Twenty years ago, people didn’t pay a lot of attention to their credit rating, let alone know how to check it. Despite that, it’s one of the most important considerations for anyone who wants to get on top of their finances.
In fact, your credit scores is an indicator to banks and lenders how well you manage your finances, your commitments. This then affects what offers and deals you are likely to get when applying for anything from a mobile phone contract to a mortgage on a house.
Checking your credit score is relatively easy. You can find out how in our How to check your credit score article. To improve your credit rating is a little trickier, but here are nine quick things you can do to help improve your score:
1. Know your position
It's important to know where you are with your personal credit score before you can start to do something about it. Check your rating with the three main credit reference agencies in the UK: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion formerly Callcredit (via its Noddle brand). Occasionally mistakes can happen. This includes things like checking old (but still open) accounts to make sure they have your up-to-date address. We recommend you check your full statutory credit report which costs £2 occasionally from all three agencies to be sure everything is in order.
2. Register on the electoral roll
It’s super quick to do and can have a significant impact on your score. You can do it online here.
3. Deal with existing debts
Make sure you’re on top of existing loans or credit cards. Regularly repaying debt on time will improve your rating over time. Ideally you want to get to a position where you’re using less than 50% of your available credit, at which point your score will start to improve.
4. Build up your credit history
If your credit score is poor, it’s worth starting to slowly build up your history. Look to take on smaller debts such as a store card, low limit credit card or a mobile phone contract. Show you can manage it well and your score will start to improve. If your score is really low, you may want to consider a credit rebuild card – a credit card with a high interest rate, but one that will generally accept people with lower credit scores. Taking one out and spending small amounts that you always pay off each month will build your rating back up. You’ll need to ensure you can pay the money back in full each month as the high interest rate will mean you’ll find your balance mounting up quickly if you don’t.
5. Don’t ‘panic apply’
If you’ve just applied for credit and been rejected, your score will dip temporarily. If you then apply for several other products your score can take a big knock. Space out your applications to give your rating time to recover. Even better, eligibility checkers, such as Money Saving Expert’s, will recommend products that you are likely to be accepted for before you apply. Only apply for things you have a good chance of getting.
6. Put your name on the bills
Having your name on utilities helps prove to lenders that you’re responsible – but make sure you pay on time! If you do, your score will rise over time.
7. Check your partner isn’t dragging you down
If you take out a joint mortgage, joint bank account or joint loan you create a financial link to another person. If you and your flat-mate have taken out 'joint credit' and no longer living together you might want to check that you still aren't linked financially. If they have a poor financial history it’s worth keeping finances separate in the first place. Ex-partner's bad debts can affect you for years after you've split up, so make sure you’ve severed connections officially. All you need to do is write to the agencies and ask for a notice of disassociation, but you’ll need to pay off joint loans or close joint accounts first.
8. Take advantage of free advice
9. Deal with serious debts
Really serious situations, like CCJs and bankruptcy, not only impact your score negatively, but also stay on your file for six years. Make sure you follow any rules set out, and that you settle debts as soon as you can. Remember that it can take weeks or even months to see improvements, but if you continue to pay your bills on time and follow our guide, you’ll be on your way to a better credit score, which can make it easier to get access to low interest credit. Definitely worth the wait…
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