Personal Finance

Have you seen your credit report today? If you haven’t, you should. You might just discover shocking details of your spending habits, especially if you belong to the group that loves going trigger-happy on credit cards.

In a somewhat surprising statistic revealed by Credit Bureau Singapore (CBS) recently, about 85% of Singaporeans have never seen their own credit report. As a result, they have no idea where they stand on personal credit ratings.

Who are these CBS guys and what exactly are credit scores, you ask? Think of them as risk analysts like Moody’s Analytics, but instead of grading bonds using just alphabetical scores, CBS uses a four-digit risk assessment score between 1000 and 2000 to determine if you are prone to default on a loan. Here is a table for ease of reference:

Score Range

Risk Grade

Probability of Default



































As depicted by the chart, the closer you are to 2000, the more you are deemed an ‘angel bond’ and the likelier you are to receive a stamp of approval on your loan applications. If you plummet towards 1000, you are pretty much a junk bond. In order to derive credit scores on each individual, CBS pulls out past payment records (or lack thereof) from financial institutions you have signed up with. As CBS is a Monetary Authority of Singapore-recognised bureau, all its member banks may disclose personal banking information under the Banking Act. From there, CBS rates you accordingly. Like selfies in the bathroom, personal financial transactions are things we keep close to our hearts and you may cry foul over the lack of privacy. Then again, we should have gotten used to it ever since Facebook came around, shouldn’t we? 

Now, there is no reason to get all paranoid; CBS does not intentionally penalise you just because you did not pay your bills on time. In fact, they serve only to provide an independent assessment of credit histories to help their member banks make a more informed lending decision. On your part, you don’t have to hit a roadblock if you ever need an urgent loan to finance big ticket items like a new flat or that really grand wedding dinner you are planning.

While the snowballing of interests (24% per annum) is the primary danger of letting credit card payments roll, declining credit scores is another silent killer working behind the scenes. But partial or late settlements is merely one of the many factors affecting credit scores. Here are some of the major ones you may or may not be aware of:

No track record of credit spending

CBS inspects the last 12 months’ worth of credit activities on existing, closed and defaulted accounts to calculate scores. Needless to say, prompt payments will boost it. However, don’t be too quick to think that having absolutely zero credit spending would also get banks rushing to shower you with loans; these bunch of consumers are pegged at a grade of CX at best, which means they are still not as eligible as reliable borrowers who have consistently paid their credit card bills and loans on time.

Number of credit accounts

This is another form of the law of large numbers at play. The more credit accounts you hold, the higher the probability that lenders deem you as a late payer. Or worse, defaulter.

Credit hungriness

Signing up for multiple credit cards within a short period of time is a red flag to banks, which will do due diligence on your credit score. Maybe you just wanted to enjoy all the irresistible cashbacks and discounts offered across different cards, but banks might perceive you as a risky profile with serious debt issues. The trick is to draw up comparisons and then sign up for that one card that rewards you on a particular lifestyle area you spend on most.

Making multiple enquiries

Here is another reason not to succumb to that smiling bank promoter’s shtick. Similar to the above point, even making one too many applications alone (whether it is eventually approved or not) can put a dent in credit scores. Having numerous enquiries on your credit report indicates to lenders that you are potentially overextending yourself with increased liabilities.

Patterns of credit spending

Having many loan accounts with relatively small amounts is just as bad as having one with an astronomical payable balance.


If you are caught in the middle of a messy lawsuit or you have yet to be discharged as a bankrupt, let’s just say it would take more than a Christmas miracle to get banks lending you a dime.

Above all else, the real bummer of a bad credit score is that it affects your loved ones too. It is more than just about you spiraling downwards into a financial black hole. The next time you find yourself mired in temptations to snag a new credit card or swipe recklessly, consider these scenarios as reminders of how credit scores can come back to haunt you:

1. Buying a flat

The big ticket of all big ticket items, it is almost inevitable that you would have to take up a loan with either Housing Development Board (HDB) or a bank to finance you and your spouse’s new love nest. Income level notwithstanding, one or two things would happen with a not-so-stellar credit score: paying more cash out of your own pocket (due to a lower loan grant), or starting cohabitation plans on a bad note because the loan application got rejected altogether. 

2. Buying a car

The government has already cranked up gears to drive Singapore into a car-light era. But surely some of the folks here are still staunch believers of car ownership because of the convenience it brings. If you have plans to start a family, you could do with that extra loan money in light of rising COE costs. Otherwise, you would have to content yourself with squeezing prams into jam-packed MRTs.

3. Furthering your studies

In order to make yourself more employable in the dismal job market, maybe you decided to pursue a MBA program in Applied Economics. That equally dismal credit score could be standing between you and your dream job at J.P Morgan. It is not just because of the tuition cost, but future employers might request a credit report from you as part of the assessment. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the number of people accessing their credit reports via CBS has increased significantly since its inception, to a monthly average of 11,000 today. Note that employers can only ask you to produce a credit report at best, as it is not under their jurisdiction to access the file from CBS on their own. 

4. Getting married

Depending on how lavish you want to go with the wedding bands, banquet, tux and gown rental, photoshoot and honeymoon, it can easily cost more than what some white collar workers here make in a year. It may not be as exorbitant as a Bidadari Build-To-Order flat or an entry level Mazda 3 car, but it is considered a sufficiently heavy commitment to warrant a loan. Can you imagine the horror of receiving a rejection mail from the bank just days before the big day?

5. Setting up your own business

The barriers to entrepreneurship have greatly been reduced with government support and seed funding. But in your expansion plans to turn your start-up into something worthy of a buy-over, it behooves you to invest a greater sum of money into business development and you probably have to borrow beyond your savings. It is hard enough breaking free of the rat race to become your own boss, so don’t let CBS’s unflattering rating of your financial credibility put you back in the unemployment line.

Log on to to view your credit report. Since April 1, consumers who have signed up for credit facilities with any of CBS’s associated banks are eligible for free credit reports.

Getting it right with taking up a Loan: