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What is a credit score?

Your credit score is used by banks, building societies and other lenders to decide whether they will give you a loan, credit card, overdraft, mortgage or other type of credit. Your credit score comes from your credit report and is a three-digit number – this is a review of how good you are at paying your debts and your history of borrowing.

Why should I check my credit score?

Before you apply for credit, it is useful to know your own credit score. This means you will have a greater understanding of the types of lenders that may consider you for credit. If you are looking for a loan, then you can use our pre-approved loan check that will show which lenders are most likely to accept you without impacting your credit score.

Checking your credit file will also show any credit applications made in your name. This is useful to see if any fraudulent applications have been made in your name and to flag these with the lender and the credit reference agency. The credit reference agency will mark your credit file in the event of fraud to protect you and your credit score. This is visible on your credit file.

What is a good credit score?

The higher your credit score is, the more likely you will be accepted for credit. However, not all the credit reference agencies use the same methods to come up with their scores and they also use different ranges of numbers to determine what is a good, fair or poor score. Experian’s credit score ranges from 0 – 999, while TransUnion has a range from 300 to 850. A good credit score according to Experian is between 881 and 960, with fair between 721 and 880. Meanwhile, TransUnion defines a good credit score is from 628-710.

What is a low credit score?

If your credit score is below 300 then it is unlikely you will get credit from any lender – in fact, a score below 500 will see you less likely to obtain credit. The lower your credit score, the less chance you have of being accepted for credit agreements or you may find that instead you are offered terms that are worse than the headline rate. These figures are only an indication and you are always best to check your own credit score.

Looking to improve your credit score?

Read our helpful guide on how to improve your credit score

Who are the main credit reference agencies?

There are three main credit reference agencies that create credit reports that can be used by lenders to find out more about your credit history. Lenders may use one or more than one of these to help make their lending decisions. The credit reference agencies are:

  • Experian
  • Equifax
  • TransUnion

These organisations hold information about consumers and their borrowing behaviours. Each time you apply for credit or take out a new credit product this will be logged on your credit file held by these organisations. Whenever you complete an application form for credit, you will also agree to the lender accessing your credit file held with at least one of these. 

These credit reference agencies provide their services to a range of credit check companies that you can use to find out your credit score. 

How to check your credit score

There are a variety of companies that can help you to check your credit score and to view your credit file. All of these offer a free service either on an ongoing basis or for a trial period. These all work with the main credit reference agencies to share with you what lenders see when they do a credit check on you. You can also request a statutory credit report for free from any of the credit reference agencies. 

Who can give me information about my credit history?

We’ve listed the main credit check providers , which can provide you with a credit score check, your credit history and detailed information to help improve your score.

Provider Information Cost
Totally Money
  • Get your live credit score and report. Totally FREE. Forever
  • Personalised advice about how to improve your score and why it changes
  • Unique Borrowing Power score to help you understand your likelihood of being accepted for credit
  • Check eligibility for cards and loans — find out if you’re pre-approved
  • Named Best Credit Report Provider the 2018 and 2019 Moneynet awards
  • *TotallyMoney is an independent credit broker, not a lender
Get my free credit report
Visit Checkmyfile
  • The UK’s only multi agency credit report
  • See your data from all 4 UK Credit Reference Agencies
  • Try it free for 30 days – cancel anytime
  • Ranked No.1 on Trustpilot
  • FREE Identity Fraud Assistance if you fall victim
  • Freephone customer support with a trained Credit Analyst
Try it FREE for 30 days, then just £14.99 a month - cancel anytime
ClearScore Logo
  • Your credit score and report. For free, forever.
  • Your credit score and report displayed clearly. Updated monthly. Check as often as you like - it won't affect your score.
  • A clear view of up to 6 years of your financial details. Explained completely.
Find out more
  • Get your FREE Experian Credit Score
  • See your eligibility rating for credit cards and personal loans
  • Discover credit deals from leading lenders*
  • No charges and no hidden costs
  • *Experian Ltd isn't a lender but a credit broker working with selected lenders
Free
  • Instant credit Report and Score.
  • 14 day free trial
  • Unlimited access to your Credit Report & Score
  • Free phone customer
    service team to assist with any questions or queries
  • Online Dispute Function

£19.95 per month with a 14 day free trial

  • Single agency and multi-agency credit report monitoring
  • Unlimited, easy online access to your latest credit report
  • Expert tips to help you understand your credit report
£7.95 per month
Note

Moneyfacts.co.uk Limited is an independent credit broker not a lender. We will receive a payment from credit providers where customers link to them from Moneyfacts.co.uk. None of these arrangements affects our independence.

