Picture: 123RF/SCYTHER5
Picture: 123RF/SCYTHER5

You can now get your credit score from African Bank, even if you aren’t a customer of the bank. And if you are one, the bank now gives you unlimited, anytime access to your entire credit report.

The score and report are generated by credit bureau TransUnion and are obtained via the bank’s app. 

On the app, which is zero-rated — meaning that it you don’t use any of your own data —  you’ll find your score or report under the sub-menu My Profile.  You will have to answer a series of identification questions, and if you don’t get them all right, you can keep trying until you do. 

A full credit report includes your score and a two-year record of your payment history on all accounts, whereas when you receive just your score, it provides you with an indication of what kind of risk you pose to credit providers.  

The TransUnion credit score bands are 0-615 (poor); 615-729 (fair); 730-821 (good); 822-917 (very good); and 918-999 (excellent).

George Roussos, the group executive of digital and transactional banking at African Bank, says that while only about 45,000 of the bank’s 1-million customers have downloaded the app, it’s still “early days” given that the bank only launched it’s MyWorld transactional account in May this year. 

Your credit score is essentially a personal asset and an investment in your future
African Bank executive George Roussos 

He says the bank’s objective is to educate all consumers of credit about the importance of being credit-savvy. The bank also hopes to endear itself to consumers who aren’t with African Bank by offering them easy access to their credit score.

While you’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the country’s consumer credit bureaux (Experian, Compuscan, TransUnion and XDS), you have to apply for your report, and only 1-million of the 30-million consumers with credit profiles in SA ever access their report, Roussos says.

Furthermore, when you do get your free report, you won’t necessarily be given your credit score — some free credit reports don’t display a score. 

Regularly checking your credit report is essential in a country where identity theft is rife. And keeping an eye on your credit score is important if you want to manage your credit risk to leverage a good score. The higher your score, the lower the interest rate you should qualify for when you borrow money from a lender.

“Your credit score is essentially a personal asset and an investment in your future. It is used by credit providers to determine whether you should receive credit or not, in what amount and over what term. Most consumers are simply unaware of what their credit bureau scores are. When their credit applications are declined, it is most likely because there is an adverse score or negative report on their credit bureau profile,” says Roussos.

If you default on payments or pay late, your credit profile is affected, which could make it much more difficult for your applications to be approved when you are trying to get ahead in life. “While adverse information is cleared as soon as your repayments are up to date, or the account is paid up, the negative repayment history or any judgments against you remain for [two] years,” he says. 

According to Roussos, African Bank rejects one out of every two applications for credit, and consumers don’t always understand why they’ve been rejected. “With access to credit becoming increasingly difficult, it is important for consumers to understand and regularly check their credit score and report. It is, after all, easier to build a good credit profile from the start than repairing a broken one.” 

Roussos says the bank will soon “nudge” its own customers to check their profiles via the app, and “at some point” move into rewards-based pricing, giving the customers with the best scores the best interest rates. 

When checking your credit report, this is what you need to look out for:

  • Ensure your personal information is up to date, including your address and contact details. 
  • Check if any accounts have been opened fraudulently in your name. 
  • Are there any inquiries reflected on your credit report that have been made by credit providers you have no relationship with? 
  • Are there any accounts you have closed that are still reflected as open on your report?
  • Are there any accounts that are still open, but reflected as closed on your report?
  • Check if you have bad debt, or accounts which are in arrears. This will limit your chances of getting credit in the future. It is wise to bring your arrears payments up to date and see how your score will improve once your repayments are up to date — and kept up to date. Eventually you will be in a position to apply for new credit.

If you are listed negatively with a credit bureau you have certain rights. You can challenge the information if you believe is incorrect. First contact the bureau in question. If you are not satisfied with the findings you can report the bureau to the Credit Ombudsman on 0861 662 837. If you are still unsatisfied, you can lodge a complaint with the National Credit Regulator by calling 0860 627 627.