What is a good credit score?
Before you take out a loan, open a credit card or apply for another type of finance, understand how lenders will decide what to offer you.
Having a good credit score can help you secure a mortgage, a credit card, a car loan and other types of credit. There are ways to boost your score, and ways to damage it without realising. We’ve set out the key points you need to know to get your score into good shape, and to keep it healthy.
What is my credit score?
Your credit score is a numerical rating of your creditworthiness that is calculated based on your financial activity and credit history. Credit scores are produced by specialist credit reference agencies, and each agency uses its own scoring method to determine your credit score.
In order to get your credit score, you’ll generally need to apply for a credit report through one of the credit rating agencies. Many agencies also offer limited free trials that let you access your credit score for up to 30 days.
How do credit scores work?
Whenever you apply for credit, a potential lender will look at your history of borrowing and repaying to determine how much of a risk you are – in other words, how likely they are to get their money back. The better your credit history, the easier you will find it to obtain credit and the better the rates available to you.
Whenever you make an application for credit (e.g. a mortgage, credit card or personal loan), the lender will turn to these agencies to look at your score and history, which will play a major role in the success or failure of your application.
By looking at your credit report in conjunction with its own assessment of your circumstances, the lender will decide the following:
- Whether to lend to you
- How much to lend to you
- How much interest to charge you
What’s the difference between a credit score, a credit rating and a credit report?
Your credit report or history is a detailed record of your borrowing history, with information such as the loans you have held and applied for. It also includes personal information such as your name and address.
Your credit score is a number that is calculated using the information on your credit report. Your score determines your credit rating which could be “very poor”, “poor”, “fair”, “good” or “excellent”.
When deciding whether to take you on as a customer, lenders will usually look at your more recent financial history to determine their decision. However, your financial decisions, both good and bad, will remain on record for up to six years.
What does a credit score look like?There is no single, definitive credit score for an individual. Each credit reference agency (CRA) uses a different scale. Lenders will normally check with one or more of these agencies when assessing your application for credit. These are the scoring ranges employed by the main UK CRAs (the higher the number, the better the score).
Depending on your score, you’re said to have excellent, good, fair, poor or very poor credit:
|Experian||0 – 560|
561 – 720
721 – 880
881 – 960
961 – 999
|Equifax||0 – 438|
439 – 530
531 – 670
671 – 810
811 – 1,000
|0 – 550|
561 – 565
566 – 603
604 – 627
628 – 710
|1: Very poor|
Having a decent credit score will make it easier to get approved for credit cards and is also likely to affect the credit limit and interest rate that you’re offered by lenders.
Change in Equifax rating system
In April 2021, Equifax changed its scoring scale from 0–700 to 0–1,000, and adjusted its rating bands.
How do I check my credit score?
You can check your credit score directly with the credit reference agencies that produce your credit score. Despite what you may have read, there is no such thing as a universal credit score, and different agencies use their own rating system to determine your credit score.
This means that your credit score will be different between different agencies, and what is considered a good score with one agency may not necessarily be a good score with another agency.
You can check your credit score with a range of credit report providers here.
What is and isn’t included in your credit file:
There are many details listed on your credit history, which help lenders determine how high or low risk you are. However, you’ll be happy to know not every detail of your life is there for show.
Find out what lenders can and can’t see when studying your credit file.
- Name, address and date of birth
- Past credit applications
- Credit repayment history, including late or missed payments
- Your existing debt
- Your electoral register presence
- Any joint credit cards or loans
- If you’ve been declared bankrupt or have an IVA
- Any county court judgements (CCJs)
- Current account turnover
- Student loans
- Medical history
- Council tax arrears
- Criminal record
- Parking or driving fines
My credit score is low. How can I improve it?
It will take time to improve your credit history and won’t change overnight. Start by looking at your credit report to see if there are any errors. If there are, you can contact the credit reference agency to set the record straight.
Make regular, on-time payments to your existing debt (e.g. loans and credit cards) and try not to make numerous applications for credit (successful or not) within a short space of time.
If you’re not on the electoral roll, visit your local authority’s website to get added.
If you have no credit history at all, or want to rebuild a poor one, consider getting a credit builder card.
How different factors can affect your score
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