Credit Ratings: What is ‘Bad Credit’ and ‘Good Credit’?

Information verified correct on October 24th, 2016

Everything you need to know about the difference between a good and bad credit rating and how you can improve yours.

Your credit history plays an important role in getting approval for products such as mortgages, car loans and credit cards. Essentially, your credit report is a historical summary of all the loans, accounts and other lines of credit you’ve used in the past five years, including the ones you may have applied for but were not granted. This report also contains information about your open credit accounts, repayment habits and payment defaults, as well as legal information pertaining to things like bankruptcy, court writs or judgments, debt and insolvency agreements.

Whenever you apply for any sort of credit, even mobile or internet plans, the details of your application are sent to Credit Reporting Bodies (CRBs), whose business is to maintain and update your credit report. This report is then made available to financial institutions and credit lenders who may consider granting your future loan applications based on your previous history of borrowing and repayment.

In Australia, it’s common for financial institutions to privately determine credit ratings when you apply for any form of credit, including loans, credit cards and credit limit increases. They may never give you detailed information about this “internal” credit rating, but a good or bad credit rating can influence the outcome of your application. Some lenders may also have their own system of calculation to assess the amount of credit you can safely borrow based on this.

If your record tracks a poor pattern of debt repayment, you’ll naturally be considered a high credit risk and may be refused credit or offered a higher interest rate. To discover what’s on your report, request a free copy of your credit history from the CBRs in Australia, such as Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Veda and the Tasmanian Collection Service (if you’re based in Tasmania).

What is a good credit rating?

credit reportIn general, a good credit rating will improve your chances of applying for credit at a higher limit with better repayment terms. While lenders are trending towards a more comprehensive or positive system of assessment, until now, the credit reporting system has predominantly focussed on negative marks such as overdue debts and credit infractions.

As such, a healthy credit report is signalled by the lack of black marks like late payments and credit defaults. That said, a blank credit report isn’t necessarily assuring to lenders. Most lenders are likely to prefer someone with a proven record of responsibly maintaining open accounts over someone with no history of borrowing. The characteristics of a good credit report include established credit accounts with low balances, regular repayments made on or before the due date, and a clean legal record.

How can I develop a good credit rating?

  • Establish healthy accounts. Having a mobile or internet plan, electricity account or Foxtel service in your name is a good way to establish proof that you are a responsible borrower.
  • Make punctual payments. Make sure you pay your bills on time, because this behaviour over time gives potential lenders the confidence that you can be trusted to pay their bills on time.
  • Stay free of debt. This is a no-brainer. Lenders will not be inclined to lend you
    more money if you’re already heavily in debt and don’t appear able to manage
    your money and loans.
  • Stay in the same job. Job stability demonstrates responsibility to potential lenders, as well as your ability to repay.
  • Stay in the same place. Long-term rental or homeownership also demonstrates responsibility and gives lenders the comfort of knowing you’re not likely to default on your payments and run away.
  • Make infrequent credit card applications. Each credit card application you make shows up in your credit report regardless of whether it is approved. Having numerous credit card applications on your report, again, puts in question your ability to manage money and loans.

Learn more ways to improve your credit rating

What is a bad credit rating?

poor credit history

A bad credit rating can result in rejected applications, lower credit limits and more restrictive repayment terms. A bad credit report is usually quite obviously scarred by things like bankruptcy declarations, payment defaults, court charges or court writs relating to finance (e.g. fines, fraud charges, etc.) Less extreme black marks include late payments, high credit balances, and frequent applications for credit (e.g. applying for three credit cards in a month).

Having a lot of active credit accounts can also negatively affect your credit score, especially if you also have issues with any of the above, because it indicates a lack of responsibility in the area of credit management.

What can cause a bad credit rating?

  • Numerous credit accounts and applications. Having too many loans to your name isn’t a good look because it puts in question your ability to manage and repay all of them at once. All loan applications stay on record for five years.
  • Credit enquiries. Every time you apply for credit, the lender makes an enquiry on your credit history. This enquiry itself is then recorded on the report going forward, leaving a trail of credit enquiries that other future lenders will not look favourably upon. These stay on record for five years.
  • Late or skipped payments. Poor payment habits are a definite warning sign to potential lenders so it is always better to make a repayment on time, even if it’s a
    small or partial amount. Loan repayment history stays on your record for two years.
  • Credit defaults. This happens when a lender takes action to retrieve an outstanding
    payment, and stays on your record for five years.
  • Court writs and summons. These legal blemishes stay on your record for four years.
  • Serious credit infringement or clearouts. If you fail to make payment and the creditor is unable to contact you for more than six months, a serious credit infringement will be marked on your record for seven years.
  • Bankruptcy and insolvency. These will stay on your report for five years after the start of insolvency, or two years after the insolvency ends, whichever is longer.

How to repair bad credit rating in Australia

How can I check my credit rating?

