When you apply for any form of credit, such as a credit card, personal loan or mortgage, one of the first things a lender will do is check that your credit score is up to scratch.
Your credit score effectively shows how well you’ve managed credit in the past. The higher your score, the more likely any credit applications you make will be accepted, whereas the lower your score, the harder you’ll find it to borrow.
Ways to check your credit score
There are three main credit reference agencies, Experian, CallCredit and Equifax, all of which will have a record of your credit rating.
You can get a copy of your statutory credit file for £2 from any of these agencies. This can be done online using the following links:
You can also apply for a copy of your credit report by post.
Alternatively, there are other services which offer free access to your credit report, such as ClearScore and Noddle.
Some banks and credit card providers, such as Barclaycard and Tesco Bank, also provide their customers with free access to their credit report.
Free and statutory reports will provide basic information on your credit score, but credit reference agencies also offer comprehensive ‘credit monitoring’ services for an extra charge, usually in the form of a monthly fee.
These will provide more detailed information on your report and will notify you if there is any unusual activity, for example if someone is making numerous applications for credit in your name.
Experian and Equifax both offer 30-day free trials for these services, so if you don’t want to pay the monthly fee, be sure to cancel before the 30 days are up.
How your credit score is shown
Different credit reference agencies show your score in different ways.
Experian and Equifax express it as a score out of 999, while Callcredit scores you out of five.
Regardless of which numbers are used, the higher the score you get, the better your credit score is.
That means whether you score four out of five or 950 out of 999, you’ve got a very good score, whereas if your score is one or two out for five, or 200 out of 999, your score is bad.
If your score isn’t what you were expecting, make sure there aren’t any irregularities in your credit report. For example, can you spot any information that is incorrect, such as missed payments when you know you paid on time?
If you find something wrong, let the relevant company know so they can amend their records, and put a ‘notice of correction’ on your credit report explaining why the information shown is incorrect.
Bear in mind that your credit score will form only part of any lender’s decision whether or not to lend to you.
They will all base their decisions on different criteria, so just because you are refused by one provider, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be turned down by them all.
Don’t make multiple credit applications if you are initially refused though as this could damage your credit score further.