Why it's important to check your UAE credit score every year

Experts recommend you check your credit score regularly as part of your annual financial health check-up

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I like to think that I’m usually on top of my financial affairs – paying bills on time, consistently saving and investing and sticking to my budget (OK, so most of the time).

But I realised last month that I hadn’t checked my UAE credit score since 2021. I have no excuse, except to say that it was something I simply forgot to do.

Experts recommend that you check your credit score at least once a year as part of your annual financial health check-up – and to spot any issues that could turn into long-term problems.

That could be anything from a bank making an error when it comes to paying off your credit card every month – which would drag down your credit score – to discovering a nightmare scenario that you have been the victim of identity theft and fraudsters have borrowed money in your name.

In the UAE, Al Etihad Credit Bureau is the keeper of our financial history, such as bill payments, loan applications and repayments, credit cards, bounced cheques and our monthly salary transfers.

It also includes an expense-to-salary ratio, the total amount you owe on loans and credit cards and what might be overdue, as well as any outstanding amounts owed on your telecom and utility bills.

“The credit score is a three-digit number that predicts the likelihood of an individual or company to miss payments in the next 12 months,” AECB says on its website.

The AECB’s credit scores range from 300 to 900 – the higher the number, the better your score.

A bad credit score (300 to 619) means you might have defaulted, for instance, on a credit card payment, or missed paying a bill – and you are unlikely to get a loan or credit card approved any time soon.

A fair credit score is from 620 to 679 and a good score ranges from 680 to 730, while 731 or above is excellent.

A high credit score means that a person is a low credit risk, making it easier for them to apply for loans, mortgages and credit cards – and even get faster approvals.

If it’s been a while since you checked your credit score, it’s something you should do now – and make a habit of doing every year. And yes, I’m including myself in this advice.

It’s a fairly simple exercise. Here’s how I did it:

Step 1

You have a choice to start the process on either AECB’s website or through its app, which is available on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

I chose to do it through the website as I wanted to track my progress for this column.

On the homepage, you can either click on the “For Individuals” or “For Companies” tab. I clicked on individual, which takes you to the login page. If it is your first time, you will have to register.

I used my Emirates ID to log in and was then prompted by the UAE Pass app on my mobile phone to confirm my date of birth and passport number, to “help us find your records more quickly”, it said.

After two attempts, my screen had gone dark and nothing appeared to be happening. “Is my credit score that bad?” I thought.

Ah, no. It’s because I can’t remember my password (not surprising after three years), which I have to reset.

Step 2

Once you are in, you have to agree to AECB’s terms and conditions and privacy policy before going further. Click “Yes”.

Step 3

You are then taken to your dashboard and have two options: the first is to order your credit report, plus your score. This is available in English or Arabic and costs Dh84 ($22.80), including 5 per cent VAT.

The other option is to order just your credit score, also in English and Arabic, for only Dh10.50 (including 5 per cent VAT).

I chose the report and my score as I wanted to check for any issues that might have to be challenged. If you need to challenge your report, there is a data correction request form on AECB’s website, which also covers bounced cheques.

Also on the dashboard, you will find previous reports you have ordered, which can be downloaded. That is a handy feature if you want to compare them.

Step 4

Once I made my choice, the system requested more details, saying: “For a seamless experience, please verify your personal details (including your passport information) to ensure Etihad Bureau is able to generate your credit report with score/credit score with higher accuracy.”

I put in the information – passport number, nationality, mobile phone number and email address – pressed save and … nothing.

I ended up clicking on cancel despite saving the information numerous times. I then discover that I’ve been logged out due to inactivity. Sigh, back to the drawing board it is, then.

I don’t recall having this issue when I last checked my credit score in 2021, but then remember I did it on an old iPhone through the app. Suffice to say, it was a much smoother experience.

Step 5

I log back in and finally get to the payment page and input my card number – note, I always click on “Do not save this card for future use”, for added protection.

A small victory in terms of my patience; my payment is successful, and I click on the “Back to Dashboard” tab.

Here, you will find that your report is ready and can be downloaded.

And the verdict? I won’t go into too much detail for privacy reasons, but I’m happy to say I’m in the good credit score group.

I have no debts, haven’t missed any bill payments or bounced a cheque – not always a sure thing when banks can (and have) reject a rent cheque over the smallest of details. I’m also pleased to see that my expense-to-salary ratio is very low.

I plan to continue my debt-free life over the next year, so there probably won’t be much of a change to my credit score in 2025 – but I will be adding it to my financial maintenance list for my annual check-up.

Updated: March 08, 2024, 6:02 PM