Disclaimer

All credit cards are subject to the applicant’s status. The APR quoted is representative of the interest rate offered to most successful applicants. Depending on your personal circumstances the APR you are offered may be higher, or you may not be offered credit. Fees and rates subject to change without notice. Please check all rates and terms before borrowing.

How do lenders use a credit score?

Lenders use credit reports to assess whether potential borrowers are reliable, stable and do not already owe more than they can comfortably repay. To calculate the chances that you'll make your repayments, they take the information in your application form and credit report and allocate each item a value. They then use a unique formula to calculate a credit score. Generally, the higher your score, the easier you'll find it to borrow.

Your credit score also changes over time as your circumstances change. For example, paying off a loan could improve your score, while missing a couple of repayments could cause it to fall.

What information is held by credit reference agencies about me?

We’ve listed the information credit reference agencies usually hold about consumers:

  • Basic information about who you are, such as your name and date of birth.
  • Your addresses held on the electoral roll including the dates of registration.
  • In England, Wales and Northern Ireland details of any bankruptcies, debt relief orders, individual voluntary arrangements and debt administration orders. In Scotland, these records include decrees, DAS debt payment programmes, sequestration orders and trust deeds. For the UK, county court judgements (CCJs) are also listed – these remain on file for at least six years.
  • Information about your credit accounts, including your bank account if you have an overdraft, credit cards, loans and mortgage accounts. This also includes utility debts – any failed or late payments will stay on your file for at least six years.
  • The trade association UK Finance shares data with these agencies about repossessions.
  • If you have applied for credit jointly with another person or have a joint bank account, then this will show on your credit file. This is called your financial associations.
  • Lists of any organisations that have searched your credit file in the past 12 months.
  • Any former addresses you have lived at.

How to get your credit report for free

You can get a free copy of your credit file – known as your statutory credit file – from any of the credit reference agencies. You must request this from them.

Other credit check FAQs

Who else might use my credit score?

Anyone who is offering you credit is likely to check your credit score, which includes a mobile phone contract or paying an insurance in monthly instalments. You may even find that prospective landlords will want to check your credit history to make sure you will be a good tenant.

Can I change my credit file if something is wrong?

Yes, if you notice a mistake on your credit file you can request that the credit reference agency changes this. However, you cannot ask them to remove something purely because you don’t want lenders to see it. You can make a ‘notice of correction’ to add extra information about a previous debt, such as this being paid.

What should I do if I am refused credit?

If your lender rejects your application, then you have the right to ask them why you have been refused and which credit reference agency they have used.

Our guides to 12 steps to get debt free and free yourself from credit card debt may be useful as part of improving your credit score.

How does fraud affect your credit rating?

If someone uses your details to fraudulently apply for credit or has forged your signature, this may result in a warning being placed on your credit file. If you have committed fraud, then this too may show on your credit file.

For lenders to be able to see these fraud flags they need to be a member of Cifas. Cifas is a not-for-profit organisation focussing on preventing fraud. They work with lenders and other organisations to collaborate on fraud prevention using fraud risk databases and networking opportunities with their members and law enforcement agencies.

If a lender sees a fraud flag on your credit record, they will need to conduct further checks on your application. They cannot refuse your application or remove an existing credit arrangement because of this flag alone. They must ask you for further information to help them make a final decision. This could include providing additional evidence to prove your identity.

If you are an innocent victim of fraud, Cifas must write and tell you that there is a warning on your credit file.

How long does a debt management plan affect your credit rating?

If you’ve had problems with debt repayment in the past you might have used something called a Debt Management Plan (DMP). This is a formal agreement between you and the people you owed money to that allows you to make smaller repayments but over a longer period than normal.

Debts will affect your credit score for 6 years after they have been paid off, so if you take 4 years to pay off a debt under a DMP making your final payment in May 2017. This will remain on your credit record for a further 6 years, meaning it will finally be spent at the end of April 2023.

Moneyfacts tip

Moneyfacts tip nigel woollsey

Are you credit invisible or have you hit a road bump with your credit? Credit builder cards can help you to rebuild your profile, all you need to do is keep making repayments on time

Get your FREE credit score

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