Before improving your credit rating it's important to learn about the different credit reference agencies, what information they examine and what they can deem as a good or bad credit score. Our helpful guide to credit checks explains everything you need to know.
It's important to check your latest credit score before making steps to improve it. Make sure that all the information on the report is accurate, and get it corrected by contacting the lender or credit reference agency if it isn't. TotallyMoney can provide you with a credit score and report, free, forever. Use them to track your finances and to find lenders most likely to accept you for credit.
When you take out a joint mortgage or joint bank account, you become "financially linked" to the person you've taken it out with. If they have a bad credit rating, it could impact yours. If you have split up with your partner, husband or wife and/or the joint financial product you have taken out is no longer between you both, inform the credit reference agencies of your disassociation. If not, the other person's financial dealings could still have an impact on your credit score.
Getting on the electoral roll will improve your chances of being accepted for credit. This is because prospective lenders and credit reference agencies use this to check you are who you say you are, and you live where you say you live. Ensure your credit record shows correct address details. Living at the same address, being employed in the same job (with the same employer) and having the same bank account for a reasonable period will also help.
Lenders may consider the amount of credit you have access to, as well as the amount of debt you owe. Close all credit accounts such as credit cards, store cards, mobile contracts and accounts that you don't use or need anymore. Cutting up cards is not enough – you need to physically contact the provider and close the account! They will ask you why because they don't want you to leave, so be prepared to stick to your guns and close it down.
Missed and late payments can stay on your credit file for up to six years. If you've made a late payment due to circumstances beyond your control (i.e. your direct debit wasn't set up in time), so long as you made the payment promptly when you noticed, talk to your credit provider and see if you can get this black mark removed. This also applies to late payments for utility bills like gas or electricity.
Pay off more than just the minimum payment. This signifies good behaviour to a prospective lender. To be managing your debt well, ensure that you're making headway into repaying what you've borrowed.
If you've never had credit before, it's difficult for a lender to assess you. Consider taking out a credit building credit card, making a couple of purchases on it each month and then repaying the balance in full at the end with a direct debit to build a good credit history. This will show that you can responsibly manage credit.
Credit reference agencies don't get told if you are rejected for credit, but a note is made every time a credit search is made by a lender. Don't use a scattergun approach when applying for credit. The more credit searches carried out in a short space of time, the less likely you are to be accepted for credit. Space out credit applications and, if possible, try to find out whether you're likely to be accepted before applying. Do not apply for products unless you really need them.
Credit builder prepaid cards can help you improve your credit rating. They charge a monthly fee (about £5) which is in the form of a small loan, which you'll need to keep paying for 12 months, but at the end they will add an entry to your credit file that you have successfully repaid the debt. A prepaid card doesn't require a credit reference as you don't borrow funds on it.
If you are refused or declined credit, you are entitled to know the reason, as well as the name of the agency that provided your credit reference. Read our guide to credit checks to learn more.
Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.