How To Keep Your Credit Score Healthy and Avoid Adverse Listings
Having credit is essential to navigating a modern lifestyle. Few Kenyan consumers have the ability to pay cash for a home, a car, big ticket items or education. But what do you do when your debt gets out of control, and you’re faced with adverse listings on your credit report?
“While an adverse listing may affect your ability to get credit in the short term, it’s never too late to start remedying the situation,” says Morris Maina, chief executive officer of TransUnion Kenya.
“Adverse credit listings are a result of poor repayment history on one or more loans or credit cards – it could be a late, missed or even partial payment. These listings will be reflected in your credit report, and will lower your credit score and potentially make it more difficult to get a loan or credit card. But there’s good news: a poor credit history can be rectified over time by establishing better financial habits,” said Maina.
So where do you find out if you have anything adverse listed against your name?
Start by reviewing your credit report
Your credit report is a powerful tool which can help you establish and understand your financial health – and you can get it for free once a year from TransUnion and other credit bureaus. Your credit report reflects your payment behaviour overtime, and includes information from sources like banks, micro finance institutions, Sacco’s and traders. Be sure to identify any red flags such as defaults because these have a hugely negative impact on your credit score.
What is a default?
If you’ve missed a payment for three consecutive months or more, this will be recorded on your credit report because you have failed to make (or defaulted) your payment. A default history stays on your credit report for five years and is only removed after full repayment and after this time has elapsed. In terms of the Credit Reference Bureau Regulations, 2020 a credit provider must give you one month’s written notice, informing you that your default will be reported to the credit bureau.
How do you address adverse listings on your credit report?
When paid up, defaults change your status from non-performing to performing, with a default history. This information is removed five years after full repayment of the facility. If there is inaccurate information on your report, you can lodge a dispute. Once your dispute is logged, it takes TransUnion up to five working days to review and issue a Notice of Dispute. Within 21 days, the listing institution completes the necessary investigations and issues a Notice of Resolution. You can do this by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Be very careful of so-called 'credit repair agents' who claim to be able to remove valid listings for an upfront fee. This practice is illegal, and you could end up losing your money,” said Maina.
How can you improve your credit score?
“There are four keys to improving your credit score,” says Maina:
- Manage your accounts. Make sure you pay your accounts in full every month if you have any. Partial payments can negatively impact your score and leave you playing catch-up with growing outstanding debt.
- Limit your amount of debt. Keep the utilisation of your current credit facilities below 35% of your limit.
- Grow your credit history. Long-standing credit accounts that are consistently settled in full reflect positively on your repayment reliability. It also helps to maintain a healthy mix of secured credit (home loans and vehicle finance) and unsecured credit (personal loans and credit cards).
- Limit your enquiry activity. Don’t shop around for too much credit at the same time. Too many applications in a short space of time could raise a red flag to lenders about your current financial situation.
You can download your credit report for free once every 12 months from TransUnion and other credit bureaus in the country. You can also request a credit report or access your Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) clearance certificate through TransUnion’s Nipashe, which allows consumers to easily access their credit information through SMS. Your first clearance certificate is free.
To get a free copy of your credit report from TransUnion, simply SMS your name to 21272 and register for Nipashe. You can then download your free credit report or request your credit status. You can also send an email to email@example.com or download TransUnion’s Nipashe app to your Android smartphone via the Google Play Store.
Disclaimer: SMS and Registration charges apply at Kes.19 and Kes.50 respectively.