Making your credit score work for you
Fri 01 Sep 2017
If it's been a while, then it might be time to take a fresh look - because maintaining a healthy credit score is an important part of managing your personal finances.
Reviewing your credit report regularly can help keep it in good shape, ready for the next time you apply for credit, plus it can provide an early warning if you've been targeted by fraudsters.
Credit scoring - what is it?
Whenever you apply for credit, the lender has to decide whether or not to offer you the money. Their decision is based on how likely they think it is that you will repay the debt - so it's only natural for them to want to learn a little more about your finances. And they'll find the information they need at the UK's three leading credit reference agencies - Equifax, Experian and Callcredit.
These companies manage the credit files of just about every adult in the UK, collating detailed information about each individual's current account, mortgage, loans, credit cards, car finance, repayment history, and any history of missed repayments.
All this data is fed into a complex algorithm that generates a credit rating or credit score - which acts as your financial passport to the world of credit.
How it's used
Every time you apply for credit, the lender will analyse your credit report to determine whether or not your application should be approved.
But your credit score can also influence the interest rate you're charged - because many lenders reserve their best deals for those customers with the best credit profile. So maintaining a healthy credit score can save you money.
How to make your credit score work for you
1. Check your credit files regularly to ensure all information is accurate and up to date. And look out for names or accounts you don't recognise - which could indicate you're the victim of identity theft. You can request a copy of your credit report by contacting Experian, Equifax or Callcredit.
2. If you split up with a partner with whom you've been financially linked, write to the credit reference agencies to request a notice of disassociation (or complete the request online). Otherwise, your ex-partner's financial behaviour will continue to feed into your credit rating.
3. Each credit application leaves a footprint on your file, and too many in a short space of time can make it appear that you're struggling financially - which will increase the probability of a rejection. So try to space out applications, and don't apply for credit if you don't need it.
4. Rebuilding a credit score - If you've missed any repayments in the past 12 months, this will be reflected on your rating, and you may find it difficult to obtain credit in the short term. You could use a "credit builder" credit card. These charge high rates of interest, but if you use the card frequently and repay in full each month, you won't be stung by higher charges, and the regular repayments will boost your credit rating.
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