In Depth

How to check your UK credit score

Half of Britons don’t know their credit rating - and even wealthiest risk ‘credit invisibility’

More than half of all Britons have never checked their credit score, according to a YouGov survey.

The poll of 2,012 adults found that 57% were unaware of their credit rating, which can mean the difference between qualifying for a loan, mortgage or credit card.

So why is the score important, how can you find it out for free and how can it be improved?

What is a credit score?

Whether you are applying for a credit card, loan or mortgage, the lender will want to know how well you have managed your finances in the past. The higher your score, the easier it should be for you to borrow money.

Lisa Hardstaff, credit information expert at Equifax, which commissioned the YouGov survey, says people who have not checked their score “are not putting themselves in the best position when it comes to applying for credit”.

Bad credit can also affect insurance rates and cause problems when you try to rent a property or set up a new phone or utility contract. Some employers even require credit checks during job applications.

How do I check my credit score?

Experian, Transunion and Equifax are the three main credit reference agencies.

“These companies can see into our financial souls, holding data on the personal finances of almost 50 million adults in the UK,” says the Financial Times. “They can use our borrowing history - including any past mistakes - to predict how likely we are to repay in the future.”

Checkmyfile.com uses data from all three and has a 30-day free trial. You have to enter a number of personal details including name, age, address and debit card details to confirm your identity, but the site won’t take any money if you cancel before the first 30 days are over. You also need to answer a few questions about any credit cards, loans and mortgages you have held. The service should then give you an overall score out of 1,000, as well as details of your payment history.

How can I improve my score?

It is important to pay bills and loans on time, every time, to maintain a high score. Setting up direct debits is one of the easiest ways to ensure payments are not missed.

But the FT also warns that “even the wealthiest Britons are at risk of ‘credit invisibility’”. Good savings and income do not register as they do not predict repayment behaviour.

“Not having products like credit cards is also something that will limit future lending decisions - which could come as a shock to those who are careful with money,” the newspaper adds.

Other tips include making sure you are on the electoral roll; having a bank account registered to your address; being named on household bills; and keeping credit card borrowing low. Small mistakes on your credit report can also affect your score, so be sure to update the agency if anything is wrong. Checking your credit score annually means you can keep on top of any changes.

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