Go Access Your Free Credit Report Today:
A Matter of Life and Debt
Do you know what your credit score is? Have you ever accessed one of your free credit reports? Do you know how many bureaus are in Jamaica?
Let’s talk credit reports..
Imagine you applied for a loan and thought everything was in good order until they said that you unfortunately cannot qualify because of your credit score. What do you do at that point? Is it too late? It may be, but to avoid arriving in this situation in the 1st place I have a few recommendations.
What could have caused your credit score to be low?
Situations like the following could cause your score to be low:
- A previous loan you or a someone else who you guaranteed a loan for forgot/neglected to repay,
- Constantly repaying loans late (not withing the time you agreed to repaying them)
- High credit card debt
- Lack of sufficient credit history
- Too many loan applications in short succession
What can you do to make sure that your credit history is in good health? In the event you will need a little help in paying for school, buying a car, buying a home or even if you need to guarantee someone else’s loan, most financial institutions will run a check of your credit history.
The ads we often see on TV will give us the impression that all that comes up is a credit score that tells you whether the person is a good or a bad risk (high or low score). In Jamaica, Credit Bureaus are fairly recent (the Credit Reporting Act was passed in Aug 2010 and data sharing started in 2013) so companies often use the entire credit report to make decisions about your repayment history and your ability to repay a loan.
In Jamaica, we have three Credit Bureaus CRIF, Credit Info and Credit Information Services. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report each twelve months. You can send the request for CRIF via email (notarized), but for Credit Info and CIS you will have to go in office to request it.
You will need 1-2 forms of identity and proof of address to request your credit report. The links for each are below.
So what information is a credit officer going to see about you? Request your reports to know the specifics, (CRIF has a sample report on their website here https://www.crif.com.jm/media/405707/credit_report.pdf) but in general:
- Your full name and date of birth
- Your TRN number
- Your last address and historical addresses
- Your cell number, your email address
- Your employer and length of employment
- The number/types of loans you have across the institutions that share data with them
- Any loans you guarantee or any co-applicants
- Your credit limit on credit cards
- Seven (7) years of payment history and patters (whether you paid your loans on time or you were late)
- The number of inquiries done on you/your business (i.e. how many credit reports have been pulled)
- Your credit score – Low Risk, Medium Risk or High Risk
As of April 2019, Credit Info indicates that it is receiving information from 51 different providers. These would primarily include financial institutions but in 2014 the bureaus were granted access to collect data on repayment history of utilities including telecoms, light and water. Each bureau collects information from different institutions so it is best to check the reports from all of them to ensure that you know what is represented on each.
In a Gleaner articled entitled “Jamaicans Urged to Take Credit Scores Seriously” CEO of Credit Info Craig Stephen indicates that these are the five factors used to calculate a credit score:
- Payment history
- Debt balance
- Types of credit accounts, and
- Number of inquiries about the person’s credit history
In more mature markets like the United Kingdom, your credit history may also include:
- Information on some of your banking transactions
- Any Court judgements made against you
- Any repossession or abdication of loan responsibilities
- Bankruptcy declarations
So what are the implications of this?
- If you ever apply for a loan its best you request your report before. There may be things on the report that are erroneous (e.g. a loan paid off that is still shown as current) and it is your responsibility to ensure that they are fixed.
I visited a website that referred to the Credit Report as the financial CV. You wouldn’t go to a job interview with a CV that someone else did for you would you? That’s the same way you shouldn’t apply for a loan without knowing what on your Financial Resume. The only way you will know what is on it is if you request it, because the lender will not be likely to share the report(s) they have received with you.
- If you have multiple identities or supply fraudulent data to your lender you will be in problems. If you can’t be identified it will be more difficult to assess your credit worthiness. Some bureaus check your info against fraud databases as well to see if you have been flagged elsewhere.
- If you don’t pay your loans ON TIME you will be negatively affected. You have a contractual agreement about when you are required to repay a loan. If you don’t honor that contract, it will be noted on your credit report and bring down your score.
- If you have no credit history you will be negatively affected. A low balance credit card is a good way to start building your credit history if you are young, but be responsible and pay in full each month.
- If you visit multiple institutions in short succession, your score will go down. My advice, understand the loan terms and conditions for each potential institution (interest rates, expected repayments, length of the loan etc.) and use a loan calculator to determine if you can afford to go to that institution. Some will have different thresholds of risk and accept persons with a lower score.
Again, go get your free credit report now, especially if you are in the market for a car, house or personal loan.