“What is my credit score..?” is a common question that many of us may worry about. By getting a free credit report you can take steps to improve your credit rating. Learn how credit rating works and how to boost your credit score.
Many people get confused or anxious about their credit rating, but that’s largely because there’s a lot of myths out there. We separate fact from fiction and show you simple ways to improve your credit score.
What is a credit report?
There are three main free credit rating providers:
Every adult in the UK has a credit report. This contains information about your past financial behaviour (your ‘credit history’) from banks, building societies and credit card companies. Your credit report will include details of current debts, any late or missed payments, and any major financial events (such as repossession or bankruptcy).
You can get a free credit report (see here for how to do that) which will show you all the information that banks and lenders hold about you.
Some people find that their report contains inaccurate or out-of-date information. This can be anything from incorrectly listing a debt as unpaid, to having you living at the wrong address (which means you could be judged on someone else’s credit history).
Lots of little mistakes (or one single big mistake) can result in your credit rating being lower than it should be, so it definitely pays to check your credit report from time to time.
Why is your credit rating important?
If your credit rating is poor, you’ll find yourself getting rejected for things like:
- Credit cards
- The best mobile phone, broadband and energy deals
What’s more, your credit rating doesn’t just affect what products you receive – it also affects how good a deal you get. Want the cheapest loan, credit card and mortgage rates? Then you’ll need a good credit rating to qualify.
So it’s important to make sure you occasionally ask yourself “what is my credit score” and check your credit report.
See below for a) how to get your credit report for free, and b) how to improve your credit rating.
Where to get FREE credit reports
Luckily, you can check your credit report for free.
You can get free trials with each of the three main providers of credit scores (Checkmyfile, Experian and Equifax). See below for what each company offers.
If you want to find out the answer to the question – “what is my credit score” simply sign up for your free trial, and you can check your credit rating without paying a penny. Then once you’ve checked your score (and you don’t want to continue using the service) just cancel your trial before it expires.
With Checkmyfile’s free trial, you get:
- Free credit score and rating – see how banks and lenders view you
- Free multi-agency credit check – get more than twice the information contained in other credit reports
- Free identity theft assistance
- Full breakdown of all your accounts – so you can quickly spot and fix any problems affecting your credit rating
With Experian’s Free Account, you get:
- Unlimited access to your credit report and score
- Advice on how to improve your credit report
- Experian will help you fix any errors you find on your credit report
With Equifax’s free trial, you get:
- Unlimited access to your credit report and score
- Expert tips on how to improve your credit score
- Online dispute facility – fix any credit report errors online
Credit rating myths
There are plenty of myths around about credit ratings, so let us clear up a few for you so that you know where you stand:
MYTH: Old unpaid debts and loans don’t count
FACT: Court judgements for non-paying of debts, defaulting on loans and similar behaviour are recorded on your credit report for at least six years. Something as simple as a missed repayment can stay on the file for three years. Too many missed payments might make some lenders wary. Check your credit score today to keep up to date with your situation and take steps to check and improve your credit rating.
Lenders like to see that you have borrowed money in the past and managed to pay it back on time.
MYTH: Banks check credit blacklists
FACT: There’s no such thing as ‘credit blacklists’. They don’t exist. Credit rating companies simply give you a general credit score – but it’s up to individual lenders to decide whether to lend to you or not. Just because one company rejects you, it doesn’t mean all will. So while there’s no ‘blacklist’, you can assume that lenders will take into account your repayment history, court judgements and whether you keep up with your financial obligations.
MYTH: It doesn’t matter how many credit card accounts you have.
FACT: It does! Lenders are worried about whether you can afford to borrow and if you are a wise spender. If you have inactive credit card accounts, it is best to close them, as this will lower your available credit. However, long-held bank accounts with good credit histories are normally seen as a positive thing and should be left open.
MYTH: Your credit file remains unchanged forever.
FACT: Lenders use common sense. Bad financial sense in your youth need not impact your borrowings in the future. Usually, credit scores remain on file between three and six years.
MYTH: Bad financial decisions of your partner can affect your credit score.
FACT: True to a certain extent. If you live with or marry someone with a bad credit history, this won’t affect your credit rating in itself. But if you have joint finances with them, it will. (For example, if you have a joint mortgage with your partner, the lenders will look into both your files and this could impact on your application for a loan).
MYTH: People who have been living at my house before me can affect my credit rating.
FACT: It doesn’t matter if the person living at your house was a spendthrift or went bankrupt on a string of credit cards. It is you and your circumstances that the lenders are interested in.
