There are three main credit check providers in the UK that can help you make sure your credit history is accurate. They are Experian, Equifax and UKcreditratings.
Experian is actually a credit broker, working with selected lenders to introduce would-be borrowers to its panel of selected lenders. That’s why they are the only one of my three agencies to allow you free unlimited access to your credit history.
Both Equifax and UKcreditratings will charge you a monthly fee (currently £14.95). They do offer a free trial to new applicants, so you can use that to check their record of your history – once – and you’ll need to remember to cancel your membership within the limited time window, or the monthly fee will kick in.
So what do you pay for?
Let’s start with Experian, and what you can get for nothing… and it’s genuine, there are no hidden costs further down the line, but the detail is more limited, as you’d expect. You’ll see your eligibility rating for credit cards and personal loans (not secured loans like mortgages) and receive special credit deals from their panel of lenders.
And for my monthly fee?
Equifax give you unlimited access to your latest credit report, whereas UKcreditratings give unlimited access to your credit history and score.
It’s important here to remember that lenders will create their own scores, and each can be different, meaning some might give you a loan offer on one product while another lender might decide to decline you. (See my blog on ways to improve your credit score).
Equifax offer single agency and multi agency report monitoring, which can help you identify possible fraud, if someone uses your details to try to get credit through a particular lender.
If something does concern you on your credit record, and you think the facts are incorrect, then UKcreditratings has an online dispute resolution function for subscribers, which can be reassuring as it makes it easier to challenge possible errors.
Equifax offer expert tips on how to understand your credit report, which can also be helpful.
Your credit score is assessed by each lender and reflects how safe a bet they think you are to repay the sum you borrow. The credit rating agency develops their score for you based on a record of all current and previous credit transactions you’ve held. Given that your record could be extensive there is always a chance that something is a mistake and you can challenge and ask to rectify something that is wrong in your record, which can have a big impact on your credit score – so do check.
What’s included in the score?
These three agencies hold slightly different information, which is how they can come to different scores, but the basics will always be covered. This includes where you have lived within the UK, any court records against you, and your history from credit providers.
In addition, their records will cover mobile phone contracts, your repayment history with store cards, and with personal loans. What isn’t included is any student loan repayment, as it’s deducted directly from your income once you earn above a set threshold. But other debt you’ve built up as a student, such as credit card debt, will be reflected in your credit score.
It can be just as much a hindrance to have no credit history as a poor credit score, as the lender has no basis on which to judge you as a risk. So if you’re planning on saving for a deposit on a home, then open a credit card and spend a little on it each month; then repay the amount due in full at the end of each month. That will build up a positive picture of you for the lender, when the time comes.