A guide to free credit checks

Understand everything you need to know about checking your credit report. Read our guide on what to look out for on your credit report...

Understand everything you need to know about checking your credit report. Read our guide on what to look out for on your credit report...

Alex Hasty
Insurance and finance expert
6
minute read
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Last Updated 24 SEPTEMBER 2021

Why should I check my credit report?

There are many reasons why you should keep an eye on your credit report. Your credit report will be checked when you're applying for a mortgage, renting a new house or applying for a credit card. So, you need to make sure that it's in good shape.

What information is held on my credit report? 

There’s quite a bit of information about you in your credit report. This comes from a variety of public sources, as well as your bank and any loan or credit providers you’ve borrowed from. Here’s what’s included in your credit report:

  • Personal information – including your name, date of birth and home address
  • Details of electoral roll registration
  • Your current outstanding debts
  • Details about any missed or late repayments on past and present debts
  • Details of any assets repossessed to repay debts owed
  • Any Country Court Judgements for debts owed
  • Information about any declaration of bankruptcy or entering into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA)
  • Details of anyone financially connected to you, for example, a joint bank account or mortgage

 

What should I be looking for in my credit report?

There are several things that you should be looking for in your credit report that you may be unaware of.

These include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • missed/defaulted payments, monthly payments,
    forgotten accounts
  • old joint accounts that need to be separated
  • inaccurate addresses on accounts
  • signs of identity theft
  • credit card utilisation percentage (the ratio of credit you’ve got outstanding compared to your overall credit limit
  • enquiry history

Always check your banking statements to ensure they’re correct. The simple oversight of missing a credit card payment while on holiday can be all it takes to get you turned down for a loan.

If you find a mistake, contact your credit provider immediately to resolve the problem. It can be very simple to get your credit report updated and any issues fixed.

Why is my credit history recorded?

Your credit history is recorded so that lenders can make an educated decision about whether to lend you money, as it indicates whether you're likely to make payments on time. They also want to make sure that by giving you additional credit, they’re not putting you at risk of taking on debt that you can’t afford to pay back.

What can have a negative impact on my credit score?

Issues that can affect your credit rating (and can stay on your file for up to six years) include:

  • Missed payments
  • County Court Judgements (CCJs)
  • Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs)
  • Bankruptcies

Who is in control of my credit report?

There are three major credit reference agencies (CRAs) that contain information regarding your credit history. The credit agencies within the United Kingdom are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion (formerly known as Callcredit). When applying for credit with your bank or for a contract with a mobile provider for example, a provider will source your credit information (rated as a score) from one, two or perhaps all three agencies.

These agencies hold information on your credit cards and other loans, as well as all regular payments you make from your mobile phone contract to your utility bills. They show whether you have made your payments on time and if you keep your finances in order. 

How can I check my credit score for free?

Compare the Market have teamed up with Experian to help you find out your credit score for free. You’ll be able to check what your credit score is and potentially find where you can make changes to improve it. Alternatively, you can get your score and report by using a credit reference agency or other provider. Three examples of these are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (formerly Callcredit). Each of these companies will be able to provide you with your credit report. If you’d like to find detailed information on your report, each agency offers access for free for a limited period.

What is credit monitoring?

Credit monitoring allows you to keep track of your credit report on a regular basis by alerting you whenever a change is made to your report. A credit monitoring service could be beneficial if you think you might be the victim of identity theft or you’re trying to rebuild your credit score.

Does credit monitoring hurt your score?

Monitoring your credit report won’t impact your credit score as you’re not applying for credit.

Can I apply for a credit report if I don’t own a credit card?

Yes, you don't need a credit card to go through a credit check or apply for a copy of your report. If you apply for a phone contract, a flat rental contract or anything else involving credit then you will have to go through a credit check.

Can I see if shopping around for a loan has affected my credit rating?

If you have made multiple applications in one go, providers may think you're in financial trouble or over-extending yourself and potentially reject you, which may impact your credit score. So it's wise not to apply for more than one loan at a time.

If a company carries out a credit check on you and you're rejected based on a low credit score, this can actually count against you in the future with some providers who prefer borrowers with a good credit risk. However, there are some lenders who specialise in loans and cards for people with poor credit who want to rebuild their credit score.

How often should I get a free credit check?

It's wise to monitor your credit at least once a year. If you are planning to make a big credit application, such as for a mortgage, get a free credit check in plenty of time beforehand so you have time to fix any issues you might discover (for example six months and again at three months in advance of when you are planning to make the application).

What is a 'good' credit rating?

A good credit rating is considered to be any number above 881 according to Experian, with a rating above 961 considered 'excellent'. But be aware that each of the three agencies has a different maximum score and different scales, so your credit rating on each could be a slightly different number.

Don't worry if the first time you check your credit score it's less than the ideal amount – in February 2018, Clearscore reported that the average UK credit score was just 380 (up from 346 the previous year). You can find more information in our dedicated guide to improving your credit rating.

What's next?

Checking your credit report will reveal simple problems that may stop you getting approval for credit. Many matters are simple to fix, but you must know about them first.

Running a free credit check before you apply for credit could increase your chances of your application being accepted, because you'll have sorted out any issues with your credit rating first.

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