Fierce competition among credit providers has resulted in tumbling personal loan rates and lengthier interest-free credit card offers.
But there’s a catch. To be accepted for these ever-keener deals on borrowing, you’ll need an excellent credit score. Only 51% of successful applicants need to qualify for the headline rates that providers advertise, meaning an awful lot of people are turned down for the deal they are after, or are offered less competitive APRs (annual percentage rates).
If you don’t know the shape your credit score is in and your application is rejected, you can damage it even further. That’s why it pays to know about Smart Search – a nifty tool which is completely free to use and keeps your credit score intact.
Here we explain what Smart Search is and how to use it.
Getting to grips with Smart Search
Using the MoneySuperMarket Smart Search tool will tell you how likely you are to be accepted for a form of credit without leaving a mark on your credit file. How Smart Search works will depend on whether you are applying for a loan or a credit card.
If you’re applying for a loan:
- From the loans homepage, click on the green ‘Find a loan’ button
- Enter details such as how much you need to borrow, how long you want to borrow it and your annual income – this will take less than two minutes
- This will trigger the credit reference agency Experian to carry out a ‘soft search’ of your credit score. BUT unlike a regular search, it won’t be visible to lenders. In fact, only you will be able to see it on your credit file
- A list of loans will spring up in a matter of seconds and tell you how likely you are to be accepted for each. Likelihood is expressed as a simple percentage on a dial and is colour-coded red, amber and green
- Results will be ordered by eligibility, so those closest to 100% (furthest into the ‘green’) will be at the top. If you prefer, you can re-order them from the lowest to highest APR
- The rest is up to you. You might decide to go for the loan with the highest chance of acceptance (90% for example), instead of a cheaper loan that you’ve a lower chance of being accepted for (say, 50%)
If you’re applying for a credit card:
- From our credit card homepage, click on the ‘Find a card' button.
- Enter details such as your name, your annual income and the name of your main bank
- A list of credit cards will spring up and tell you how likely you are to be accepted for each. This is expressed as a score out of 10 and is colour-coded red, amber and green
- Results will be ordered by eligibility, so those closest to 10 will be at the top. But, if you prefer, you can change this to the longest 0% deal, for example
- Again, you can use this information to assess the benefits of the credit card versus your chances of getting it
A final word…
Smart Search is a really useful tool – but it’s only an indication of acceptance and NOT a steadfast guarantee.
We’re working hard on it, not all providers have agreed to take part in Smart Search yet. This means the list returned to you won’t feature the whole market.
But, so long as you keep this in mind, Smart Search could still help you to find the right loan or credit card, without damaging your credit score.