More women than ever before are entering into the world of credit, according to data from credit bureau Compuscan which shows there has been a steady and significant increase over the past two years in the number of credit-active women in South Africa.

Jacobus Eksteen, senior data analyst at Compuscan, comments: “As at the end of the first quarter of 2015, it was recorded that there were 2,3-million more credit active women in South Africa than two years ago. In the last year alone, there was an increase of 883 885 credit-active females, bringing the total number of credit-active women up to 9 992 601 as at the end of March 2015.”

With access to credit, more South African women could have the chance to broaden their horizons through opportunities such as embarking on entrepreneurial ventures, investing in property or financing their own vehicles.

Eksteen explains: “Credit scorecards are increasingly being used. These scorecards focus on credit activity and utilisation and not gender, allowing women to be evaluated solely on statistically significant behaviour, thus eliminating any discrimination.

“One of the most notable areas in which we’re seeing women put their credit to use is in property,” he adds.

As at the end of Q1 2015, the total number of mortgages that belonged to women stood at 1 125 921. The highest percentage (34%) of mortgages that belonged to women fell into the age bracket of 40 to 49 years. The difference in the number of men and women that owned mortgages as at the end of March 2015 was minor. With a total of 1 219 592 mortgages that belonged to men at that point in time, it meant that only 93 671 more mortgages were owned by men than women.

“It’s no secret that women like to shop, and this is in fact reflected on the bureau,” Eksteen says. The number of store cards that belonged to women as at the end of Q1 2015 was recorded at 10 438 436 – almost double the number that belonged to men (5 360 754) at that point in time. The highest percentage of store card accounts (30%) that belonged to women, fell into the age category of 30 to 39.

The bureau reflects that, as at the end of the first quarter, the number of credit cards that belonged to women was recorded at 2 744 933, with 28% of these accounts owned by women between the age of 40 and 49. The difference in the number of these accounts owned by women and men was not drastic. It was shown that 3 388 534 credit cards were owned by men as at the end of March 2015.

When it came to vehicle asset finance (VAF), only 817 551 women had been granted this type of credit as at the end of Q1 2015, with the highest percentage (33%) of these accounts belonging to women between the age of 30 and 39. On the other hand, 1 416 863 VAF accounts belonged to men.

Frank Lenisa, director at Compuscan, comments: “Credit in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, access to credit can be hugely positive as it opens up many doors. What must be stressed is that it is important for borrowers to manage their credit wisely, to be careful to not over-extend themselves and to stay up to date with their repayments. If the borrower is struggling to do so, they should contact their credit provider as soon as possible to renegotiate their repayment terms as late payment, amongst a number of other details, are recorded on the borrower’s credit profile and affect their ability to obtain credit in future.”

A credit report is a complete record of one’s financial history, detailing information on one’s borrowing and spending habits, payment trends and contact details. It tracks every account one opens, every payment one skips, every judgment taken against one and every cent one owes one’s creditors. Therefore, this report serves as a reference to credit providers which indicates to them how well one’s account repayments are being managed.