Understanding your credit score
Written by Robert Bester, Consumer Finance Expert Robert has been a writer for six years, specialising in consumer finance and the UK lending market. Concentrating on consumer credit products, Robert writes informative articles that help customers manage their personal finances efficiently.
30th November 2020
4 minute read
When faced with applying for any type of credit, you’ll come across your credit score. With this guide, we’ll look at what a credit score is, how it’s decided and what it can affect.
What is a credit score?
A credit score is a 3 digit number given to you to help rate your creditworthiness. The higher the number, the better as it indicates you are more likely to be a reliable borrower. This number can range from 0 – 999. The range changes slightly depending on which credit reference agency a lender uses. In the UK there are 3 main credit reference agencies, who work with lenders to help them decide on whether someone applying for credit is likely to pay it back. These agencies are Callcredit, Equifax and Experian.
How is my credit score calculated?
Your credit score is not the same for each lender. Each credit reference agency has a different version and lenders generate their own based on all the information they acquire about you. Using information from your credit report and any additional information you provide as part of a credit application, lenders use a mathematical model which calculates a rating and this number represents your credit history.
Experian’s score is out of 999, Equifax’s is out of 700 and Callcredit’s is out of 710. When you have credit, information is sent to credit reference agencies about what type of credit it is and how you’ve managed it. They’ll also take into account information available on public records, such as the electoral roll and any CCJs you might have. They’ll then generate a credit report and calculate your credit score from all this information.
What can affect my credit score?
Lots of things can affect your credit score. Here are some of the main factors that can cause fluctuations:
- The electoral roll - Being on the electoral roll has a positive effect on your credit score as it helps confirm your identity and housing status.
- Information on your credit report, such as total debts, credit cards etc
- CCJs (County Court Judgements) – these can negatively impact your score
- Credit searches – multiple searches in a small amount of time can affect your score negatively as it suggests that you are in desperate need of funds. Lenders may see you as being less likely to pay back any further borrowing on time.
It’s not always obvious what’s affecting your score. That’s because the credit reference agency will take into account all the information and look at it as a whole. So individual factors may not have as much of an impact because it will depend on what your report shows overall. There’s no set number of points for example that you’ll lose should you miss a payment. So, while that might be an indicator of a risky borrower, if you’ve only missed a payment once, it may not have as much of an effect on your score if your overall report is good. If however, you’ve missed payments regularly for previous credit, it’s likely to have a much more negative impact as your overall history is poor.
Different factors will also have a different impact depending on how they are viewed by lenders. For example, if you miss one payment, it’s far less serious in the eyes of a lender compared to if you default on a debt.
If you have little or no credit history, lenders have nothing to check that would indicate whether you’d be a good borrower, so they are likely to categorise you as a higher risk. This can sometimes be referred to as having a “thin file”, but there are ways to get credit if you’re in this situation and need access to funds. You can read more about that in our guide on types of bad credit loans.
What is a universal credit score?
There is no such thing as a universal credit score. As there are three main credit reference agencies in the UK, technically that means we each have three slightly different credit scores. The score you get at any one time may vary depending on where and when you look. Changes to your score can happen regularly as your life and circumstances change, so each time you apply for credit, the score may be different.
To help you in your search for the right loan, moneymatcher takes your information and circumstances and provides you with a suitable set of lenders. It makes your research easier and points you in the right direction.
Do you understand credit scores and how they work? Do you know what's true and what is merely a myth?
Take our test to discover if you can sort the fact from the fiction.
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You're more likely to get credit if you have not had any before.
Store credit will affect my credit score.
You can't make changes to your credit report.
If you are married or in a partnership with someone, you have a joint credit score.
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