Your credit score is all important when it comes to a successful loan application. From getting a house to an education loan, critical life opportunities can come down to a number and a single letter on a sheet of paper. Avoid making these mistakes that will lead to a poor credit score.
1. Too many open credit accounts
The more money you currently owe, the worse your credit score will be. Note that the number of different accounts matters as well: if you don’t owe much, but you owe small amounts scattered across six credit cards, two lines of credit and a personal loan, your credit scored will be negatively impacted.
2. Applying for multiple loans in quick succession
If you apply for multiple forms of credit in short order (e.g. you apply for three personal loans in Singapore within a month), your credit score will drop.
Banks will assume your financial situation has taken a turn for the worse (or is about to) when you take multiple loans in a short time. In Singapore, this often happens with first-time home buyers, who take a personal loan to cover the down payment on top of a home loan.
Get around that by saving enough for the down payment, or by using a HDB concessionary loan, which lets you make the entire down payment with your CPF.
When taking loans, work out how much you need and take it out in a single loan. Don’t take out one small loan, realise it’s less than you need, and then take out another loan later.
3. Late payments
Credit cards and lines of credit require a minimum repayment before the billing cycle ends. This is often S$50 or 5% of the amount owed, whichever is higher. Other loans, such as a student loan, car loan, or personal loan, may have fixed repayments.
If you are more than 30 days late on the minimum repayment, you will be considered delinquent. If you often incur late fees (around S$60), you probably have a credit rating that indicates delinquency.
The only way to fix this is to make reliable, timely repayments. Over the course of a year, your credit score will improve.
If you are going to be late with repayments, call your bank in advance and inform them. They are sometimes willing to work out an alternative mode of repayment with you.
4. Poor credit history
If you have a history of reliably making repayments, you’ll have a good credit score. This impacts many crucial financial decisions. For example, when you’re buying a flat, a bank can loan you up to 80% of the flat’s value. But if you have a bad credit score, you may only get 60% or 70%.
If you never use credit at all, your credit rating will be Cx. This is not desirable, as banks have no understanding of your history, and you are unknown risk. It is equally plausible that you will not get full financing for your flat, if you have no credit history at all.
To get the best results, have at least one credit card that you use as a mode of payment only (i.e. you always pay it back in full). This will build your credit score while avoiding any kind of interest.
5. Multiple credit card applications
Every time you apply for a credit card from a bank – regardless of whether you have finished the application process or not – the bank will look up your credit score. If there are multiple enquiries within a short time, your credit rating will drop. This is called being “credit hungry”, and it’s assumed you are facing some kind of financial difficulty.
If you’ve been turned down for a loan, for whatever reason, wait a month before making another credit card application. Check your credit score on Credit Bureau Singapore before and compare interest rates between loans and credit cards before you submit any applications.
6. Loan default
A default occurs when the bank writes off your debt. Unsecured loans, such as credit card loans and most personal loans, do not have any collateral: if you cannot pay them, the bank will simply have to treat it as a loss.
This is not a good thing. A single default can ruin your credit score for years to come, as it will show up on your credit report indefinitely. There are people who will never be able to buy a house or get their degree, because a default ruined their chances of getting a loan. Don’t be one of them.
7. Facing bankruptcy or pending litigation
If you’re a declared bankrupt, or are in the middle of legal complexities (e.g. being sued), most banks will not extend credit to you. You may still be able to get small loans of S$500 or less, as your credit score is not usually checked for these amounts.
If you have been discharged from bankruptcy – by which we mean you have an official letter of discharge from the Court – the bankruptcy will be removed from your credit report after five years.
Get your credit score report via Credit Bureau Singapore for a fee of S$6.42.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.