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How to find out how much debt you owe

If you’ve moved house or you’ve not heard from your creditors recently, it’s important to find out if there are any debts you don’t know about. You can check your credit file to find out who you owe money to and if you have any defaults, County Court judgments (CCJs) or decrees.

Finding out more about your debts will help you to understand your situation so you can start dealing with your debt problems. Once you've got all the details about your debts we can help you. Tell us about your debts, income and household spending to get a clear idea of what you can afford to pay. Then we’ll give you a personal action plan with detailed and practical debt advice.

How can I find out how much debt I owe?

Checking your credit file is the first step. Your credit file contains information about your debts, and other public information shared by lenders. It has details about your bank accounts, loans, credit cards and any other credit you’ve taken out. It may also have information about other bills, such as mobile phones, utilities and insurances. Your credit file is used to calculate your credit score.

There are three credit reference agencies in the UK:

  • Experian
  • Equifax
  • TransUnion (formerly Callcredit)

Find out more about debt and credit files.

Can I get a free copy of my credit file online?

All three credit reference agencies offer online services that give you access to your credit report:

  • Credit Karma is a service offered by TransUnion
  • Equifax has a service run by a company called ClearScore
  • Experian have a service called Credit Matcher, but this doesn’t include full details of debts

The drawback with these free services is that they include adverts for financial products based on your credit history. If you’re struggling to deal with your debts, just ignore these adverts. You can also request a hard copy of your credit report, but be mindful that this may take a little bit longer to arrive in the post.

Information on your credit file is held by all three credit reference agencies, but the exact details they have might differ between them. This is because not all lenders share information with all three agencies.

Why are some debts not on my credit file?

Information on your credit file will only show for a period of six years from the date they’re paid off, or the date the account defaulted because of a missed payment.

After this, the information will be removed, even if you still owe the debt. For example, if you missed a payment to a debt in January 2014, the record of the missed payment would have been removed from your credit file in January 2020, even if you‘re still paying it off.

This means credit reference agencies don’t hold information about old debts.

Find out more about how default notices for missed payments work.

Some lenders might not add information to your credit file at all, for example many utility providers or insurance companies, as it’s not always required that they do this.

If you’ve checked with all three credit reference agencies and you still can’t find out details about all of your debts, the next thing to do is check letters and emails you’ve received, or get in touch with creditors.

How do I find out if I have a CCJ or decree?

Details of County Court judgments (CCJs) and decrees are also kept on your credit file, along with records of insolvencies, such as bankruptcy.

If you have a County Court judgment (CCJ), or a decree in Scotland, this should appear on your credit file for six years from the date of the judgment.

If you think you have a judgment or decree but it isn’t shown on your credit file, you can check the public register of judgments, operated by the Registry Trust. You can apply to find out information from them at Trust Online.

If you have a CCJ or decree, the register will show the:

  • Date of the judgement
  • Amount owed
  • Name of the court who issued the judgment

The register won’t tell you the name of the creditor, but you can contact the court to find out these details.

There’s a £6 fee to access this information, which is why we’d suggest searching your credit file first. As with your credit file, there’s also a six year limit to how long the information will be held for.

If you find out about a judgment that you weren’t previously aware of, you should quickly take steps to deal with the CCJ or decree and understand your options, as it’s very important to respond to the court.

Find out more about:

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Other ways to find out about your debts

Check letters and emails from creditors

You should check any letters or emails you have, to see if they have information about what you owe, such as account numbers and balances.

If you’ve changed address and didn’t update your creditors, you could try and find out whether any mail went to your previous address by asking the new occupiers, landlord or agency, or providing them with a forwarding address if possible.

Get in touch with your creditors

If you remember taking out debts to specific creditors, contacting them can be one of the easiest ways to get more information. While contacting creditors can seem a scary prospect, it’ll help you find out more about your debts.

You can also explain to creditors that you’re looking to deal with your debts, and ask them to give you some breathing space, by agreeing to a temporary payment holiday, while you find out more and seek help and advice.

signpost iconRead our guide to making a budget to show your creditors what you can afford to pay them.

Sometimes debts are passed to debt collection companies, who take over the ownership of the debt from the original creditor. However the original creditor should have a record of this and will be able to provide you details of who the debt is now with.

Check your bank account statements

Most payments for debts are taken from your bank account either by direct debit, standing order or using your debit card. If you use online banking or have copies of old statements you can check these, or ask your bank for help. A good place to search is the list of cancelled direct debits, as this might contain useful information.

Banks may only show recent statements in your online banking account, and may charge for copies of older statements.

Find HMRC, council tax, CSA and benefit overpayment debts

To help you find debts owed to government departments or agencies such as HMRC (His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs), local authorities and the Child Support Agency (CSA), you’ll need to get in touch with the right agency or department. We’ve listed some useful contacts here:

Read our guide to dealing with council tax arrears.

Should I wait for creditors to contact me about what I owe?

If you can’t find any information about your debts from your credit file, letters, correspondence, or bank statements then your only option is to wait for creditors contact you.

Creditors will use your last known address or the address on your credit file to find you, so keep these updated. Specialist tracing agents can also be employed by debt collection agencies or creditors to find you.

Some people deliberately avoid repaying debts or contacting creditors, in the hope that either the debts go away or creditors give up. This is almost guaranteed to make your situation worse as it risks further court action against, and the balances of the debts could keep going up.

We’d only suggest waiting for creditors to contact you as a last resort.