Almost all of us will have had a credit check done against us at some point in our lives. Whether it be for car finance, a credit card or loan, or something as minor as a bank overdraft.
In many cases, a credit score will come back a little unexpected – sometimes better than you have anticipated and sometimes worse. This often leaves us feeling a little perplexed about what a credit score is and how they use our financial information to produce it.
If, like many people, you have used CheckMyFile or any credit score agency, this guide is for you. We take a deep dive into credit scores and CheckMyFile to find out what they’re all about.
What is CheckMyFile?
CheckMyFile is a service that collects information across multiple credit reference agencies and then provides an aggregate credit score.
In the UK there are a number of credit reference agencies, with the two most common being Experian and Equifax. Surprisingly, the data and information each credit reference agency holds is often different.
That means that your credit score might be deemed ‘Good’ by Experian but when you run your report on Equifax it shows as ‘Fair’.
The service is currently free for 30 days and then £14.99 thereafter. CheckMyFile uses 4 credit reference agencies to provide the aggregate score:
An interesting feature that they provide apart from the aggregate score is the ability to compare line-by-line how each credit reference agency holds data on you.
For example, if you have a credit card, it will show which agencies have the correct information and which ones don’t at a glance.
This can be extremely useful as lenders will usually conduct a credit check with only one credit reference agency, and if that particular agency has incorrect information, you can pinpoint the problems using CheckMyFile.
What Are Credit Scores?
Your credit score is designed to reflect how much risk you present to a lender if they allow you to borrow money.
For example, if you always maintain your monthly payments, don’t use your credit limits and have no defaults or County Court Judgements (CCJs), you will be seen as a good candidate to lend to.
However, if you miss payments and have multiple CCJs on your file, the likelihood is that a lender will see you as a high risk and in most cases will opt not to lend to you.
You can consider the actual credit score to be a risk rating – a lender will look at the score and then see if the rating is within their threshold for lending. Some lenders have strict lending criteria while others are happier to lend to people with higher risk ratings (lower credit scores).
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How Do Credit Scores Work?
Before we explore this a little further, it is important to point out a couple of things. First, no credit reference agency collates your credit score in exactly the same way and different credit reference agencies will see information they hold on you in different ways.
For example, one credit reference agency might mark you down heavily for a missed payment, whereas another might not mark you down much at all.
Secondly, credit reference agencies do their best to get complete information on you, but they likely won’t have access to all credit information. This is for a number of reasons but most commonly it is because lenders don’t update records in a timely fashion.
Credit reference agencies also operate on varying timeframes. Some update your credit score weekly, others take a little longer. That means you could have paid off your credit card yesterday, but your credit score doesn’t reflect that.
What Information Do Credit Reference Agencies Check?
Now to look at the actual stuff that credit reference agencies monitor and the information they collect.
Electoral Roll Data – One of the simplest ways to improve your credit score is to register to vote. The electoral roll is a public database of people that are eligible to vote and where they live.
For lenders, this is important as they want to know you are tied to a certain location and that if they need to look for you in the event of a problem with debt – they know where to find you.
How much this improves your credit score will vary between credit reference agencies, but you should see at least a slight improvement in your score by registering to vote.
Current Credit Obligations – When you take out credit with a lender, they will update your credit record. This means they will usually record the total amount of debt you have with them and in some cases how much is outstanding.
They will also record if payments have been received each month. As you make your monthly payments you might find your credit score improves and this is a reflection of you meeting your financial commitments.
On the flipside, if you miss monthly payments, this will also be updated, and you will likely see your score take a turn for the worse.
Previous Credit Obligations – Any debts you have had in the past that have been paid off, settled or satisfied will also be recorded on your credit score for six years.
While past debt doesn’t usually have as big an impact as current debt, it can have devastating effects on your score if there is money you still owe from a historic debt.
For things that impact your credit score negatively, we have a section a little further down explaining what they are and how you can fix them.
Linked Accounts – If you ever apply for credit on a joint basis with a partner, friend or family member, the name of that person will be linked to your credit record. This can be troublesome as in some cases your credit score might be good, but they might not have a good score.
By being linked to someone who manages their finances poorly, it can negatively impact your credit score.
What is a Good Credit Score?
You might have a good credit score, or you might have heard others talking about how good their credit score is – but what does that actually mean?
In most cases, people consider themselves to have a good credit score when they can apply for finance and pass the credit check with no problems. But that in itself doesn’t necessarily mean they have a good credit score.
