We’ve all heard of credit reports and ratings, but what are they exactly? And why do they matter?
Everybody has a credit report, it’s just that we don’t always know it. Our credit report contains details of all the loans and credit we’ve taken out and how up to date we are with repayments. Our credit report matters because anyone we ask for credit will check our report to see if we’re likely to pay the credit back, based on our history. And credit doesn’t just mean bank loans or credit cards, it also applies to things like telephone and broadband contracts, and gas and electricity too. If we’ve got a good credit report we’re much more likely to get good credit, which can mean we pay less interest on any loans we take out, and we won’t have to have an expensive prepayment meter for gas or electricity.
GETTING A COPY OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT
Quids in! recommends getting a copy of your report if you’re planning to apply for something major like a mortgage, or if you’re having trouble getting credit so you can find out why. By law, you can get a copy of your credit report. You can either do this online from Experian or Equifax (free for the first 30 days only)
How to improve your credit rating
We can all improve our credit rating. Here are Experian’s credit expert James Jones’ top tips to get a better credit rating.
- Get on the electoral register
- Set up agreements to pay old debts
- Make sure your debts are registered to the correct name and address
- Borrow small amounts first and make payments on time
- Cancel unused credit cards
- Shop around for credit and only apply when you’ve found the best deal for you
- Apply for credit you are likely to get – useful tools on price comparison sites allow you to do this
- Miss payments or make late payments if you can help it
- Apply for lots of credit at once
- Neglect repayment requests (you could be issued with a court judgement that stays on your credit report for six years)
If you’ve got any other questions about credit ratings you can tweet James @AskJames
CLAIRE is careful with her money and never borrows. She pays her rent on time
Claire might not have a high credit rating as there’s no history of borrowing to look at. If Claire joined The Rental Exchange (see below) her credit report would start to grow.
WHAT IT MEANS
At the moment she might find it hard to get credit, however if she can join The Rental Exchange she’ll have more choices in the future.
LUCY is behind with her credit card payments and ignoring the letters that are piling up
Her history of missed payments will count against her and her credit rating will be affected
WHAT IT MEANS
Lucy is unlikely to have her applications for credit accepted and may even struggle to get a mobile phone contract. Gas and electricity providers would want her to be on a pre-payment meter
MIKE’S pretty good with his cash. He borrows but he pays back, mostly on time
Mike’s will be high. He will be seen as a reliable customer who pays back what he borrows
WHAT IT MEANS
Mike has more chance of getting low rates if he needs to borrow money or get credit
Experian’s Rental Exchange Programme
In the past, the odds were stacked against social housing tenants when it came to building up a good credit rating. Monthly rents didn’t count, while mortgage payments did – a system that really favoured homeowners. The good news is that a new initiative called The Rental Exchange, a joint initiative between Experian and the Big Issue Invest, is finally levelling the playing field.
With The Rental Exchange, your landlord shares details of your regular rent payments with lenders via Experian, the UK’s leading credit agency. According to Big Issue Invest, which masterminded the initiative, more than 70% of social housing tenants will be able to improve their credit ratings with The Rental Exchange. For you, that could mean access to safer and more affordable credit.
By giving lenders reliable information about who you are and where you live, The Rental Exchange also helps you pass online identity checks and get preferable rates for goods and services.
Experian runs the UK’s leading credit reference agency. Other agencies are available.
GETTING YOUR CREDIT REPORT PUT RIGHT, IF IT’S WRONG
If you get your credit report and find a mistake, you can get it put right by contacting Experian online or by writing to Customer Support Centre, Experian Ltd, PO BOX 9000, Nottingham NG80 7WP