There are services in Australia that provide credit scoring, including independent businesses such as checkmyfile, CRBs like Veda which offer credit ratings with their credit report packages, and (a joint initiative between Veda and SocietyOne).
Get Your Free Credit Score

MyCredit file

Order a copy of your credit file

Receive email alerts whenever specific changes occur on your credit file for 12 months. You also receive a copy of your credit file despatched within one working day.
Receive your credit file with information on:

  • Details of consumer credit enquiries
  • Details of overdue consumer credit accounts
  • Commercial credit enquiries
  • Details of overdue commercial credit accounts
  • Bankruptcy & Court Judgements
  • Writs & Summons
  • Information on your current relationship with a credit provider
  • $79.95 p.a. annual fee

While the credit scores you get from these services will vary, they can still be useful in giving you a general idea of the types of loans and credit cards you can get. In fact, checkmyfile even matches you up with “lenders who are likely to say yes to your applications”.

The range of details in the report may also vary between bureaus, so it can be useful to request free copies of your reports from all of them to see exactly what’s there and to ensure that they’re all correct. You should contact the credit reporting body as soon as possible if you find any mistakes on your credit history.

Rest assured that the details on your credit history are protected by the Privacy Act (1988) such that only you and authorised agents can access the information.

What are my options if I have a bad credit rating?

If you find that you have bad credit, you may be able to improve it by practising responsible lending habits, such as making payments on time. It could be worth taking stock of all your credit accounts or consolidating debts so that it becomes easier to pay them off, which will improve your credit score in the long run.

There are also credit repair services that offer guidance and counselling to help improve your credit score – but just be aware that some of these services charge money and may not be worth it depending on your circumstances.

You can take comfort knowing that time is on your side in this scenario, because all of your black marks will be erased from the report in seven years if you start developing responsible repayment habits today. Fortunately also, if you can’t wait that long, there are personal loans and credit cards that cater for customers with bad credit ratings. See also your other credit options if you have a bad credit rating.

Finally, knowing your credit rating in Australia could be useful to you in some situations, but it’s merely an indicator of whether you’ll get the credit that you want. In reality, other factors like present employment, total income and current assets also come into play when lenders consider your application.

Tips to increase the chances of credit card application approval

Alternatives for borrowers with bad credit who need credit

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  • Bad credit borrowers OK
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  • No Credit Checks - Must be employed

    Lenders that offer personal loans to bad credit borrowers

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    $10,000 6 to 12 Months Same Day - conditions apply Interest rate and comparison rate will vary based on risk factors. Go to site More
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    72 Responses to Credit Ratings: What is ‘Bad Credit’ and ‘Good Credit’?

    1. Default Gravatar
      Bella | November 29, 2015

      I have low credit score but no defaults etc what are my chances getting a credit card

      • Default Gravatar
        Sarah | January 31, 2016

        If I have a credit score in the top 20% does that mean I also have a good credit rating? Can u have a good score but a bad credit rating? Ta

      • Staff
        Jonathan | February 1, 2016

        Hi Sarah, thanks for your inquiry!

        Your VedaScore sums up your credit file in a number between 0 and 1200 (also known as the credit rating). The higher your VedaScore, the more likely you’ll be accepted when applying for credit.

        I hope this helps.



      • Staff
        Jonathan | November 30, 2015

        Hi Bella, thanks for your inquiry!

        Aside from an individual’s credit score the bank also takes into account your income, liabilities and other information. If you meet the minimum application requirements for a card then you will be eligible to apply. You may like to compare low interest rate credit cards, which have lower requirements than other types of credit cards.



    2. Default Gravatar
      Kim | October 26, 2015

      Kulwinder Malhi
      My credit rating 650
      I have apply to many applications
      All applications on my file
      How removed application on my file

      • Staff
        Jonathan | October 27, 2015

        Hi Kim, thanks for your inquiry!

        To remove applications on your file you can seek help from a credit repair agency.



    3. Default Gravatar
      jovan | October 23, 2015

      hi i have been bankruptcy from 2002 to 2007 after i the time i pay payments to government now i still go problem with same bank my record no change and i can get to the banks after 8 years thanks


      • Staff
        Jonathan | October 26, 2015

        Hi Jovan, thanks for your inquiry!

        The bankruptcy listing remains on your credit file for two years from the annulment date, or five years from the beginning of the bankruptcy – whichever comes later. If the record is still on your credit file you may like to consult credit repair services which can help fix incorrect records on your file.



    4. Default Gravatar
      Sj | October 14, 2015


      I have two utility defaults on my credit rating, how ever they have been paid. and accounts paid. i was wondering if their is a way i can get them removed? i am wanting to consolidate some debt with a personal loan, how ever i don’t want to make my credit worse by applying and getting declined.


      • Staff
        Jonathan | October 15, 2015

        Hi Sj, thanks for your inquiry!

        If a negative mark/ record has been resolved generally it can be removed from your credit file by consulting with a credit repair agency. They will investigate your negative listings and if they are able to remove them they will go about the necessary removal process for you.



