You’ve done all the right things – You’ve saved years for your dream house on the coast, scoured through listings and are ready to apply for your first mortgage. Everything seems to be lining up until your mortgage officer calls and says, “Sorry to break the news, but you have bad credit”.
Today, credit scores influence many aspects of our financial future – They determine if we can obtain a home, car, loan or credit card. They also may affect the kinds of interest rates or employment opportunities we receive.
Credit scores are highlighted on credit reports which are essentially a snapshot of your credit behaviour – Are you paying your credit bills on time? Have you been diligently paying back your student loan month by month?
If you answered ‘no’ to those questions, you may have more credit than you are able to repay, thus lowering your credit score. You are therefore perceived as a risk to banks the lower your score and viewed with confidence the higher your score.
How to Get Your Credit Report:
- Apply for the credit report –Visit the website of an approved Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) credit bureau – In Jamaica, there are three (3) bureaus: Creditinfo Jamaica, CRIF Information Bureau Jamaica or Credit Information Services. Creditinfo offers an online application via their website, and CRIF and Credit Information Services offer online processing via email. Check the document requirements by clicking on the name of each bureau above.
- Wait to receive credit report – You can expect to receive your credit report same-day or within 48 hours.
- Review and analyze your credit report – Your credit report will include your personal information (i.e. name, date of birth, TRN, address, employment) along with a credit summary on current or past due credit accounts (i.e. payment history, debts accumulated, credit limits, bankruptcy, lawsuits, foreclosures, repossessions if any).
NOTE: Your credit score, which will be listed in your credit summary, is determined by five main factors:
- Payment history
- Debt balance
- The age on credit accounts
- Types of credit accounts
- Number of hard inquiries on your credit history
How Often Should I Apply for a Report?
Grants Manager at the JN Foundation, Rose Miller, advises checking your credit report “at least once per year”. It is important to note that every Jamaican over 18 is entitled by law to receive a FREE copy of their credit report from each of the three bureaus once a year. Depending on the bureau you select, an additional fee may apply if you wish to have the credit score included on the report.
Subsequent reports also attract an additional cost. Consider taking out an extra report if you:
- Are working on improving your credit
- Believe you are the victim of identity theft or just had your personal information compromised in a data breach (The first sign of identity theft could be an unexplained change in credit score)
- Got divorced (The failure of you and/or your spouse to make joint payments will affect your credit score)
- Are about to make a major purchase that requires a loan (To ensure you are not denied or are charged high interest rates!)
Apart of being financially responsible is paying your bills on time, establishing emergency funds and staying up to date on your credit. It’s never a bad thing to be too sure about your credit score, especially if it’s the key to your future home or car!