How to rebuild your credit score

By  , last updated

If you’ve applied for a loan or credit card and been refused, you may have some work to do when it comes to your credit history.

Here are six top tips that should help you improve yours - and therefore your chances of borrowing in future:

1.    Review your files

Credit referencing agencies aren’t infallible - and if they’ve made mistakes on your file, it could be you that loses out.

Take a look at the information held on you by the three leading agencies – Call Credit, Experian and Equifax – to make sure your report is accurate. If it isn’t, you can request that the agencies correct any errors you’ve identified.

Legally, you have the right to check your credit file by requesting a statutory report. It will include your personal details, information on financial links to other people, missed payments and defaults and recent searches on your file.

It’s also possible to check your file for free. You’ll usually have to sign up to a 30 day free trial and cancel before the time limit is up, so you don’t get charged the full price.

If you’re unsure what type of card you need, our handy credit card decision tree can help you make your mind up.

Alternatively, newcomers such as ClearScore and Noodle offer a more basic – but free-for-life – service, but the catch is that the agency will try and flog you credit cards and loans. You are under no obligation to take these products out. 

2.    Register to vote

Lenders look at the electoral roll when deciding whether or not to offer you credit - and if you’re not on it, you’re likely to be refused.

Getting yourself on the electoral roll is easy to do, and could make a big difference to your chances of borrowing. You can sign up using the government’s electoral roll registration page.

3.    Stay on top of your payments

If you have existing credit - whether it’s a loan, mortgage or credit card - make sure you pay at least the minimum repayment each month and avoid paying late.

The more mistakes you make with your existing borrowing, the less likely it is that future applications for credit will be approved.

4.    Cancel old accounts

If you have old bank account overdrafts and credit cards you are no longer using then it’s a good idea to close them for good. 

Lenders are likely to be wary of offering you credit if they can see that you have plenty of ‘open’ credit already available.

In other words, if you could potentially spend thousands on a credit card that is currently clear, they may turn you down for new borrowing.

No bank or credit card provider wants to risk that a customer could use old and new means to over-burden themselves with debt, and therefore fail to repay what they owe.

5.    Avoid over-applying for credit

If you’ve been rejected for credit, avoiding applying to other lenders straight after. If you’ve applied multiple times for credit in short period of time this will appear on your credit file and have an adverse effect on your score.

MoneySuperMarket’s Smart Search allows you to understand which types are credit cards you’ll be likely to be accepted for without leaving a mark on your credit file. It can also help you compare a range of credit builder cards in minutes, making it easy for you to work out which would suit you best.

6.    Try a credit builder card

Finally, if you’re finding it impossible to get a market-leading credit card, you could try a credit builder credit card designed to improve your credit rating instead.

The APRs on these cards are high and you should therefore avoid borrowing on them by paying off your balance in full each month. But by using one and proving you can handle credit responsibly, you will help to build up a positive credit history that might make it easier for you to obtain cheaper credit in future.

This is also important if you’ve never borrowed money in the past, as having no credit history can prove as troublesome as having a ‘bad’ credit history when it comes to obtaining a loan, credit card or mortgage.

Where to next?

Compare credit cards using MoneySuperMarket’s Smart Search

5 questions to ask yourself before applying for a credit card

Pros and cons of credit cards

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