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Understanding your credit score

A credit score is a number that rates your history of using credit. It is one of the ways lenders work out how much risk there is in lending to you.

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

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What is a credit score?

Your credit score is a number built by different items in your credit record.

These include:

  • How well you pay your credit
  • Are there any missed payments?
  • Have any accounts ‘defaulted’?
  • The amount of money you owe
  • Whether you took out credit recently
  • What types of credit you have
  • When you started using credit
  • Any current or recent history of insolvency, like:
  • Bankruptcy or
  • An individual voluntary arrangement (IVA)
  • Checks by lenders on your credit file
  • Lenders search your credit file when you apply to borrow money
  • A lot of checks in a short amount of time can reduce your score

Credit scores are rarely used on their own.

Lenders often look at your full credit file because it has more detail.

What is a good credit score?

Credit reference agencies measure credit scores in different ways.


  • Excellent is between 781 and 850
  • Good starts at 658


  • Excellent is above 800
  • Good is between 670 and 739


  • Good is between 881 and 960
  • Fair is between 721 and 880

Each lender uses credit scores in different ways.

Some will use one credit agency over others.

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How can I check my credit score without hurting it?

You can check your own credit score without hurting it.

The only people who see when you check your own credit file is the credit reference agency.

Check your credit history regularly to know:

Contact the credit reference companies if anything does not look right.

How can I improve my credit score?

There are a few things you can do to improve your credit score.

  • Pay your credit and bills on time
  • Use credit sensibly
  • Always keep to payment arrangements

This is easier if you:

  • Make a budget
  • Include your credit payments
  • Keep track of when payments are due

You can build up a credit history by:

  • Opening a bank account
  • Taking out a credit card
  • Getting a mobile phone contract
  • Make full payments every month
  • Make payments on time
  • Check you are on the electoral roll
  • Register if you are not

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

It can take up to three months for a new bank or credit account to show on your credit file.

It can take a while, but you should see your score improve if:

  • You keep your details up to date
  • You pay your credit on time

Find out more about what is recorded in your credit file.

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