Your credit score is used by lenders to help determine whether or not any applications you make for credit cards, personal loans, mortgages or other form of borrowing, will be accepted.
The better your credit score, the lower risk you will be considered by lenders, and the more likely they will be to accept any applications for credit. However, if you have a low credit score, your application is more likely to be turned down.
It’s a good idea then, before you apply for any form of credit, to check your credit score. If you don’t, and you are refused borrowing – which then prompts you to make several other applications – this can have a further negative impact on your score. This is because lots of applications can indicate that you are having money problems, or that you have been a victim of fraud.
But how do you go about checking your credit score? We explain everything you need to know…
Understanding your credit score
The most important thing to remember about credit scores if that there isn’t such a thing as ‘one’ score.
The most important thing to remember about credit scores if that there isn’t such a thing as ‘one’ score. Lenders calculate their credit scores based on different criteria, so you might have a higher credit score with one lender, and a lower one from another. This means that while one lender might refuse your application for credit, another might accept it, because they have worked out different scores for you.
However, you can get a good idea as to whether or not lenders will generally look favourably on any credit applications you make, by applying for a copy of your report which is held – but not determined – by credit reference agencies such as Experian, CallCredit or Equifax.
Remember however, that this rating will form only part of the lender’s decision whether or not to lend to you, and it is likely to vary depending on which agency you go to.
Where can I check my credit score?
As it is your legal right to be able to see a copy of your credit report, you can get a statutory copy for as little as £2 from any of the three major credit reference agencies mentioned above.
Or you can pay monthly for a ‘bells and whistles’ credit monitoring service from any of the credit reference agencies. This will provide you with access to more detailed information about your credit report and will also alert you if there is any unusual activity, for example, if someone is trying to open an account in your name.
To compare what’s available and compare prices of reports, log onto our credit monitoring channel.
What will my credit score look like?
What your score looks like will depend on which credit reference agency is from. Equifax and Experian, for example, will score you out of a maximum of 999, while Callcredit employs a different kind of scale which ranks from 0 to 5. With any of the agencies, the higher your relative score, the more likely lenders will be to look favourably on your credit applications..
If your credit score is lower than you expected, then check your report carefully for any errors. If, for example, your record shows you failed to make a payment on time when you know you did, and you have evidence that proves this, ask the relevant agency to correct its records.
If the agency refuses, or you want to explain why you didn’t make a payment on time, you can add a ‘notice of correction’ onto your file. This will explain to lenders checking your file what happened or why the information shown is not correct.
Can I improve my credit score?
Yes, there are several things you can do to improve your credit rating. First of all, make sure you are on the electoral roll. You should then try to pay down as many of your existing debts as possible, as this will demonstrate to lenders that you can manage your money responsibly. You should also close any credit card accounts that you no longer use.
Make sure you make any debt repayments on time, and set up direct debits wherever possible to ensure you don’t miss them.
If you’re still struggling to get credit due to your credit score, you could consider taking out a credit card which is designed to help repair your credit rating.
Bear in mind, however, interest rates on this type of card tend to be much higher than on standard cards, because you will be considered a higher risk by lenders, so you should make sure you pay off what you owe in full each month.
Compare credit report providers today at MoneySuperMarket