This article appeared on iafrica.com way back in 2009. Due to incessant reader demand, we've decided to republish.
Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of — for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear. — Socrates (Greek philosopher; 469 BCE — 399 BCE)
It's hard to build, yet easy to destroy. It follows you wherever you go and affords you the benefit of the doubt. Your good name is priceless.
Your credit record is your financial "good name". It's your reputation in the eyes of credit- and other service providers and it's one of the most important considerations when deciding if they should lend you money.
Your credit score is an attempt to quantify how much risk a lender is taking on by loaning you money. A credit provider will look to your credit score to determine if you are "credit worthy' - the better your score the more likely they'll grant you a loan. In addition to making loan applications easier, a good credit score is also a great bargaining tool when you're negotiating for a lower interest rate.
Experian and TransUnion ITC are the two main credit reporting agencies in South Africa and these all-seeing, all-knowing credit bureaus adjust your score each time you borrow or repay debt.
Creditors choose which bureau to use and each one has different information about you, meaning that you have two credit scores. It's also possible for lenders to produce a unique score for you using their own records.
These last few years, banks and other credit providers seem terrified of lending so it's a good idea to work on your credit score before applying for a mortgage or other loan.
Here is some advice on how you can do just that:
Pay on time
Paying on time is, obviously, a vital determinant of your credit score. In fact, your payment history can contribute up to 35 percent of your score.
Each time you're late, even by a day, it gets noted and your score decreases. To ensure this never happens I suggest you set up debit orders or postdate payments you make online.
Recent transactions carry more weight than older ones, so it's fairly easy to erase earlier blots if you consistently start making timely payments.
Remember, it doesn't matter that you can pay; you must pay on time.
Article continues on pages two to four: 13 more steps towards a perfect credit score...