getting a loan with low creditworthiness

Securing a loan, particularly in South Africa, can seem daunting if your creditworthiness isn’t up to scratch. It can feel like your financial past is under scrutiny and like your future opportunities could also hang in the balance. Our goal in this comprehensive guide is to demystify the process, empower you with information, and offer tangible steps to improve your loan prospects. We’ll be your trusty navigators in this intricate world of credit, loans, and finance.

Key Takeaways

  1. Creditworthiness is a measure of how likely you are to repay a debt. Factors such as your credit history, employment status, income, and personal circumstances influence this.
  2. Despite the challenges, getting a loan with low creditworthiness is possible. You can explore options such as peer-to-peer lending, micro-lending, crowdfunding, non-banking financial institutions, collateral loans, or loans with a guarantor or co-signer.
  3. Improving your credit score is a long-term but achievable goal. This can be accomplished by obtaining and checking your credit report, making bill payments on time, reducing your debt, applying sparingly for new credit, and maintaining a low credit utilisation ratio.
  4. If your loan application is rejected, understand why and address the issues before reapplying. This could involve improving your credit score or addressing high debt levels.

Understanding Creditworthiness

While ‘creditworthiness‘ may initially seem daunting, it is simply a measure of how likely you are to repay a debt. Lenders, including banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions, use this measure to assess whether to grant a loan or credit to an individual.

Essentially, your creditworthiness reflects your financial history, and lenders use it to predict your future behaviour. The higher your creditworthiness, the more confident a lender will feel about entrusting you with their money.

The evaluation of creditworthiness can be influenced by several factors, including your credit history, employment status, income, and even personal circumstances. Let’s dive a bit deeper into what each of these aspects entails:

  • Credit History: This refers to your past borrowing and repayment habits. Do you pay your bills on time or have a history of missed payments? The answers to these questions form a large part of your creditworthiness.
  • Employment Status and Income: Stable employment and a steady income can indicate to lenders that you can repay the loan. This aspect of your financial life assures lenders about your repayment capabilities.
  • Personal Circumstances: Factors such as your age, marital status, number of dependents, and current debt levels can also influence your creditworthiness. For example, a single, young professional with no dependents may be considered more creditworthy than someone with multiple dependents and existing debts.

Challenges with Poor Creditworthiness

Poor creditworthiness can feel like a hefty boulder blocking your path to financial freedom. It can restrict your access to various financial opportunities and make navigating the loan process akin to trudging through a muddy field. Indeed, a low credit score can result in higher interest rates, loan rejection, and even difficulty renting a home or getting certain jobs in South Africa.

Let’s examine some hard-hitting statistics: According to the National Credit Regulator’s (NCR) Credit Bureau Monitor report, as of Q4 2022, over 20 million South Africans have impaired credit records. That’s a significant portion of the adult population facing hurdles when seeking loans and other forms of credit.

Still, numbers often feel abstract, don’t they? Let’s look at a case study. Sipho, a 30-year-old entrepreneur from Durban, struggled with his finances early in his career. Despite turning his business around and achieving stability, his past financial hiccups continued to haunt him in the form of a poor credit score. Like Sipho, many South Africans face the challenging impact of past financial mistakes on their present opportunities.

However, poor creditworthiness isn’t the end of the road. There’s a light at the end of this tunnel, and this guide is all about helping you find it.

The South African Credit System

It’s essential to grasp the South African credit system to tackle creditworthiness. Your credit report is a detailed summary of your credit history provided by credit bureaus. It records your past and current debts, repayment behaviour, court judgements, and even whether you’re sequestrated or not. In South Africa, these reports are compiled by registered Credit Bureaus such as TransUnion, Experian, and Compuscan, among others.

Your credit score, a single digit attached to your credit report, is the magic number that most lenders will consider when you apply for credit. This score is calculated using a complex formula considering multiple factors, including payment history, debt amount, and credit history length.

The exact calculation can vary between bureaus, but generally, a score between 0 and 599 is considered poor, between 600 and 619 is fair, 620 to 679 is good, 680 to 719 is very good, and 720 and above is regarded as excellent. With a low score, lenders deem you a high risk and may find it challenging to secure a loan or offer a high-interest rate. A high score signifies you’re less of a risk, making it easier to get loans with favourable terms.

Strategies to Improve Your Credit Score

Fortunately, a low credit score is not a life sentence. You can improve it over time with the right strategies and consistent effort. While it won’t happen overnight, every step you take towards healthier financial habits is a step towards a brighter financial future. Here are the steps you can take: 

  1. Check your credit report: The first step is to obtain a copy of your credit report. By law, you’re entitled to one free report per year from each credit bureau. Scrutinise your report for any errors or discrepancies that could negatively affect your score.
  2. Pay your bills on time: Timely payments demonstrate responsible financial behaviour. Set reminders or automate payments where possible to ensure you never miss a due date.
  3. Reduce your debt: Try to lower the amount of debt you owe. This might involve tightening your budget, seeking a part-time job, or even selling items you no longer need.
  4. Limit new credit applications: Each time you apply for credit, it’s recorded on your credit report, and multiple applications within a short time can hurt your score. Apply for new credit sparingly and only when necessary.
  5. Keep your credit utilisation low: This is the ratio of your outstanding credit to your total available credit. A lower ratio (preferably below 30%) shows you manage your credit well.

Remember, improving your credit score takes time. While the journey may be challenging, it is well worth the effort.

» Learn more: Is a loan possible without a credit check? Find out!

Exploring Alternative Loan Options

While working on improving your creditworthiness, seeking a loan may still be necessary. Fortunately, alternative options that don’t rely heavily on credit scores are available. Here are some of the options: 

Peer-to-peer lending (P2P) is a growing trend in South Africa. Platforms such as Rainfin connect borrowers directly with individual lenders. Because these platforms have different overheads than traditional banks, they can often offer better rates.

