HOW TO GET HOLD OF YOUR CREDIT RATING AND IMPROVE YOUR SCORE
have you seen a copy of your credit report? If not, you are not alone. Many people do not see theirs because they do not think they need to or because they’re worried about what they might find. But it is well worth getting hold of a copy. And if you’re credit rating isn’t very good, what can you do to improve it?
1. GETTING HOLD OF A COPY OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT
2. BY-LAW YOU ARE ALLOWED TO SEE YOUR CREDIT REPORT FOR £2
3. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CORRECT ANY MISTAKES ON YOUR REPORT
4. YOU CAN EXPLAIN LATE PAYMENTS OR DEBTS
5. YOUR CREDIT FILE MAY BE LINKED WITH SOMEONE ELSE’S
6. CHECKING YOUR FILE WILL NOT DAMAGE YOUR CREDIT RATING
7. COMPANIES CAN CARRY OUT ‘HARD’ AND ‘SOFT’ SEARCHES
8. DIFFERENT CREDIT PROVIDERS HAVE DIFFERENT WAYS OF SCORING
9. SOME INFORMATION COULD STAY ON YOUR FILE FOR 6 YEARS
10. A LATE PAYMENT MAY NOT SHOW UP ON YOUR CREDIT FILE
GETTING HOLD OF A COPY OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT
You can get hold of a copy of your credit report free of charge if you sign up for a trial offer with one of the credit reference agencies. There are three different credit reference agencies (Equifax, Experian and Call Credit. And Call Credit has a service called Noddle which lets you see your credit file for free. The ‘trade-off’ is that you will receive offers from companies via email.
You can get hold of your credit report online by going to the credit reference agencies’ websites: Equifax, Experian and Call Credit.
BY-LAW YOU ARE ALLOWED TO SEE YOUR CREDIT REPORT FOR £2. Or Get it FREE!
If you don’t want to sign up for a trial offer or use Noddle you can get a copy of your credit report for £2 from each of the credit reference agencies. It is not a one-off cost- it means that every time you want to see a copy of your report, you have to pay another £2. Although many online services are offering your report for free (Experian and Clear Score)
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CORRECT ANY MISTAKES ON YOUR REPORT
If you see something on your credit reference file that isn’t correct, you can get it repaired. You should contact the credit reference agency and ask them to put it right.
• The credit reference agency has 28 days to correct the mistake, tell you why it thinks the information is correct or update you.
• In the meantime, the information has to be marked as ‘disputed’, and a credit company can’t rely on it when working out whether or not to lend you money.
YOU CAN EXPLAIN LATE PAYMENTS OR DEBTS
If, for example, you’ve missed some payments or got behind with them, so the information on your credit report is accurate but doesn’t tell the full picture, you can add a statement of up to 200 words that explains why.
SAMPLE WORDING: For example, you might say ‘I was late with two payments on my credit card because I’m self-employed and two of my biggest customers paid my invoices late. I’ve now made up the payments and am paying all my credit agreements on time.’
The statement is called a ‘notice of correction’, but it’s not really about ‘correcting a mistake’, more putting any problems on your credit report in context.
YOUR CREDIT FILE MAY BE LINKED WITH SOMEONE ELSE’S
If you have a joint account with an overdraft facility or you have taken out a loan (including a mortgage) with someone else, your credit files will be linked. That means if you apply for credit in your name, any prospective lender could also look at the credit file of the person you’re connected to. It means that their credit rating could affect you even if you only apply for credit in your own name and not in joint names.
TIP: You can ask to have the financial link or ‘association’ as it’s called, broken. But you can typically only do this if joint accounts have been closed and you don’t live at the same address. There are some exceptions.
CHECKING YOUR FILE WILL NOT DAMAGE YOUR CREDIT RATING
It’s a bit of an urban myth that if you check your credit file, you can damage your credit rating. It’s not true. What can hurt your credit rating is if you apply for lots of credit in a short time, or if you apply for credit repeatedly after you have been turned down.
COMPANIES CAN CARRY OUT ‘HARD’ AND ‘SOFT’ SEARCHES
In most cases, if you apply for credit, the credit provider will check your file. In some cases, if you apply for a quotation for credit, your data will also be checked even if you don’t proceed to get the card, loan etc.
If the search leaves a trail that other credit providers can see it’s called a ‘hard footprint’ in the jargon..!). If it leaves a trail that only you and the credit provider can see, it’s called a ‘soft footprint’. In that case, other lenders won’t be able to tell that you’ve been applied for credit with this company.
TIP: See if you can find out if the credit provider will do what’s called a ‘quotation search’ rather than a ‘full search’ if you are trying to find out what interest rate you might be charged for credit. A quotation search won’t leave a hard footprint on your file.
DIFFERENT CREDIT PROVIDERS HAVE DIFFERENT WAYS OF SCORING
Your credit score or credit rating is a measure of how likely a bank, credit card provider or other lender thinks you are to repay money you have been lent. Lots of factors are taken account of – some more logical than others – and they can vary from company to company.
• Generally, you’ll get a higher score if you’re employed rather than self-employed, if you have credit you’ve paid back rather than if you’ve ‘lived within your means’ and never borrowed and if you’ve not had too many changes to your circumstances in recent months, such as moving job, moving house and moving bank account at the same time.
SOME INFORMATION COULD STAY ON YOUR FILE FOR 6 YEARS
If you have a county court judgement (called a ‘decree’ in Scotland), it will remain on your credit file for six years. Bankruptcy (called sequestration in Scotland) will also stay on your record for six years from the date of your bankruptcy order (so it will remain on your file after you’ve been discharged from bankruptcy).
TIP: If you’ve been declared in default on a credit agreement (which usually means you have to have missed three monthly payments), this will also be recorded on your credit file and will stay there for six years. You can find out more about Understanding default notices elsewhere in this section.
A LATE PAYMENT MAY NOT SHOW UP ON YOUR CREDIT FILE
- If you are a few days late with a payment, it may not show up on your credit file. It will depend on how often the credit provider sends repayment information to the credit reference agencies. If you’re late making a credit card payment because, for example, you were on holiday, you may be able to make the payment and not to have your credit file affected, although you’ll probably be charged a late payment fee.