A good credit score would be a score that lenders across the board would deem to be low risk if they were to lend you money. But even then, having the best credit score in the world won’t mean that ALL lenders will extend you finance.
Credit reference agencies operate different thresholds for what is considered a good credit score. They also have different totals as well, so it can be even more confusing to work out where you sit on a scale.
Here is how credit reference agencies create scores and where a good score fits in their scales.
You will notice that even good credit scores aren’t the maximum you could possibly be awarded, and each credit reference agency has excellent credit scores for those with exemplary credit records.
Why is Crediva Different?
Unlike the other three major credit reference agencies, Crediva doesn’t pay too much attention to your current and previous debts.
Instead, they put what’s known as a heavy weighting (focus) on your political and personal standing. They create scores with your electoral roll status instead of your financial history.
This might seem odd, but it is worth noting as some lenders do use Crediva for either their primary or additional credit checks. Crediva provides an alternative method to credit scoring that is unusual, but well regarded within some lending circles.
How Do I Get an Excellent Credit Score?
This is a bit of an unknown quantity and the likelihood of attaining the godlike excellent credit score status is very low.
The reason being is that even if you maintain your credit in a perfect way, you’re unlikely to be in the excellent credit score zone.
This is because credit reference agencies look at how much financing is available to you in theory and then use this to calculate your score.
For example, you might have a mortgage, credit cards, car finance etc. and you’ve never missed a payment.
You might have even paid off big debts in the past on time and with no problems. But for a credit reference agency your total borrowing could be very close to the theoretical limit you have available, and this will keep your credit score from growing further.
Those with excellent credit scores tend to be people who have always maintained a perfect credit history and have not used borrowing or finance anywhere near the theoretical limit they have available.
Bearing in mind that your theoretical limit is just that and it isn’t ever set in stone, it can be extremely hard for you to gauge where you are in terms of your current borrowing – what’s more, with things being paid off or new finance agreements being taken – this theoretical borrowing limit changes.
To summarise, if you have an excellent credit score then you should be proud, but if you don’t, you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Excellent credit scores are a bit like the unicorns of the credit scoring world.
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What Can Affect My Credit Score?
From good and excellent credit scores, to not so good scores. Let’s look at what can damage your credit score and how you can fix problems you may encounter along the way.
Credit Score Shows Incorrect Information
Lenders aren’t always very good at recording accurate information on your credit report. This can be for a number of reasons but one major issue in the industry is when debt is sold to third parties, or a lender ceases trading.
For example, when pay day loan companies were clamped down on, many of them like QuickQuid became insolvent and the information on credit reports can still show despite many borrowers actually being owed compensation by them.
In the first instance you should try and contact the company that has recorded incorrect information as they will have the easiest access to amend your report.
If this fails or you’re unable to contact the company, you can apply to the credit reference agency to amend the credit report.
This can be a frustrating process, especially if the credit reference agency requires evidence from you or if they’re unable to verify what you’re telling them is true. No matter how frustrating it is – you should always work to correct inaccurate information on your credit report.
Defaults and CCJs
Defaults typically occur when there are three or more consecutive missed payments on your account. A company can then apply a default to the account reflecting that you have stopped paying.
Defaults don’t always show on accounts, even if you have stopped paying. This is because some lenders are disorganised and don’t register them correctly or you might have agreed to a payment plan to catch up on the debt.
If a default is registered, it is important to contact the company and catch up on the outstanding amount and maintain monthly payments going forward.
CCJs are applied when a lender or company applies to a County Court to enforce collection of a debt. This is the most serious action a lender can take and if you receive a CCJ you have 30 days in which to pay any outstanding money. If you pay within the 30 days, the CCJ is expunged from your record – but if you don’t the CCJ will remain on your record for the next 6 years regardless of if you subsequently pay it.
Credit scores are calculated in complex ways and can sometimes seem completely perplexing. Using a credit check service like CheckMyFile can be invaluable – especially if you’re looking to get a mortgage.
Using CheckMyFile in the first year with the first month free will cost a total of £164.89.
There are other credit check services that give you a rough idea of your credit score without paying a penny. Credit Karma for example uses information from TransUnion and is absolutely free.
If you’re looking to get a mortgage but you’re worried or confused by your credit score, Boon Brokers is a UK whole of market mortgage, insurance and equity release broker. We have access to lenders that will even consider poor credit scores for mortgages.
Contact Boon Brokers today to discuss your credit score and get FREE, no obligation mortgage advice.