Whenever you apply for credit – be it a loan, mortgage, car insurance or mobile phone contract – the lender in question will check your credit report to get an understanding of your credit history.
Your credit report is essentially your financial CV; lenders will use your credit report to determine your “credit worthiness” – a valuation performed by lenders to determine the possibility of you defaulting on your debt obligations – and it plays a key part in whether or not they decide to lend to you.
With this considered, checking your credit report on a regular basis is an important part of maintaining your “financial health”, and checking it won’t hurt your credit rating.Looking for practical advice on how you can build and improve your credit score with 8 simple and effective steps? Download our eBook for more information.
Being aware of all the information in your credit report will not only help you to better manage your finances and correct mistakes, but also see the information lenders look at and subsequently help you to put a plan in place to improve your credit score overall.
So, what do you need to do?
First, obtain a copy of your credit report. Under the terms of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, you have a statutory right to access or request a copy of your credit report, referred to as a statutory report (costing £2), from any or all of the three main credit reference agencies (CRAs) in the UK: Experian, Equifax and Callcredit.
Check your credit score with the three main credit reference agencies (CRA)
It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a universal credit score. Each CRA has its own system for assessing your credit worthiness and will take into account different factors when calculating your score. For example, a ‘good’ credit score for Experian is around 881-960, whereas for Equifax it’s 420-466 and for Callcredit it’s 604-627.
In addition to this, each lender has its own system in place to decide whether or not to accept you, looking at different information within your credit report, meaning you could be turned down by one, but accepted by another.
On that basis, obtaining a copy of your credit report from Experian, Equifax and Callcredit will allow you to compare information and get a better understanding of your overall “financial health”.
How can you access your credit report and check your credit score with the three main CRAs?
There are two ways to access your credit report via Experian – first is via Experian’s CreditExpert, a credit monitoring service provided by Experian that allows its users to check their credit score on a daily basis, access daily credit reports, and a host of other services. It comes with a 30-day free trial and a fee after that duration.
The other option is to use MoneySavingExpert’s (MSE) Credit Club, a free service that allows you to get your Experian Credit Score and metrics such as Affordability Score, Credit Card & Loan Eligibility, and others to understand how lenders view your credit report.
There are two ways to access your Equifax credit report: first is to sign up for a 30-day free trial, giving you unlimited access to your latest credit report and score, and the second is to use ClearScore.
ClearScore, in the process of being acquired by Experian (subject to approval from the FCA and CMA), gives you completely free access to your monthly Equifax Credit Report. There are no hidden fees and your credit report is updated on a monthly basis.
Finally, Callcredit. Callcredit, formed in 2000, is the UK’s newest and fastest-growing CRA – and gives you unlimited access to your credit report and score for life through its Noddle service. The service is completely free and there are no hidden charges. You can upgrade your account to include other Noddle products but there is no obligation to purchase and you can continue to get your credit report and score for free.
Other ways to check your credit score
In addition to the options above, there are other reliable ways to check your credit score. Check My File, for example, offers you a 30-day free trial and allows you to see your Experian, Equifax and Callcredit reports at the same time, allowing you to compare them with ease. There are also a number of websites online affiliated with the main CRAs that provide free trials and allow you to check your credit reports, so make sure you look around online.
Another option is to ask your credit card provider. More and more credit providers are putting credit scores on customers’ monthly statements.
Correcting errors on your credit report
Also, the smallest of errors on your credit report can cause problems and potentially affect how likely you are to be accepted for credit. If you have noticed an error on your credit report, try to fix the problem as soon as possible as the process can take a long time. Firstly, draft a dispute letter for the CRA in question and identify the problem. Secondly, include the necessary evidence to dispute the information in the record, as well as specific instructions on how you would like the CRA to update your credit report. Thirdly, send the letter and make sure to follow up by calling or emailing in a few days to ensure your dispute letter has been received and flagged. Finally, contact the credit company/lender directly and inform them that the information they have provided is incorrect to resolve the issue. As with above, include the necessary information, identify the error, explain why that information is wrong and how it can be fixed. Keep copies of your dispute letters for future reference.
Ultimately, if you are considering applying for credit in the near future, acquire a copy of your credit report, identify where you can improve, and keep an eye on your credit score. A good credit score is essential and will influence your ability to access credit in the future – if you want to find out how you can track it and improve it, download our new eBook by clicking the button below.