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Understanding your credit score

A credit score, calculated from your history of using credit, is one of the ways lenders work out how much risk there is in lending to you.

It can affect how much you’ll repay on credit and loans.

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What is a credit score?

This is a number, calculated by adding up or subtracting scores for different items in your credit record, including:

Credit scores are rarely used on their own and many lenders prefer to look at the full credit files of their customers, as they include much more detail than a simple score.

What is a good credit score?

Because each creditor has its own way of using credit scores (and they sometimes give preference to one credit agency above others), there’s no consensus on the exact numbers that are ‘good scores’.

These good scores will be in the upper range. The latest information shared by the credit reference agencies suggests:

  • TransUnion: Excellent is between 781 and 850. Good starts at 658
  • Equifax: Excellent is above 800. Good is between 670 and 739
  • Experian: Good is between 881 and 960. Fair is between 721 and 880

How can I check my credit score without hurting it?

There’s no need to worry about checking your own credit score. It’s only the checks made by creditors that are recorded as the ‘hard credit checks’ that can raise red flags. When you check your own credit file, this isn’t seen by anyone except the credit reference agency.

A larger number of checks by lenders on your credit score by in a short amount of time can be a red flag. This implies you’re applying for a lot of credit and, therefore, it may be risky to lend to you.

It can be a good idea to check your credit history on a regular basis, so you can:

  • be sure all your details are up-to-date and accurate
  • fully understand who you owe money to
  • make sure there are no debts, county court judgments (CCJs) or decrees you’re unaware of.
  • can contact the credit reference companies to let them know about any wrong information and to query anything that doesn’t look right.

How can I improve my credit score?

The simple answer is: by paying your bills on time and by using credit sensibly - always keeping to payment arrangements.

This means you need to carefully budget for the interest on repayments as well as the amount you’ve borrowed and keep track of the dates payments are due.

You can build up a credit history by:

  • Opening a bank account
  • Taking out a credit card and making sure you pay this off in full every month
  • Getting a mobile phone contract, again keeping up with the agreed payments

tick iconIt’s also a good idea to register on the electoral roll, which creditors use to check you're living at the address you gave them.

How long does it take for a credit score to improve?

It can take some time to improve, as details of new bank accounts or credit accounts can take as long as three months to be added to your credit file.

But by keeping your personal details up-to-date and continuing to pay your credit on time, you should see your score gradually improving.

Find out more about what’s recorded in your credit file.

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