A credit report is a record of your history for managing and repaying debt. It is one of the tools a lender would use when deciding whether to give you credit.
Your credit report will give a lender details of your credit history, how reliable you are at paying your debts how much debt you have and how long you have had credit accounts. It will also include details of your current and previous addresses and any financial connections – for example, the name of the person you share a joint account with.
You credit report helps lenders assess how much of a risk it will be to lend money to you.
Credit reports are compiled by commercial organisations called credit reference agencies.
A credit score is a number which can help you to see how likely lenders are to offer you credit. It is built on your credit history and how you’ve managed your money in the past. Your credit score is decided by the credit reference agency reporting your information and each has their own method, but the criteria they use for working out your score will be similar. So, if you have a good score with one, you will probably have a good score with the others too, but the score itself can vary greatly between agencies - a credit score of 700 may be considered poor with one agency, but excellent with another.
It is important to note that your credit score will not determine whether you will be given credit. Most lenders don’t even look at it; they will have their own criteria for deciding who to lend to.
You can check your credit score and access your credit report online. All Credit Reference Agencies (CRA’s) have a statutory obligation to provide you with a copy of your credit report for free.
There are 3 main credit reference agencies who will provide you with FREE access to your report. It is worth obtaining a copy from all three as they may have different information from different creditors. You can check your credit report here:
Once you access your report you will be able to see any searches completed by lenders or other companies, like insurance or mobile phone providers. A ‘soft’ search on your credit file is one that won’t affect your credit score; you’ll be able to see it, but other lenders won’t. You may see a soft search if you’ve searched your own credit report or if a company has checked your identity.
Not all lenders report to all credit reference agencies, so it is worth checking all three as they could hold different information. For example, if you have a loan from a lender that only reports to Equifax this won’t show up on your Experian and Credit Karma records.
If you’re applying for credit and you know which credit reference agency the lender uses it would be worth checking that one first. But as a general rule we suggest you check all three credit reports at least once a year, because they all have an impact.
Your credit report typically holds:
Your Personal Information, including:
|Date of birth|
|Current and other addresses you've provided when opening credit accounts|
|Previous names or aliases|
|The names of anyone that you’re financially associated with i.e. you've had, or applied for, credit together (including joint bank accounts), or they are a guarantor for you.|
|All your open loans, credit cards, and other credit accounts including up to six years of monthly payment records|
|Details of whether each payment was made on time or past its due date. For late payments, your credit report will indicate how many months they were overdue - status 1 indicates 1 month overdue etc. - or whether there was a default issued on the account|
|Closed accounts, including paid-off loans and credit card accounts|
|Any public information such as electoral roll information, insolvency information – if you’ve been bankrupt, in an IVA or a debt relief order - or if the creditor has obtained a county court judgement (CCJ). This type of information will remain for 6 years.|
There are several ways you can improve your credit score, and creditworthiness, including:
Registering on the electoral role – If your name is not on the electoral role it is more difficult to get credit. You can register here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
Paying your debts on time – Ensuring your debts and any credit commitments are paid on time proves to lenders that you can manage your finances.
Checking for errors, inaccuracies, or inconsistencies on your credit file – Check all your details including your address are correct and report any incorrect information straight away. Even small differences in the address’s lenders have registered for you can affect your credit score.
Checking if you are linked to another person – If another person’s credit rating is linked to yours through a joint account it could affect your personal rating if they have a poor score. Examples of another person your credit rating could be linked to include spouse, friend, or family member. If the financial association is out of date (someone you haven’t had an account with for a long time) you can ask to be ‘disassociated’ from them.
Checking for fraudulent activity – If somebody has applied for credit in your name without your knowledge or you think something does not apply to you on credit report you should contact the credit reference agency to have your file updated.
Reducing high levels of existing debt – If you have a lot of existing debt lenders will be less likely to lend to you. Ideally, you should pay off any outstanding debt before applying for any new credit.
Don’t borrow up to your limits – If you have several credit cards that are all maxed out, lenders will be reluctant to lend to you. Try to keep a good portion of your credit limit available so lenders can see that you’re not relying on credit to get by.
County Court Judgements (CCJ’s) – County Court Judgements for debt will seriously affect your credit score. If you’re having problems keeping up with payments it may be worth taking seeking some free debt advice. You can get free debt advice via our online debt advice tool.
Avoiding moving home a lot – Lenders feel more comfortable if you have lived at one address for a considerable period of time.
Don’t make lots of applications – Every time you make an application for credit, a lender will carry out a hard credit search. If lenders can see that you’ve had a lot of hard searches over a short period of time, this can indicate that you’ve been declined for credit elsewhere, you’re struggling financially, or that other lenders are considering lending to you, which may suddenly increase your indebtedness (the total amount you owe). If you’re shopping around, try to use an eligibility calculator where possible, which only carries out a soft search.