MYTH: If you never use a credit card or borrow money you’ll have an excellent credit rating.
FACT: Funnily enough, lenders like to see that you have borrowed money in the past and managed to pay it back on time. To solve this chicken-egg situation, apply for a credit card, use it and then pay it back on a regular basis (only do this if you are sure you can pay the credit card off on time each month).
MYTH: Credit rating agencies like Experian and Equifax make decisions on lending.
FACT: All the credit rating agencies do is hold your information on file. They get the information from places like the courts and the electoral roll. Think of them as a folder. It is the lenders (like banks and mortgage providers) that make the actual decision of whether to lend to you or not (based partly on these files).
How to improve your credit score – in 10 simple steps
It’s important that you recognise the importance of checking your credit rating. There are simple things you can do to improve your credit score that anyone can do.
1. Check your credit report
We don’t want to teach you to suck eggs but before making an application for a loan or mortgage, ask yourself “what is my credit score” and check your credit score thoroughly. Mistakes can have a huge impact on your credit rating – and if you spot any you can usually get them removed and improve your rating.
2. Get on to the Electoral Roll
Lenders like stability – so when they see a fixed address and a fixed landline, it goes a long way in reassuring them
Make sure that you register to vote at your current address of residence. This helps improve your credit rating, because being on the electoral roll helps confirm your identity (bank are very cautious, and want to be sure of who they are lending to!) You can apply to join the electoral roll at the Directgov website.
3. Repayment, repayment, repayment
Regularly pay bills and debts on time and you will do wonders to your credit score. Most lenders like nothing better when checking your credit score to see a consistent history of successfully paying your debts and agreed payments. A patchy credit history of missed repayments, direct debits and bad and unmanageable debts could well lead to your application being turned down.
4. Be vigilant
Identity theft and scams are increasingly common, and you could a victim too. By checking your credit report you can ensure that your accounts have not been tampered with and no unauthorised transactions have been made. (Keep an eye out for an increase in the amount you owe or unfamiliar transactions).
5. Space out applications
Lenders don’t like to see too many applications at the same time. So when applying for a loan, take your time, explore your options and apply to selected places rather than having a scattergun approach and applying for several things at once. This makes you look desperate and often scares lenders away.
6. Check your partner’s score
Take joint finances with your partner into account. If you split up (and no longer share an account) write to the debt agencies and inform them of this new development.
7. Get a fixed landline and stick with one bank account
Lenders like stability – so when they see a fixed address and a fixed landline, it goes a long way in reassuring them that you live a settled life and will be good for a loan.
Also when you are with the same bank for a long time, it can improve your credit score and build confidence in lenders (especially if you’ve rarely missed payments with them).
8. Take out a credit card
Once you’ve discovered the answer to the question “what is my credit score” one of the best ways to improve it is to take out a credit card, use it regularly and pay off the balance religiously (but don’t miss a payment or it’ll make your credit score worse!)
Having a credit card can help improve your credit rating – find out how to get a credit card even if you have bad credit
So make sure you only take out a credit card IF:
- You don’t have lots of credit cards already
- You KNOW you can pay them off each and every time (credit cards can have BIG interest charges. If you miss payments, not only will you pay through the nose, you will make your credit score worse, not better!)
- You apply for a credit card that you won’t be rejected for (if you apply for a card and get rejected, it’ll make your credit score worse).
9. Ask for a review of your application
Under the Data Protection Act, if you have been refused credit by a lender, they must specify the reasons behind it. A quick credit score check can give you a chance to review the details of your rating. If your credit rating is poor, it will improve with time if you repay your debts and keep to the points discussed above.
10. Make an appeal
Credit agencies can get it wrong. Sometimes they have information on you that is out of date or simply wrong. If you feel after having had a look at you credit rating that the score is unjustified, bring this to the attention of the credit agency and make an appeal to get it removed.
Alternatively, you can add something called a ‘Notice of Correction’ to a missed payment on your record. This allows you to inform lenders of any reason why you missed a particular payment (you might have missed a payment due to illness, for example).
Finally, make sure you…
- Avoid ‘credit repair’ companies. Many of them are dodgy operator, to say the least. If you have information that needs to be altered or removed, Experian will do it for free.
- Don’t let debt drag you down. If you find yourself missing payments and always seem to have debts hanging over you, see our guide to getting out of debt.
Now check your credit report for free at:
We hope this guide has helped you find the answer to the question “what is my credit score” and given you the information you need to get a FREE report and improve your rating. If you have another question or would like to share your experience please comment below.