Does being in debt hurt your credit score? | finder.com
Couple signing mortgage papers

Does being in debt mean you have bad credit?

We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.

While borrowing money can affect your credit score, being in debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The mere mention of “debt” can be enough to send some people into a panic, but this is one four-letter word that isn’t always as offensive as you may think. In fact, going into debt can actually be a positive thing if it helps you create wealth.

However, it’s important to be aware of the difference between good and bad debt and the impact these can have on your credit score before you borrow money.

Good debt vs. bad debt

Before going any further, let’s start with the question that’s probably on the tip of your tongue: how can debt possibly be good? It sounds counterintuitive to describe owing money as a positive thing, but bear with us.

Good debt is basically any type of debt that helps you create wealth. So if you borrow money to buy an asset that will provide an income or rise in value over time, this is considered to be good debt. Examples of good debt include home loans, tax-deductible property investment loans and even student debt that helps you pay for the education you need to enjoy better career prospects.

On the flipside, bad debt is any sort of debt that reduces your wealth. Any debt that isn’t tax-deductible or that is used to buy assets that will depreciate in value and/or won’t provide an income falls into this category. Examples of bad debt include using a credit card or personal loan to buy a car (as this is a depreciating asset) or pay for a vacation.

How is my credit score calculated?

Your credit score is calculated based on the information in your credit file, which contains a range of important details about your current financial situation and history. Remember you can check both your credit score and credit report for free with finder. There’s a wide range of information included in your file, such as:

  • Overdue debts.
  • Missed payments on loans and utility bills.
  • Bankruptcy information.
  • Court orders, summons and judgments related to settling your debt.
  • Debt agreements.
  • Personal and business credit applications you’ve made in the last five years, regardless of whether they were approved or not.
  • Your monthly repayment history on credit accounts.

When you apply for credit, your lender will review your credit score and the information in your credit file before deciding whether you can afford to repay the money you borrow.

Does debt negatively affect my credit score?

Yes, debt can certainly have a negative effect on your credit score, especially:

  • If you have excessive debt. If you’ve taken on multiple debts or large amounts of debt, the chances of you being able to afford to repay any future credit are greatly reduced. As a result, this will negatively affect your score.
  • If there are defaults on your credit file. If you fall behind on repayments and a default is listed on your credit file, it stays there for up to seven years and will drag your credit score down.
  • If you’ve been late making payments. An accidental missed payment probably won’t affect your credit score too much, but if you’re regularly late making loan repayments, expect this to adversely impact your score.
  • If you’ve had serious problems with debt. If you’ve entered into a debt agreement, been served with a court order or summons or filed for bankruptcy, your credit score will suffer.

Can debt positively affect my credit score?

Debt doesn’t necessarily drag your credit score down. In some cases, it can actually improve your credit rating. Both positive and negative information is included in your credit file, so having a history of making on-time payments can improve your borrowing capacity in the eyes of a lender.

For people without a credit file, taking on debt can help you build up a credit score so that you can qualify for larger credit amounts in the future. For example, by switching to a postpaid mobile phone or applying for a low-cost credit card, you’ll be able to build a credit history that shows you’re a reliable and trustworthy borrower. This will then boost your borrowing power when you need to apply for a larger loan, for example, a home loan, in the future.

Does the type of debt matter to the lender?

Yes, the type of debt you apply for or take on can have an impact on how a lender views your credit file, which contains details of the type of credit accounts you have applied for or opened, as well as the name of your credit providers.

For example, applying for a home loan from a reputable bank will be viewed in a more positive light than if you apply for credit from a payday lender. Your lender may also give more weight to your history of making on-time repayments towards a mortgage than they would if you were paying off a short-term loan.

Bottom line

While debt can be good or bad, any type of debt can have an adverse impact on your credit score. The key is to know when debt starts to negatively affect your credit file. If you’ve taken on more than you can comfortably afford to repay and have started to fall behind on repayments (or worse), your future borrowing power will be significantly reduced.

However, from reviewing your credit file to consolidating debt, there’s plenty you can do to improve your credit score and get your finances back on track.

Frequently asked questions

Image: Shutterstock

Tim Falk

A freelance writer with a passion for the written word, Tim loves helping people find the right products for them. When he's not chained to a computer, Tim can usually be found exploring the great outdoors.

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site