A Credit Report is an analysis about your financial behaviour history. It is what lenders will use to help them decide whether to approve or reject your application for a loan, credit card or mortgage, amongst others. This analysis is summarised by a Credit Score (or Rating), a numerical value. The higher your score is, the lower is your level of risk to the lender, who will also use that to determine the interest rate you pay.
Currently there are 3 credit agencies in the UK: Experian (Credit Expert), Equifax and CallCredit (Noddle). They will probably have slightly different versions of your credit report, so it is advisable to check with all three, and not only a single agency.
Under what is known as the Consumer Credit Act, you are entitled to obtain your full credit report from these credit agencies at a cost of £2, which you can do so online or by post.
You should check your Credit Reports regularly, as this is a great way to protect yourself from ID fraud, so make sure to check them at least once a year.
The information in your credit report about your financial history comes from banks, credit card companies and building societies you have borrowed money from in the past or currently owe to. There will also be information from publicly available sources, from your mobile phone provider and others. Your report is likely to have to following information:
- Your name, current address and other personal details
- If you are on the electoral roll at your present address
- Joint financial products you currently hold (such as a current account)
- How much you currently owe to lenders
- Missed payments on past or existing accounts
- Late payments on past or existing credit card or unsecured loans / secured loans
- If you joined an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA)
- County Court Judgements (called “Decrees” in Scotland) filed against you, bankruptcies and home repossessions for six years after they occur
- If you have ever moved away while owing money
By being responsible with your payments and making sure you haven’t been a victim of identity fraud, you are guaranteed to improve your Credit Rating or Score. Here are a few more tips to help you achieve that:
- Make sure you are correctly registered at the electoral roll for your present address, as some lending companies may reject your application if they can’t confirm where you live.
- As mentioned before, check your credit report regularly to make sure all the information is correct and up to date. If it’s not, you should file a dispute and get it corrected.
- If you’ve had financial links to any person which is no longer relevant, like an ex-partner for instance, ask for their information to be removed form your records.
- If you’ve had credit problems in the past due to special circumstances such as family bereavement, losing your job or similar, add a notice of correction to any late payments during this period explaining your situation.
- Any accounts you no longer use should be closed, as accessible credit which doesn’t require further checks may impact your credit score.
- The way best to improve your score is to begin building a good credit history now. By showing that you can repay on time, you will show lenders how responsible you are.