Accessing Better Credit Options
A credit score or rating is an assessment based on what you have borrowed and how you have paid it back. Lenders use this to decide whether to approve or decline credit. Credit is a loan/what you borrow. Private companies called Credit Rating Agencies keep these records on file and finance companies (e.g. banks) will use them to check on applications made for credit by individuals.
If your credit rating is not good:
- You could be offered a much higher interest rate (APR) because you are seen as high risk;
- You may be offered a smaller amount of money; Or
- You may be rejected completely for credit.
Each lender will have their own criteria for assessing whether or not to lend, and refusal by one lender doesn’t impact your credit score, so it is possible to try a different lender. It is important to note, however, that too many applications in a short period of time can make a lender reluctant to lend to you.
Good Credit Rating
The main factors that will give a good credit score include:
- If you own your own home or have lived at the same address for more than a year.
- You have previous good credit with a range of lenders.
- You are on the electoral register.
- Your credit history shows that you have always paid loans, bills etc. on time.
- You have maintained bank accounts for long periods of time.
- You are in stable employment e.g. have worked for the same employer for a long period of time.
- You are not financially connected to someone with a poor credit score (e.g. through a joint bank account or mortgage).
- You use less than 30% of your credit limit.
Negative Credit Rating
Factors which can negatively impact your credit rating include:
- Mistakes on your credit report.
- High levels of existing debt.
- Missing payments or making late payments.
- If you receive a County Court Judgement for an unpaid bill.
- Not being on the electoral register or moving home a lot.
- Being tied into a joint form of credit (e.g. bank account, loan, mortgage) with someone who has a poor credit history (Financial Association).
Improving a Credit Rating
Access Your Credit Report
The first thing to do to improve your credit rating is to access your credit report. There are three credit agencies which hold credit reports on you: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These Credit Rating companies offer credit checks;
- Experian: Experian use Money Saving Expert (MSE) Credit Club, which provides free access to your full Experian credit report anytime.
- Equifax: Equifax use Clear Score, which provides free access to your Equifax credit report anytime:
- TransUnion: TransUnion use Credit Karma, which provides free access to your TransUnion report anytime.
It is useful to check all 3 reports at least once a year. Be mindful of subscription fees. Checking your own credit report does not damage your credit score, in fact, it is responsible behaviour to regularly check it.
Check Your Credit Report
Your report will help you to identify any issues or action you can take to repair your credit rating. Check for the following:
- Are there any errors on your credit score (e.g. a miss-typed address)? If so, ask one of the Credit Rating companies to help correct this.
- Is there any fraudulent activity (e.g. fraudulent accounts opened in your name) which is impacting your score? If you have been a victim of identity fraud, report this, and ask one of the Credit Rating companies to help to remove this from your record.
- Are previous late payments or County Court Judgements due to drop off your record in the near future and improve your score? Information usually remains on a credit file for 6 years.
- Is there a previous financial link (e.g. ex-partner) on your credit record with whom you no longer share a financial connection? If so, ask one of the Credit Rating companies for a disassociation.
- You can also include a notice of correction in your credit file as an explanation to lenders of poor payment history, for example, a period of poor mental health causing debt issues. To find out more about a Notice of Correction including how to add one to your credit report visit Experian.co.uk.
Identify Other Ways to Build Good Credit
Other ways to build a good credit score include:
- Get or keep existing debts or liabilities under control, for example, debt repayment plans. Seek FREE independent debt advice to help. Try to pay existing debt on time and even early if possible.
- Enrol on the electoral register.
- Do not make too many credit applications in a short period of time or stop making credit applications altogether until your record is improved.
- Try to use less than 30% of your credit limit.
- Keep old accounts open and show a long credit history, but check for fraudulent activity on these.
- A credit builder card can help rebuild your credit score (for example, small purchases paid off quickly). However, these have high interest rates, and only help your score if you are able to make the repayments on time, and in full. Therefore, they can negatively impact your credit rating if not used in this way so consider carefully.
- Avoid Credit Repair Agencies who offer to help you fix your credit rating for a fee. These can be expensive and lead to more debt, negatively impacting your credit rating. Some of these companies charge for services you can get for free e.g. accessing your credit report.
Allow Time & Seek Support
Depending on the actions needed to improve a credit report or rating, and your credit history, it can take time to improve, and in turn time to access better credit options. If you need help or support to improve or access credit, manage debts, or to maximise your income, see our Getting Advice guide.