    5. Default Gravatar
      Adam | September 30, 2015

      I have a Veda score of “Average” or 520, but with Experian its only 270 and “below average”. I have not made any applications for credit in the last 12 months. I am confused as to the differences between the scores and am wishing to apply for a credit card within the next month. Obviously I would with fro a provider to look at the Average score rather than the below average score.

      • Staff
        Jonathan | October 1, 2015

        Hi Adam, thanks for your inquiry!

        Different issuers use specific credit agencies such as Veda or Experian. Their credit rating criteria is not actually disclosed to the public so unfortunately we do not have the details on how they calculate an individual’s credit score. If you meet the application criteria for a credit card and do not have a bad credit history then you will be eligible to apply for the credit card.



    6. Default Gravatar
      Ian | July 30, 2015

      Hi I have checked my credit files and They are clear. I own my own home outright and i have no debts of any kind . I always pay my bills on time. My income is a Government pension which i receive every fortnight. I recently applied for a credit card and was rejected. Why? and is there any credit card that i can apply for without having a credit history. I feel like i am being punished for not having a credit history at all maybe i should not have paid cash for everything i own. I just wanted to have a credit card for emergencies only. can you advise me on where to go? to get the best credit card and establish a credit rating

      • Staff
        Sally | July 30, 2015

        Hi Ian,

        Thank you for your questions and we’re sorry to hear about your rejected application.

        Although most credit card issuers will require the cardholder to have a good credit history, a low rate credit card has lower income requirements and may be more likely to accept an applicant with a limited credit history.

        Here’s a comparison of some of the low rate credit cards available on the market.

        You may also wish to visit our credit rating repair guide for some tips.

        You can also read over this page to gain some insight into why your application may have been declined.

        However, before you apply for another credit card, you may wish to speak with some credit card issuers directly to discuss your options and chances for acceptance, as several rejected credit card applications will have a negative impact on your credit rate and reduce your chances of approval even further.

        I hope this has helped answer your questions.



    7. Default Gravatar
      Ren | July 30, 2015


      I have a judgement on my file,due for deletion in December, added 5 years ago now and I have had no credit since. I am looking to apply for some interest free credit on some house hold goods. My rating is in the bottom 20%. What are my chances of being approved? Will my score increase by a lot in December? And, can I get it removed sooner?

      • Staff
        Sally | July 30, 2015

        Hi Ren,

        Thank you for your comment.

        If you continue at this rate, it can be assumed that your credit file will continue to improve by December. However, as a financial comparison service, we are unable to confirm exactly how much it will have improved by then.

        As credit issuer’s have varying eligibility requirements regarding different credit applications, it is also difficult to confirm whether or not your application will be approved.

        As far as having the judgement removed from your file, unless it is an incorrect statement, then you’ll be unable to have it removed before the set deletion date.

        To gain a greater insight, you may need to get in touch with a credit advisory service to discuss your current credit rating.

        I hope this has helped answer your question.



    8. Default Gravatar
      cam | July 20, 2015

      When it come to credit enquiries, how may would be considered bad within the last 5 years I have 46. Not realising when I turned 18 all this gets put on a report.

      I’m trying to get finance but got declined due to my credit. I had a default which I got removed as it wasn’t true.

      • Staff
        Jonathan | July 21, 2015

        Hi Cam,

        Thank you for your inquiry.

        Personal details and defaults are kept on your file for five years, and any enquiry will be added to your credit report. This will include any loan applications, as well as mortgage and utilities. If you may have applied for several enquiries for a short span of time, it may have a negative effect on your credit.
        You may want to check our page for credit repair. This page explain how credit repair works and how incorrect listings will be removed from your file.

        I hope this helps.



    9. Default Gravatar
      Curious | July 13, 2015

      Just wanting to know, i want to apply for a credit card, I have 1 paid default for and electricity bill, but I also currently have a car loan (not huge) in place. I actually want to put cash onto the credit card for an overseas trip using part my money and using part credit if need be as back up. I earn a decent wage what are my chances like

      • Staff
        Jonathan | July 15, 2015

        Hi Curious, thank you for your inquiry.

        For a list of credit cards you can use while traveling overseas, kindly compare from this page. Each of the cards pose separate eligibility requirements (including minimum income), allowing you to compare the cards you’re eligible to apply for.

        I hope this will help.



    10. Default Gravatar
      Tricky | June 27, 2015

      Hi I have come to the end of my 5 year debt agreement, all paid with no defaults. If I apply for a low interest rate credit card what will my credit rating look like to the lender? Will it show that I was on a debt agreement or will my file be wiped clean? What will my chances be in acquiring credit? Will I carry around the stigma of my past agreement for years to come?

      Thanks for your help.

      • Staff
        Jonathan | June 29, 2015

        Hi Tricky, thanks for your inquiry!

        A debt agreement may appear on a record held by a credit reporting organisation for up to seven years. In regards to applying for a low interest rate credit card, the credit history/ rating and other criteria including financial details, employment and identification will be considered in the application process. You may like to refer to the following link for more information on the credit repair process and how to get your credit card application approved.



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