What is the German Schufa score? And how to get one—a guide
Starting out in Germany but you don’t know yet what a Schufa score is? Read on to find out everything about creditworthiness in Germany.
4 min read
There are a few financial decisions you’ll make that feel like milestones of adulthood—filing your own taxes, creating your retirement fund, and getting your credit score. One of these is considerably easier to do than the others. Here you’ll find out exactly what the Schufa is, what you need it for, and how to get your Schufa score.
1. What is the Schufa?
In Germany, information on your creditworthiness is most likely tracked and recorded by Schufa Holding AG, Germany’s biggest credit agency—this is done for everyone registered in Germany. Schufa is the shorthand abbreviation of Schutzgemeinschaft für allgemeine Kreditsicherung, which roughly translates to “general credit protection agency.” Whenever someone refers to your Schufa score, Schufa report, Schufa rating and so on, they’re talking about the same thing—your “Schufa Auskunft”—credit information that will follow you for the remainder of the time you live in Germany.
Your credit score is a measurement of how reliably you’ve met financial obligations like utility bills and credit card payments, and it’s used to decide how worthy you are of being granted further obligations like personal credit loans.
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2. What determines your credit score?
The easy answer is whether you’ve paid all your bills on time and in full. Your Schufa is automatically created as soon as you register your address upon moving to Germany. Your previous credit score from wherever you moved from does not influence your Schufa in Germany, and you can’t use your American credit score, for example, to apply for a loan—no matter how good it may be. Germany offers the advantage of allowing most, if not all, of your bills to be paid automatically every month by direct debit, so you can avoid the risk of forgetting to pay them. It’s also a good idea not to open too many bank accounts and credit cards, and not to switch banks too often.
In addition, you shouldn’t make use of your overdraft too often. Of course, it can happen from time to time that you have to overdraw your account. In order to remain creditworthy, it’s best not to make it a regular habit, though. Find out how you can improve your Schufa score in our guide.
3. Who actually wants to know my Schufa score?
Banks typically check your score when you apply to open an account, unless you choose an account without the Schufa minimum requirement. Your bank also checks your creditworthiness when you apply for a loan, and your Schufa can determine how much interest you might pay for that loan. The higher the risk for the bank, the higher the interest rates you might pay.
Phone and internet providers check when you apply to create a new contract, and, crucially, landlords and property managers will always ask when you apply to rent a flat. These companies will be able to check your Schufa and determine whether you have any unpaid debts, and if you can be trusted as a customer or tenant.
How do you apply for your Schufa score?
Once a year, you’re entitled to a free Schufa report. To get yours, just fill out the form on their website and provide copies of your passport and registration certificate (Meldebescheinigung). You can also order your credit report by calling the Schufa customer service.
It may take a few weeks for you to receive your report. So, what do you do if you need a credit report immediately? Via the ImmobilienScout24 portal, you can get one quickly. You can also request it on-site at participating Postbank and Volksbank branches. For this service, you’ll be charged a one-time fee of €29.95. Remember to have your account details such as IBAN and BIC with you, since it’s not possible to pay in cash. Alternatively, you can use the paid service offered on the Schufa website itself. All your credit data is, of course, protected by the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), so you can rest assured that it won’t be shared illicitly.
Getting your Schufa is an essential step in managing your personal finance in Germany, and it can be easy to both know your score and keep it high as long as you take care of your bills.
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What does creditworthiness mean?
The term creditworthiness describes how trustworthy you are when it comes to paying your bills. If you want to take out a loan, for instance, your bank will check whether you're creditworthy. If you have paid your bills on time and in full in the past, it’s very likely you will also meet your financial obligations in the future. The risk of payment default is low, and you are considered creditworthy.
How long is my Schufa report valid?
You can order a free credit report directly from Schufa once a year. The report does not expire. However, your creditworthiness can change relatively fast—for instance, if you made use of your overdraft one too many times or improved your spending behavior. The requirements are up to the providers requesting your Schufa, and therefore differ greatly. If, for instance, you’re looking for a flat, your Schufa should not be older than three months.
How long does it take to get my Schufa report?
Be aware of waiting times when applying for your Schufa. If you order your report directly from Schufa, it might take up to several weeks. The upside is that it’s free once per year. Platforms like ImmobilienScout24 are usually quicker. You can also go to participating Postbank or Volksbank branches or use the fee-based Schufa service for a one-time fee of €29.95.
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