When you compare credit cards or compare loans with MoneySuperMarket, our Smart Search will assess your eligibility without actually affecting your score. That’s because it does what’s called a ‘soft check’ – the kind of check that won’t become visible to lenders.
Once you put your details in to Smart Search (the details required will be different depending on whether you need a credit card or a loan), it will show you how likely you are to be accepted for different deals and offers on loans and credit cards from various lenders.
It’s the best way to make an assessment on which ones to actually apply for, while minimising your chances of being rejected and affecting your score.
If you don’t know what your credit score is, it’s a good idea to find out, no matter what stage of life you’re at. If there’s a problem with your credit score, early detection means you have more time to fix it.
Perhaps you already know your credit score. But how do you know if your credit score is good? It’s a fair question, and one without a single answer because the three main credit referencing agencies (CRAs) in the UK all score consumers differently.
A higher credit rating gives you access to better rates and deals on credit cards, loans, credit agreements and mortgages.
Conversely, if you have a bad credit rating, you’re likely to be offered high interest rates or fail to qualify for credit at all.
What exactly is a credit check?
Put simply, a credit check is how a lender assess if you’re a reliable person to lend money (or give credit) to. The lender wants to know whether you can manage your debts, or if you are likely to run into financial trouble or even default on the debt.
When deciding whether to approve your application, the lender will look at your official credit report that contains full details of your financial history. This report will be provided by one or more of the UK’s three main credit reference agencies for a fee.
The report tells the lender whether you have a mortgage, how much you owe on cards, and if you have missed any payments – be they cards, loans or mortgage payments – as well as other details about your financial history.
Why your credit report is important
Your credit report is incredibly important because it helps lenders decide if they should approve or decline your application for credit and what terms they can give you – beneficial or otherwise.
Each lender has its own specific rating system, and will consider your application alongside any previous dealings they might have had with you to come up with their own assessment.
This may sound a bit daunting, but contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a credit blacklist and you don’t have a single credit score. If you are turned down by one lender, you could well be accepted by another.
Someone with a strong credit score, for example, could qualify for a 0% interest credit card deal. However, if your record is blemished with unpaid debt or a County Court Judgement (CCJ), you could be turned down or charged a higher rate of interest.
What happens when you apply for credit?
Every time you apply for a credit card or a loan, it leaves a record on your file. This is known as a ‘hard check’, and too many of these in a short period of time can damage your overall rating.
If you aren’t careful when you shop around for credit cards or loans, you might try applying with multiple lenders to see what you would be accepted for. If you did this, you could end up with a series of hard credit checks on your report, which will inevitably reduce your chances of getting the best deals at the best rates.
But there is a way to see which credit cards or loans you would be eligible for without leaving any trace of a hard check on your credit report.
How to check your credit score for free
You can check your credit score for free with MoneySavingExpert’s Credit Club. It works alongside Experian, but uses a ‘soft check’, so keeping an eye on your credit score won’t affect your credit report.
This totally free service lets you explore your rating, identifying the key factors that are affecting your credit profile and affordability scores, and giving you tips to improve them.
Credit Club automatically updates your credit score monthly, meaning you can keep tabs on your score and track how your credit chances are improving over time.
Correct any mistakes
It’s essential that the details held on your file are accurate. If you do spot a mistake on your file, you can contact the relevant agency and ask for a correction, explaining why it is wrong and supplying any appropriate supporting evidence.
It’s also possible to check your credit file once a year by requesting a copy from all three credit reference agencies. It’s worth checking all three because they are likely to be slightly different.
The Consumer Credit Act gives you the right to obtain your full statutory credit report at any time, at a cost of £2 per report, so the outlay shouldn’t be more than £6.
Start improving your credit score
Once you’ve checked your credit score and made sure all your details are correct, it’s time to start improving your credit score.