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How does debt affect a credit file?

Credit files and debt. How does it work?

Lenders use your credit file to work out how much risk there is in lending to you. This is also known as your credit history.

Your credit file also shows:

  • Information about you
  • The credit you take out
  • How you manage repayments
  • Any court action taken against you

It can affect:

  1. Whether lenders lend you money
  2. How much you can borrow
  3. The rate of interest you pay on credit and loans

Look up your credit file to find out who you owe money to.

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What is my credit file?

Credit files are built by credit reference agencies to understand your history.

They use:

  • Information shared by lenders, and
  • Other relevant public information

Credit scores are calculated by giving the details in your credit file a value.

Credit histories tend to be more important than credit scores because they have more detail.

What is a credit score?

Your credit file helps lenders:

  • Carry out ID checks to make sure you are who you say you are
  • Check you live at the address you gave them
  • Decide the terms of any credit agreement with you

A creditor may decide your credit history makes you high-risk.

They could:

  • Refuse you credit
  • Offer you a smaller amount of credit, or
  • Charge you a higher interest rate

Can I access my credit file for free?

Most credit reference agencies offer a free trial to access your credit file online.

The main credit agencies in the UK are:

  • Transunion (formerly CallCredit)
  • Equifax
  • Experian

What’s in a credit file?

Your credit file includes:

  • Personal details like:
  • Your name
  • Date of birth
  • Any other names you have had
  • The amount you owe
  • Any late, partial or missed payments
  • Current or recent default notices
  • Current or recent defaulted accounts
  • Court action like:
  • County Court judgments (CCJs)
  • Decrees
  • Money judgements
  • Details of home repossession
  • Details of debts secured against an old address
  • Details of current or recent insolvency, like:
  • Bankruptcy
  • Individual voluntary arrangement (IVA)
  • Debt relief order (DRO)

A credit file does not include:

  • How much money is in your bank accounts
  • How much you earn
  • Details of student loans (awarded after 1998)
  • Council tax arrears
  • Driving or parking fines
  • Your criminal record*
  • Your medical history

*An unpaid magistrates' fine can go on your credit file

How long does information stay on my credit file?

Certain debts stay on your credit file for six years.

They are taken off even if the debt is not paid.

These include:

  • Missed payments
  • Defaults
  • Court judgments

Other debts stay on your credit file for six years from the date they are recorded.

These include:

  • Defaults on accounts
  • Debts you pay off or ‘settle’ in full
  • 'Partial' settlements
  • When the people you owe accept a reduced amount and write off the rest of the debt
  • Insolvency, like
  • Bankruptcy
  • DRO
  • IVA
  • Protected trust deeds

Bankruptcy restrictions can be extended in some cases.

This stays on your credit file for up to 15 years.

What is a credit blacklist?

There is no such thing as a credit blacklist.

Creditors decide who to lend to based on:

  • The information in your credit file, and
  • Their own measurements

They do not depend on credit scores alone.

Some companies specialise in lending to people with bad credit histories.

Your credit history and your home addresses

Your credit history is about your use of credit. It is not a record of all the people who lived at your address.

Unless you have a joint debt, you do not need to worry about the credit history of people who:

  • Share a home with you, or
  • Used to live at your address

Linked credit files and joint debts

Your credit file shows any credit agreements in joint names.

  • This 'links' you to the other person
  • Your poor credit history may affect them
  • Their credit may affect yours

This could apply to:

  • Joint loans
  • Joint bank accounts
  • When someone acts as a loan guarantor for you.

Do you have joints accounts but no connection with the other person any more?

Ask for your credit files to be ‘disassociated’.

  • This removes the link between your credit files
  • You can only do this if:
  • The joint account has been paid off in full and
  • You do not live with the other person

Contact the credit reference agencies for disassociation.

What do I do if the information on my credit report is wrong?

Contact the credit reference agency or the lender.

  • Tell them the information is wrong
  • Tell them to update their records

Will my credit history affect my job?

Some employers credit check new or existing staff.

This is usually in:

  • Legal services
  • Financial services
  • Property conveyancing
  • Accountancy

Find out if your credit history might cause problems at work by:

  • Checking the terms and conditions of your employment contract
  • Speaking to your HR department
  • Speaking to your trade union or professional body

Can I get a mortgage with a bad credit history?

Mortgage lenders do credit checks and will see if your credit is bad.

They may:

  • Refuse you a mortgage or
  • Charge you a higher rate of interest

Some companies specialise in mortgages for people with poor credit.

They often charge much higher interest.

Can I rent a property with a poor credit history?

Many landlords or letting agents do a credit check. They need your permission to do this.

They may:

  • Refuse your application
  • Ask for a guarantor
  • Ask for larger deposit

Some landlords only check public information like:

  • The public register of court judgments
  • The public register of insolvency

This means missed payments or defaults might not affect your application.

Will my credit affect my car insurance?

Insurers will run a credit check you.

Poor credit could mean paying higher interest if you pay in monthly instalments.

It is unlikely that poor credit will stop you getting an insurance policy.

Will debt advice affect my credit rating?


No, there is no need to worry.

Nobody needs to know when you come to us for debt advice.

  • We do not tell anyone unless you ask us to
  • That means your credit file is not affected

You may choose a debt solution that:

  • Stops payments or
  • Pays less to your debts

This is recorded on your credit file.

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