Building a credit history from scratch may seem like a daunting task, but your rent payments can turn out unexpectedly useful. CreditLadder helps you make them count.
When you’re a young professional, there are a few certainties in your financial life: one is that you’ll spend too much on gin and tonics, another one is the standing order with which you pay the rent on the first day of the month, and the third is that the two of them combined mean you’ll only have spare change to do your grocery shopping for the remaining 29 days.
Rent doesn’t exactly come cheap these days, so why not at least use it to improve your credit history? CreditLadder can help with that. The service it offers is still very new and not many lenders use it yet, but things are likely to change in the future.
Explain CreditLadder to me in three sentences
CreditLadder is a free service that allows you to have your rent payments recorded in your Experian credit report. Potential lenders will be able to see them, so paying the rent on time each month will help you establish yourself as a reliable borrower who can keep up with regular payments. CreditLadder is meant for people who don’t have much of a credit history yet, to help them build one and access more affordable credit.
How does it work?
It’s fairly simple:
- CreditLadder connects to your bank account through Open Banking. When you sign up, you’ll be asked to grant CreditLadder read-only access to your transactions. Credit Ladder can then identify and track your rent payments. It supports quite a few banks in the UK, but not all of them, so you need to be paying the rent from a supported current account or you won’t be able to use the service.
- It reports your payments to Experian. Experian will add your rent payments to your credit report as part of The Rental Exchange scheme. Experian is one of the three credit reference agencies in the UK (the others are Equifax and TransUnion).
- Lenders can see the payment history and take it into account when making a decision. If they do and you make your rent payments on time, you could be offered better rates than you normally would.
How does having my rent payments on my credit report help me?
It isn’t easy to quantify, but there are a couple of things to take into account.
First of all, signing up to the scheme makes it easier to prove your identity online, which means that, for example, you may be able to open a bank account without having to provide physical proof of identity. Experian says that with the scheme, the proportion of tenants who can prove their identity online will go from 39% to 84%.
Things are trickier when it comes to actually improving your credit score. Experian says that 79% of tenants would benefit from the scheme by seeing their credit score go up. But that’s only if lenders decided to take rental data into account, which is not standard practice yet.
For now, rental records will appear on your credit file, but won’t automatically feed your Experian credit score (the silver lining being that if you pay the rent late once, it shouldn’t damage your credit score either).
An Experian spokesperson told Finder: “More than 1 million tenants now have their rent payment records included in their Experian credit report, which both they and lenders can see but it won’t have an additional impact on their credit score just yet. Several lenders are now testing the data before they incorporate it into their decision making, which is the usual process for new data sets. So it’s not yet being factored into people’s credit scores but this should soon change.”
Who is behind CreditLadder?
CreditLadder launched in 2016. The CEO is Sheraz Dar, who previously worked in various digital businesses including OpenRent. CreditLadder was the first company to report to Experian’s Rental Exchange scheme.
The Rental Exchange scheme is a partnership between The Big Issue and Experian. It was born in 2010, but only since October 2018 have rent payments been appearing on tenants’ credit files.
What’s the good and the bad of CreditLadder?
- It helps you build a credit history.
- It helps you prove your identity online.
- You could be able to access cheaper rates on loans, credit cards and mortgages.
- It’s free.
- Signing up is quick and easy.
- Landlords can refer their tenants to CreditLadder.
- For landlords: tenants are strongly incentivised to pay the rent on time.
- For now, not many lenders take rent into account when assessing your credit application.
- For now, rent payments don’t directly impact your Experian credit score.
- The lender you’re considering could be using a different credit reference agency.
How much does it cost?
The basic service is completely free both for tenants and landlords.
If you sign up to CreditLadder Plus for £8.99 a month or £79 a year instead, you also get mobile phone insurance and discounts and deals at a series of retailers (including Argos, Caffe Nero and Tesco).
Alternatives to CreditLadder
Making rent count towards your credit score may seem like a fairly obvious thing to implement, but it’s actually very new. The other two credit reference agencies, Equifax and TransUnion, don’t have anything like that in place, so Experian’s Rental Exchange is pretty much the only option for now.
However, instead of self-reporting through CreditLadder, you can also ask your landlord to report directly to the scheme for you. Council or social housing tenants can do it and so can private tenants if their landlord or agency manages at least 500 properties.
The other option for self-reporting is another startup called Canopy. It reports your rent payments to The Rental Exchange too, while also building a “digital rental profile” that allows you to instantly prove to potential landlords you can afford the rent, making reference and affordability checks way quicker. CreditLadder is planning a similar service, but it hasn’t launched yet.
Finally, don’t forget that there are multiple ways to build your credit history, and some are more straightforward than making your rent count. Make sure you’re on the electoral roll and try to never miss payments. You could also consider a specific credit builder product, such as LOQBOX or a credit builder credit card.