The electoral roll and how it can affect your credit score

One of the easiest ways to improve your credit score and your chances of getting credit is to register on the electoral roll. If you’re not registered to vote, there’s a possibility you’ll be turned down if you apply for a loan, mortgage or credit card.

Here’s a look at how the electoral roll affects your credit score and why you need to be on it.

One of the easiest ways to improve your credit score and your chances of getting credit is to register on the electoral roll. If you’re not registered to vote, there’s a possibility you’ll be turned down if you apply for a loan, mortgage or credit card.

Here’s a look at how the electoral roll affects your credit score and why you need to be on it.

Anelda Knoesen
From the Money team
7
minute read
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Posted 13 AUGUST 2021

How the electoral roll influences your credit score

Being on the electoral roll isn’t just so you can vote. It can also influence your credit score. This is because it’s used by lenders to check your identity when you apply for financial products like a loan, mortgage, credit card or even a mobile phone contract.

When you register to vote, it will be recorded on your credit file. Lenders can then check this to verify who you are and where you live. If you’re not on the electoral roll or your details don’t match up, lenders can’t confirm your identity and might refuse your application for credit.

In short, the electoral roll gives lenders the information they need to confirm your name and address, and this can help to increase your credit score. For a good credit rating, you’ll also need to show you’re a reliable borrower who consistently pays on time and doesn’t have debt problems.

What is the electoral register?

The electoral register, also known as the electoral roll, is a list of the names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote in public elections in the UK. This includes national and local elections as well as referendums.

Being on the register not only gives you access to voting, it’s also used to confirm your identity for things like criminal investigations, being selected for jury duty and, of course, credit applications.

Did you know?

A study by Compare the Market reveals that 72% of young borrowers (16-24 year olds) don’t realise that registering on the electoral roll has an impact on their credit score.

How to find out if you’re on the electoral register

Registering for things like council tax or government benefits doesn’t automatically put you on the electoral roll. By law, if you’re eligible to vote, you should be registered on the electoral roll – but you’ll have to sign up yourself. If you’re asked to register and you don’t, you could be fined.

If you’re not sure if you’re already on the electoral roll, you should contact your local Electoral Registration Office. Each local authority is in charge of the electoral register in its own area. To find your local electoral registration office, go to the Electoral Commission website and enter your postcode.

Who is eligible to vote?

You can sign up to the electoral register when you’re 16 years old or over (14 or over in Scotland and Wales). But you can’t actually vote until you turn 18 (or 16 for some elections in Scotland and Wales).

You must also be one of the following:

  • a British citizen
  • an Irish or EU citizen resident in the UK
  • a Commonwealth citizen resident in the UK

EU citizens resident in the UK can currently vote in local government elections, but not the General Election.

How to get on the electoral register

Register online

The quickest and easiest way to get on the electoral roll is to register online using the Government’s register to vote service. The whole process only takes about five minutes. You’ll be asked your National Insurance number, although you can still register if you haven’t got one. Once you’ve registered, your name and address will be listed on the electoral roll and will also be noted on your credit report.

You can also use the register to vote service to update your personal details, like a change of name, address or nationality. Don’t forget to do this as it could harm your credit score if your personal details no longer match.

Register by post

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales you can print and fill out a paper form, then send it to your local Electoral Registration Office.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you’ll need to fill out a different form and send it to the Electoral Office of Northern Ireland (EONI).

What can I do if I can’t join the electoral register?

If you’re not eligible to vote and can’t join the electoral register, lenders will need other forms of identity and proof of address. This could delay your application process for financial products. Not being on the electoral roll will also lower your credit score, and your application might even be refused.

If you’re not able to get on the electoral register, you can add a note to your credit file explaining the reason why. To do this, you’ll need to contact the three main credit reference agencies (CRAs): Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Each of the CRAs holds a file on you and the information they have might differ, so it’s best to contact all three.

Top tip

If you share a house with other people, make sure your name is on one or more of the utility bills. This could help to confirm your name and proof of address. It might also help improve your credit score – as long as you pay the bills on time.

How does the electoral register affect my credit score?

Every time you apply for credit, the lender will carry out a ‘hard credit check’ – an in-depth search of your financial history – which will be marked on your credit file.

They do this to see if you’re capable of paying off your debts or if you show signs of being a high-risk borrower. If they can’t verify your name and address through the electoral roll, they may refuse your application. If you then try to borrow from another lender, they’ll see the hard credit check on your file – and they too may refuse to lend you the money. This cycle of hard credit checks could seriously damage your credit score.

Being on the electoral register is one of the most reliable ways of confirming your identity. Lenders will consider you less of risk as it rules out the possibility of fraud and identity theft.

Frequently asked questions

Once I’ve registered to vote, how long does it take for the information to appear on my credit file?

Once you’ve registered to vote, your local authority will pass the information on to the credit reference agencies. It could take up to 30 days before the information appears on your credit file.

Can I register at more than one address?

Yes, you can. If you’re a student, for example, you can register at your parents’ address as well as your student digs - as long as they’re not both in the same election area. Just be aware that you can only use one address to vote at national elections. If you vote in both places, you’ll be breaking the law.

It’s not obligatory to register at both addresses, so if you move around a bit while at uni, you might just want to register at your family’s home address. Registering at a permanent address could also help protect your credit score and improve your chances of being accepted for credit. Lenders don’t like to see lots of different addresses over a short space of time – they might consider it a red flag for identity theft or fraud.

I’m moving house. When should I register?

It’s best to wait until you’ve moved in before registering to vote at your new address. Just make sure it’s a priority and that you do it as soon as possible. If you move out of your election area, you’ll need to let your previous local authority know that you’re now registered at a new address in a different area.

What is the ‘open register’?

When you sign up to the electoral roll, your information will actually be kept on two registers:

  • the electoral register, also known as the full register
  • the open register, also known as the edited register

The open register is an edited version of the full register and is available to the public. Companies often buy a copy of the open list so they can target customers and send them marketing materials. If you don’t want your information shared, you can choose to opt out of the open register and ask to have your details removed. You’ll still remain on the full electoral register – the one that lenders use when you apply for credit – so opting out of the open register won’t harm your credit score.

What else can the information on my credit report be used for?

It’s not just lenders who use your electoral information to identify you. Registering to vote can also give you easier access to things like:

How else can I improve my credit score?

Registering to vote isn’t the only way to improve your credit score. There’s a number of other things you can do:

  • Pay your bills on time
  • Close any old accounts you no longer use, including past joint accounts with an ex-partner
  • Don’t apply for too much credit in a short space of time
  • Check your credit report for any mistakes that need correcting
  • If you have a poor or no credit history, consider a credit-builder card to help build up your credit score over time

Find out more about ways to build your credit score. And you can now check your Experian credit score for free using the Meerkat app. Alternatively, you can get your score by using a credit reference agency or another provider.

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