Build your credit score

On your ClearScore credit report, we show you the factors affecting your score and how to improve.

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How to build your credit score from scratch

If you don’t have a lot of experience with credit, then your credit score will reflect this. We find out why you should improve your score, and we look at steps you can take to grow it.

07 December 2021Isabelle Coetzee 3 min read
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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash.

Build your credit score

On your ClearScore credit report, we show you the factors affecting your score and how to improve.

Learn more

Many South Africans are unaware of their credit scores. They either think that it’s an American phenomenon, which doesn’t apply here, or they believe a credit score is not relevant to their lives. However, this is ultimately not true.

When you need financial products, such as credit cards or loans, or when you have to prove that you’re financially responsible, such as when you’re being vetted for a lease agreement, you will quickly realise how important your credit score is.

It plays an instrumental role in the interest rate you receive, the credit limit you’re offered, and – overall – whether you’re approved for credit or not.

When it comes to your credit score, you need to be proactive and kick it into decent shape before you need to rely on it. It can take months to grow, so you should pay attention to this long before you need it for an important purchase.

You can monitor your credit score on ClearScore – for free – as often as you’d like. Simply sign up, and check your report for how to improve.

Your credit score is your responsibility. There are surefire ways in which you can build it over time, and you need to take action sooner rather than later. Here are the go-to steps you should consider:

1. Find out what your credit score is

The first step is the easiest step. You can’t work on something you have no knowledge of, so you need to gain access to your credit score and report. By doing this, you will be able to see what your score is, and which factors have influenced it.

Among other things, your credit report will outline your payment history, how much you owe, and which accounts you have open. Through ClearScore, you will also have access to an interactive timeline of your credit history over time.

2. Pay the accounts you already have

Without realising its relation to your credit score, you may already have accounts open that contribute towards your credit score. For example, if your cellphone contract is in your name, then it’s already helping you build your score.

On your credit report, you will be able to see which accounts are contributing towards your score. If you want to grow a healthy credit score, you need to make sure you stay on top of the accounts you already have.

Besides this, you should note that there’s a misconception that your utility bills will contribute towards your credit score. This is not the case. However, your provider will report you to the credit bureaus if you miss your payments. Therefore, you should always make sure you pay your utility bills on time.

3. Open accounts that will grow your score

If you realised that you don’t have a credit score yet, or you have an average or bad score and you want to improve it, then you need to consider opening the following credit accounts:

  • Cellphone contract: Make sure that this is in your name, and that you meet all of your monthly payments. It’s an easy way to build your credit score. Get started
  • Insurance: You will not have trouble being approved for insurance, and your provider will report your positive credit behaviour to the bureaus. On ClearScore, we provide access to car and funeral insurance. Get started
  • Store cards: Unlike credit cards, you will not struggle to be approved for these. It’s the perfect opportunity to purchase something small and prove your reliability. Get started

There are several other credit-bearing accounts you can apply for through ClearScore. Sign up or log in to find out which offers match your current credit score.

4. Monitor your credit report and adjust where necessary

Your credit score may change every month – depending on the actions you take, and how regularly your chosen lenders report to the credit bureaus. This means that you should view your credit score often to make sure it’s on track.

If you’re dissatisfied with your score, then there are measures you can take to start improving it in the months to come:

  • Enquiries: Do not apply for credit from numerous providers over a short period of time. This will make the bureaus think you’re desperate for credit, and your score will decrease.
  • Credit utilisation: Try to reduce your credit utilisation to 30% and under. You can do this by paying a lumpsum towards your credit, or by diligently paying slightly more than necessary each month.
  • Payment history: This is by far the most important factor on your credit report. Make sure that you timeously pay your accounts so you don't default.

5. Be patient

It takes time for your credit score to reflect the positive actions you have taken to improve it. If you don’t see any immediate updates, don’t let it get you down.

Instead, you should keep working on it and try to give the credit bureaus even more reasons to raise your score. By doing this, your score will be even higher than you initially anticipated.

If you would like to find out more about growing your credit score, sign up with ClearScore and start our free, self-paced coaching plan on building your credit score.

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Written by Isabelle Coetzee

Freelance Copywriter

Isabelle is a freelance finance writer and journalist in Cape Town. She helps make managing your personal finances calm, clear and easy to understand.