I have often come across friends boasting, “My credit score is higher than yours,” and those on the “lower” end of the comparison want to have higher scores. Then there are past defaulters who wish to be considered for a loan and complain that banks turn down their application even after they have settled all outstandings in full and even improved their scores. In many cases they are indignant that they have now settled all the over dues, hence should get access to loans.
Let us take up the case of the past defaulter first. Let us suppose you are in the money lending business and a potential borrower has approached you for a loan. Would you lend to this individual knowing fully well that he has delayed payment in the past to another money lender and only settled a part of the amount of overdue interest to the lender? Even if he had settled his outstandings in full along with overdue interest, would you still lend to him?
Like any sensible businessman you will wait for a while till he shows better record with someone else before you lend him money. This is exactly how one who is placed in this category of borrower should do: First, settle all outstanding payments. Even you settle, do not expect an overnight increase in your ability to borrow more. You will need to slowly rebuild your history. The best way is to get loans that are available despite your adverse credit history.
You can take a secured credit card from some public sector banks where you place a fixed deposit with the concerned bank and they give you a credit card with some percentage limit of the fixed deposit amount. This ensures that the bank is completely protected from the risk of any default as they can set off the credit card outstanding against the fixed deposit amount in case of the eventuality.
The reason it helps the consumer is that when he spends and pays back on the credit card, he is building a good repayment history. The other option could be to take a loan against gold from leading banks or NBFCs. Again the lender is fully protected and hence is able to give a loan despite the adverse credit history.
Prompt repayment on such loans again creates better credit history. Over time the credit institution starts giving less weightage to your old default and more weightage to your current prompt payment and hence the overall credit score starts improving.
Keeping up with the Joneses
The second category of people compare their score with their friends discover that their credit score is lower than their friends/relatives and want to understand the reasons. Do not get obsessed about your credit score as long as it is above 750. Unlike the US where a movement of 5-10 points in your credit score could cost/save you thousands of dollars in interest and fees, in India lenders just use your credit score to eliminate people whom they will not consider for lending. So if you have a credit score of 825 and your friend has 775, you will still get the same rate and experience from the lender since both of you will make the grade to be considered for the loan. Here are a few things that you could do to make sure that your score becomes higher while waiting for the benefits to accrue:
Get a copy of your own credit report at least once a year and make sure you follow up to get any errors corrected to ensure it does not hurt your credit score.
Pay your bills on time
Keep unsecured loans to a minimum. Don’t close your old credit cards as repayment history on older credits has a higher weightage than on a newer facility. If you have used the credit limit on your card almost fully then apply to get your credit limits enhanced to show lower utilisation of your credit limits.
You will hopefully realise that there is a vital function the credit bureau performs and not just that of a ‘Boogeyman’. l
— Author is CEO, ApnaPaisa.com