit provider based on your credit score which is determined by your own actions and payment history.

What is a credit report?

Your credit report is a document that shows all the credit or accounts you have and how well you pay your accounts. It includes your credit score, your personal information, your property information, any judgments or court orders against you, and all enquiries that have been made on your profile. Your credit score is a value that is calculated based on how well you pay your accounts. A “good” credit score depends on the model that is used by the credit provider. Not every credit provider calculates this in the same way.

What does it cost?

You can get a free copy of your own credit report from each of the registered credit bureaus once a year. If you want more during the year, the credit bureau will charge you a small fee, ranging from about R20 to R40.

Who can access my credit report?

When you apply for credit you give the store or bank permission to view your credit report. They use this information to decide whether or not you can get credit. In terms of the National Credit Act, they must do a proper affordability assessment before they can give you any credit. Your credit report helps them to do this. You can also get a copy of your own credit report at any time.

What does the information on your credit report mean?

Not all credit reports look the same but all of them include similar information, including your personal information, contact details, employment details, enquiries made on your profile and your credit summary. This summary will give detail on your accounts (how you pay or maintain them), and any judgments, defaults or notices.

Why is it important to know what is reflected on my credit report?

When you know what your credit report looks like you can apply for credit with confidence. It is also important to know which accounts are negatively affecting your credit score so that you can improve the payment of these accounts. When you request your own report you can see who has been making enquiries on your profile. This is important to make sure that you do not become a victim of fraud or identity theft.

What if the information on my credit report is wrong?

It is very important for the credit bureau to ensure that the information on your credit report is accurate. If anything is incorrect you can dispute this with the credit bureau. It will investigate the information and if it is incorrect the credit bureau will correct or remove the information. This process can take up to 20 business days. If you are not happy with the result, you can refer your query to the Credit Ombud on 0861 662 837 or online at www.creditombud.org.za.