A credit report is a detailed report of an individual's credit history. Credit rating agencies collect information and create credit reports based on that information, and lenders use the reports along with other details to determine an applicants' creditworthiness for a loan, mortgage or credit card. Banks and other lenders use the services of the 3 main UK credit agencies - Experian, Call-Credit and Equifax. Here we review the various options for getting a free credit report & discuss what to do if your credit score is poor.
1-Month Free Trials
The main credit agencies all offer a free 1-Month trial before their monthly charges kick in. Experian are the biggest players in the UK. The only way to see your free Experian report is via its 1-month free trial via its "Credit Expert" service. Experian promote a free 1-month trial followed by a monthly £14.99 charge to new customers, which offers an online credit report and real-time alerts when your report is updated. It's a comprehensive one time only free service. If you try to log back in at some point in the future they will immediately charge you £14.99. They will also charge you £14.99 if you forget to cancel before the end of the trial period. Cancellation is via a free phone number.
Equifax also offers a month-long free trial with a £14.95 per month charge afterwards. You can log in to access your personal credit report and your credit score, and receive email updates when something changes in your report. Like Experian, this is a one-time free trial and need to remember to cancel at the end of your 30 day trial to avoid the monthly charge. Cancellation is via a free phone number.
Callcredit is a newer credit agency but is not yet as popular as the 2 agencies above. Their Checkmyfile service allows you to see both your CallCredit and Equifax reports in 1 place via a month long free trial (£9.99 per month after). It's ideal for those who want a comprehensive, ongoing monitoring service.
Clearscore gives access to free Equifax credit reports, which are updated monthly. It offers this free service by selling you financial services products like loans and credit cards. You can delete your account via their website.
Callcredit provides free credit reports on a monthly basis via its its free service called Noddle. Like Clearscore, the Noddle service will make money by offering you loans and other financial products you are likely to qualify for. You are however not required to take up any of these offers to use their free service. They will also try to get you to upgrade to additional premium credit related services. You can cancel your membership at anytime by emailing them via the website.
Why Is Your Credit Score Poor?
High levels of debt contribute to a poor credit rating in that, if you already have a lot of credit to pay back, potential new lenders may doubt whether you can afford to take on more debt. Being issued a county court judgement (CCJ) for unpaid bills will have a severe impact on your credit rating.
Missing repayments on existing loans, abusing credit cards, and failing to pay off your mortgage as planned can also leave a dirty stain on your credit rating for up to six years. Even being connected to somebody else with a poor credit rating - such as through joint credit in bank accounts - can have an adverse impact on yours!
Short Term Fixes
Stop Further Damage - If you've applied for a loan or some other kind of credit and have been rejected, stop applying for further loans. This can be detrimental to your credit score! Instead, put it on hold until you've improved your credit score.
Cancel Cards - If you have existing credits cards which are not in use, cancel them with the lender and then destroy them. Not having access to these makes lenders feel more secure that you won't suddenly rack up more debt, and it also means you're much less likely to fall victim to fraud since your details can no longer be stolen and used on such latent cards.
Join The Electoral Register - Being on the electoral register positively impacts your credit score. If you're not on it, you'll find it harder to borrow money! You can register for this easily online.
Longer Term Fixes
Protect Yourself From Fraud
If someone opens up and a credit card in your name and racks up debt on it, the negativity attaches to your credit score. To protect yourself from such fraudulent activity, regularly check your credit score for anomalies. Be under no illusion that fraud happens: the sooner you spot it, the sooner you can wipe its damage from your credit rating. You are legally entitled to a copy of your credit report for £2, so do this with Experian, Equifax and Callcredit regularly to stay alert.
Focus on rebuilding
To nip further damage to your credit score in the bud, make a significant effort to keep on top of repayments for existing debt. Likewise, focus on rebuilding your credit rating using a credit-builder prepaid card. These work as a case study of your ability to pay off debt! You'll be lent around £60, and will agree to pay this off over 12 months at £5 monthly repayments. At the end of this year - assuming you keep up with these small repayments - you'll have a record of 12 months worth of successful repayments to strengthen your credit rating.