Micro-lenders, such as Capitec Bank, are another option. While interest rates may be higher, they are more likely to lend to individuals with low credit scores.

Crowdfunding can also be an option if you’re looking to fund a specific project or startup. Platforms like BackaBuddy or Thundafund allow people to contribute small amounts towards your financial goal.

Non-banking financial institutions (NBFIs) such as Old Mutual Finance and Bayport Financial Services also offer loans, sometimes at more favourable rates than traditional banks.

These alternatives can provide a lifeline when traditional avenues are closed, but it’s essential to thoroughly research each option and understand the terms before committing.

Understanding Collateral Loans

When traditional and alternative loan options seem out of reach, collateral loans present another possibility. These are loans secured by an asset – such as property, a car, or jewellery – which serves as collateral. The lender can seize this asset if you fail to repay the loan.

In South Africa, various assets are considered valid collateral, ranging from your house to your car, investments, or even expensive artwork. Some lenders, like Lamna or First Advance, specialise in collateral-based lending, providing short-term loans against assets without extensive credit checks.

While collateral loans can benefit those struggling with creditworthiness, they also come with risks. The most significant risk is potentially losing your asset if you fail to repay the loan. Hence, it’s crucial to consider the asset’s value and the implications of losing it before going down this path.

Role of Guarantors and Co-signers

In the quest for a loan, having a guarantor or a co-signer can significantly bolster your chances, especially when you’re dealing with low creditworthiness. A guarantor is someone who agrees to repay your loan if you default, thereby providing an additional level of security for the lender. Conversely, a co-signer is a joint applicant on your loan, equally responsible for repaying the debt.

Finding a suitable guarantor or co-signer can be challenging, as it requires someone with a good credit score willing to take on the risk of your loan. This person could be a family member, a close friend, or even a business associate. However, it’s not a decision to take lightly, as the guarantor or co-signer’s credit could be negatively impacted if you fail to repay the loan.

Both parties must understand the obligations and responsibilities attached to these roles. It’s also wise to consider having a written agreement to ensure all terms and conditions are clear.

Government and Non-profit Organisations Support

Even in situations where creditworthiness poses a significant challenge, help is available. Several government and non-profit organisations in South Africa support individuals struggling to secure a loan.

The South African Government runs various loan schemes designed to assist low-income individuals or those with poor credit. For instance, the National Urban Reconstruction and Housing Agency (NURCHA) provides bridging finance to contractors building low-income houses. The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) also offers financing to entrepreneurs engaged in various sectors of the economy.

Non-profit organisations play a crucial role as well. Organisations like the Small Enterprise Foundation (SEF) provide micro-loans to assist individuals in starting or growing a small business. These organisations often offer loans with more favourable terms and lower interest rates than traditional financial institutions.

Both government and non-profit schemes aim to boost economic growth and reduce poverty. However, it’s vital to understand the requirements and commitments before accessing these loans.

About Arcadia Finance

Get your loan hassle-free with Arcadia Finance. Applying won’t cost you anything, and you have a choice of 10 reputable lenders. Each lender complies with the regulations established by the National Credit Regulator in South Africa.

Steps to Take if Your Loan Application is Rejected

Having your loan application rejected can feel like a significant setback, especially when you’re already facing the challenges of low creditworthiness. However, it’s crucial to remember that this isn’t the end of the road. You can take steps to understand the rejection and improve your chances for future applications.

Firstly, understand why your application was rejected. By law, lenders must provide a reason for loan application rejections in South Africa. Common reasons include low credit scores, excessive existing debt, or insufficient income.

Once you have this information, you can address the issues. If you were rejected due to a low credit score, focus on the strategies outlined in Part 4 to improve it. If it was due to high debt levels, consider consulting a financial advisor to develop a debt management plan.

Lastly, take your time submitting another application. Each loan application triggers a credit check, and multiple checks in a short period can further damage your credit score. Take the time to improve your financial situation before applying again.


Navigating the loan landscape with low creditworthiness can seem daunting, particularly in South Africa’s unique financial environment. However, as we’ve explored in this comprehensive guide, it’s far from impossible. From understanding the role of creditworthiness in loan approval to exploring alternative lending options, collateral loans, the role of guarantors, and government support, there are numerous avenues you can explore to secure a loan.


What is creditworthiness?

Creditworthiness is a measure of your likelihood to repay a debt. It’s primarily based on your credit history, income, employment status, and personal circumstances.

What if my loan application gets rejected due to low creditworthiness?

If your loan application gets rejected, the lender must provide a reason. Identify the issue, such as a low credit score or high existing debt, and work on improving this area before reapplying.

Are there alternatives to traditional loans if I have low creditworthiness? 

Yes, alternative options include peer-to-peer lending, micro-lenders, crowdfunding, and non-banking financial institutions. You can also explore collateral loans or loans with a guarantor or co-signer.

Can I improve my creditworthiness? 

Absolutely! You can improve your creditworthiness by checking your credit report, paying your bills on time, reducing your debt, limiting new credit applications, and keeping your credit utilisation low.

Does the South African government assist those struggling to secure a loan due to low creditworthiness? 

Yes, the South African government and various non-profit organisations provide loan schemes to assist low-income individuals or those with poor credit. However, it’s essential to understand the requirements and commitments before accessing these loans.

How much do you need?
*Representative example: Estimated repayments of a loan of R30,000 over 36 months at a maximum interest rate including fees of 27,5% APR would be R1,232.82 per month.

Loan amount R100 - R250,000. Repayment terms can range from 3 - 72 months. Minimum APR is 5% and maximum APR is 60%.