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Credit file basics

What is a credit file?

A credit file is record of information held by a credit bureau and accessed by banks, financial institutions or other businesses from which you may seek credit. This information helps lenders determine your creditworthiness. The use of credit files is regulated by the Privacy Act (1993) and the Credit Reporting Privacy Code (2003) and all companies who access credit files must comply with certain obligations.

Your credit file is usually accessed when you apply for credit and includes the following information:
  • Your identity details: including name, current address, previous addresses, date of birth and drivers licence number as known to the credit bureau.
  • Credit enquiries: showing where you have sought credit (e.g. credit and charge cards, mortgages and personal loans) from banks, finance companies, telecommunications and utilities providers in the past five years.
  • Overdue accounts (Defaults): showing default listings of accounts that have become 60 days or more past terms, owing $100 or more and for which collections action has commenced.
  • Public record information: including bankruptcies, writs and summonses, court judgements, directorships and proprietorships.

It is a good idea to review your credit file once a year. If you discover information you believe to be incorrect, you can ask the credit bureau to assist, free of charge. Accurate information stays on your file for 5 to 7 years and cannot be removed.

Under the Privacy Act, your credit file does not include sensitive information such as race, religion, health or and political affiliations.

Who can view your credit file?

Your credit file is typically accessed by credit providers with whom you choose to do business with and in accordance with the Privacy Act, and, of course, you.

As a responsible lender, American Express may review the credit files of our Cardmembers from time to time. The information contained in credit files may be used to assist with our management of our Cardmembers' accounts.

How do you establish a credit history?

You may begin to establish a credit history when you open an account with a utility company, telephone service provider, or apply for your first loan or credit card. From that point on, the way you manage your accounts may have an impact on your credit history.

A good past credit history is necessary in order to apply for future credit facilities.  For example, credit providers may review your credit history prior to approving your application for personal loans, mortgages, credit and charge cards.

Good credit guidelines

Some things that credit providers may consider when reviewing your credit file are:
  • The type of credit you have sought
  • How often you apply for credit and how much
  • Any overdue accounts listed against your name
To maintain a good credit history you should always pay your bills on time. If you are moving, ensure you provide your lenders with your new address and other contact information to avoid late or missed payments.

You should also check your credit file annually to ensure the accuracy of your information, and you can do so free of charge. Remember to inform the credit bureau and your lender immediately if you become aware of any inaccurate information in your credit file.

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