Checking your credit score regularly can be the key to keeping your finances healthy. There are three main credit reference agencies in the UK that compile information on how well you manage credit and payments: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
Your credit score will often dictate whether you are able to borrow money, as well as how much, so knowing your score can be essential. If you don’t keep track of it, you run the risk of small errors causing larger problems down the line. And if you are struggling to be accepted for a loan, credit card or mortgage, it is important to have the full picture to help you work out how to improve your credit score.
Where to check your credit score for free
Since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, which gives individuals greater control over their personal data, it is free to access your score. However, how you check your credit score differs slightly with each credit reference agency, so let’s break it down:
Experian is the largest credit reference agency in the UK, and one that lenders frequently use when conducting credit checks.
Experian has a free credit score checking service: Experian Credit Score. This is available online and requires you to complete a form, which includes providing your personal information. With the service, your score will be updated every 30 days.
If you want more of a deep dive into your credit report, you can opt for Experian’s CreditExpert report. Here you get daily updates on your credit score and report, as well as alerts, web monitoring and analytics to help you better understand your score. Experian offers its CreditExpert report with a 30-day free trial for new customers only. After the trial period, the service costs £14.99 a month.
With Equifax, you can view your full credit report and score for free as part of a 30-day free trial. After that, the service costs £7.95 a month, but you can cancel at any time. You can view your detailed credit report, find out your score and take advantage of the identity protection feature, which will alert you if your financial details are shared on websites used by fraudsters.
Alternatively, you could use either Clearscore or Credit Karma. Although not part of Equifax, Clearscore uses Equifax’s credit information, and Credit Karma uses both Equifax’s and TransUnion’s information. You can view your report once a month, free of charge. However, the catch is that both Clearscore and Credit Karma will then recommend financial products based on your credit score.
In order to view your credit report held by TransUnion, you can request to receive your statutory credit file, which will be delivered either online or by post. This includes details about your credit accounts, missed payments and the people you have financial links to.
Alternatively, as mentioned for Equifax above, you could use Credit Karma for free access to your monthly credit report and credit score for life. Credit Karma may then recommend loans and credit cards that are suitable for someone with your credit rating.
Checkmyfile is an online service that checks your credit score with the three main credit reference bureaus. It is free for the first 30 days, but thereafter it costs £14.99 a month. As well as access to your score across all three credit reference agencies, you also receive free identity fraud assistance.
What do I need to check my credit score?
Now that you are ready to find out your score, the process is quite simple. You’ll need a few personal details, including:
- date of birth,
- phone number,
- driving licence/passport number and
- addresses for the past three years.
You can go to the websites of the credit reference agencies mentioned above and sign up for a free account. Be mindful that some sites require you to put your credit card number in to sign up for the free 30-day trial, and if you forget to deactivate the account before the time is up, you will be paying a monthly fee.
Are there downsides to checking my score?
The brilliant thing is that there are no disadvantages in checking your credit score regularly. Your checks are not recorded and do not work against you when you apply for credit.
Instead, checking your credit score regularly will help you keep a closer eye on your finances, as well as flag any issues you need to address before submitting an application for a loan, credit card or mortgage.
What details should I check to improve my credit score?
If there are details in your credit history that are outdated or simply incorrect, they can affect your credit score, so it’s a very good idea to check carefully through your report, and pay special attention to the following.
- Check for old addresses on accounts – If you have an open account listed at an old address, this can cause confusion with ID checks and drag down your score. It’s usually a good idea to close these accounts ASAP.
- Correct any errors – If you believe there is an error on your credit check file, challenge it! For example, this could be an old payment that you have paid off, but the company wrongly informed the agency that you hadn’t. To correct an error, there are a few options. You can write to the lender that put the details on your file, make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service or add a notice of correction to your credit file. Each agency varies slightly in how you should add the notice of correction. If you are subscribed to the service, you can add a note to your file online or send the correction to the agency via the post. You can contact the agency for specific details.
- Make sure you don’t have any joint accounts from the past – If you were in a house share or a relationship that has run its course, it’s important to close those joint bank and utility accounts. Otherwise you could be disadvantaged by the behaviour of someone else.
- Always check your credit report after an application is rejected – Find out from the lender why you were rejected and which agency it used. Was it because you need more time to build up a better credit score? Or was there something specific that caused your application to be rejected?
- See whether you have any open but unused credit or store cards on file – It can be a good idea to close these, as they are included in your tally of available credit. Lenders may think that you have access to too much credit and refuse you on these grounds.
Now you have all the information to go and check your credit score for free. That means it’s time to take action and actually check your score. What’s the worst that can happen? Even if you find out that you have a bad score, the good news is that you can now do something about it.
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