A simples guide

A guide to free credit checks

When was the last time you checked your credit report? Lenders and even potential employers could check it, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re in good financial health by getting a free credit check from time to time. 

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Why you should check your credit rating?

There are many reasons why you should keep an eye on your credit report. A number of small things you could easily fix could be negatively impacting your score. They can range from missed payments or forgotten accounts through to full-blown identity theft.

There are countless tales of people finding out about serious problems with their credit report when they needed it most. That can be when you’re filling in a mortgage application, renting a new house or applying for a credit card. Don’t be the last to know where you stand in terms of your credit rating.

What should I be looking for in my credit rating?

A simple oversight of missing a payment whilst on holiday can be all it takes to cause an issue and get you turned down for a loan. Always check your credit statements to ensure that they are correct. Should you find an error, contacting credit rating agencies and your credit provider immediately to solve the problem could save you a lot of time and energy at some future point when you may apply for credit. Contacting your credit provider at the earliest opportunity means that it’s less likely that you’ll be in for any nasty surprises.

It can be very simple to get your credit report cleaned up and you might find other inaccurate details of your account that could be addressed as well. There have been cases where people believed a contract had been cancelled, when in fact it was still being charged and was not paid. If a missed payment goes against an old bank account repeatedly, it can do serious damage to your credit report.

Again, this is usually an easy thing to fix and in most cases you just have to contact the company involved to resolve things and they’ll ask the credit agencies to remove the black marks against your name. A free credit check would have sorted the problem before it got to this stage.

credit cards

How can checking my credit rating help against identity theft?

Whilst you can’t necessarily prevent these unfortunate problems arising simply by checking your credit rating, they can be beneficial to identifying the problem at the earliest stage and avoiding the issue building up to a more serious point.

It happens more often than you might think. ID thieves can be very deceptive with modern technology and wouldn’t necessarily need to go rifling through your post. In many cases when ID theft is committed, victims may not necessarily be aware until finding that they have been charged by their credit provider in their next billing cycle or investigate their credit report.

credit score

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

You don’t need a credit card to go through a credit check, they are different things. If you apply for a phone, a rental contract or anything else involving credit then you will have to go through a credit check. So just so you know you’re safe you might want to do your own beforehand – especially because if you’re rejected, it could count against you in the future.

Who is in control of my credit report?

There are three major credit rating agencies that contain information regarding your credit history. The credit agencies within the United Kingdom are Equifax, Experian and Call Compass. When applying for credit with your bank or telephone contract provider for example, they will source your credit information (rated as a score) from one, two or perhaps all three agencies. Call Compass offer 15 days credit checking for free and then charge £14.95 per month. Experian and Equifax however offer 30 days free access then there is a charge to continue. 

These agencies hold information on your, bank accounts, credit cards and other loans, as well as everything from your mobile phone contract to your utility bills. They show whether you have made your payments on time and if you keep your financial payments in order or not. 

Why is my credit behaviour recorded?

Inevitably lenders want to know that you are haven’t missed other payments before they commit to giving you a mortgage, or indeed an iPhone. Missed payments, County Court Judgements (CCJs), Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) and bankruptcies stay on your file for six years and mistakes do happen. So it’s important to keep an eye on your credit report with a free credit check from time to time, just to make sure everything is in order.

Checking your credit score will also reveal simple problems that may stop you getting approval for a loan. One of the most common reasons for rejection is that you are not properly registered on the electoral roll. It’s a simple matter to fix, but you have to know about it first.

So running a credit check will reveal the issue before you apply, which will save you having to go through the rejection in the first place. Nobody likes being rejected, so make sure you have done your homework and it doesn’t happen for the wrong reason. 

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How can I check my credit rating for free?

You used to have to game the system to get a free credit report and sign up to one of the leading agency’s 30-day trial services. Then you had to cancel before the 30-day period came to an end.

At present, ClearScore and Callcredit’s Noddle service will give you free access to your credit report and they make their money by selling a range of suitable services to you in return for your information. Of course you don’t have to sign up for more credit, you can just check your score.

Credit reference agencies used to make their money by selling your data to the lenders, but when identity theft became an issue they saw an opportunity. Suddenly people wanted access to their credit reports and consumer credit management came to the fore. Previously, you would have had to pay a monthly subscription to access and monitor your credit report, but now you can get this data for free.

Millions of Barclaycard and Tesco Bank customers can also check their credit reports online as part of their customer service package.  

You can still go the old-fashioned route and pay for access to your credit report from one of the three main agencies, but these other services are free and based on the same data.

You could opt in for constant access to your credit report, and if you think that you may be the victim of identity theft or even if you’re rebuilding your credit then you might want to go for this kind of comprehensive service. For most of us though, the free credit score services are more than enough.

Another way to get a free credit check is to apply for a ‘soft’ credit check for a credit card. Some companies like Barclaycard will offer a pre-application eligibility check, which isn’t a full credit check and so will not leave any kind of lingering trace on your credit file. This will let you know if your credit report is looking good, but it’s not a real substitute for a full credit check.

Information regarding the free credit check services you can access to view your credit rating were based on prices in April 2016 and may no longer apply.