“How do I improve my credit score?” is the question on everybody’s lips. It’s easier than you think, and we can show you how.
It can take time to build up your credit score, but there are things you can do today to start improving it. We’ve created a comprehensive 3-month step-by-step to give your score a boost.
You’ll want to try and make as many updates as possible, as it can take up to three months to see an improvement. If you can do these steps in a shorter space of time you will potentially see the benefits on your credit score quicker. The points quoted in this article are guidelines only. Experian’s points system can vary depending on your individual circumstances.
Week 1: Register on the electoral roll
Confirming your proof of your address will improve your score, and you can do this by registering on the electoral roll. This means you appear more trustworthy to credit reference agencies. It can also boost your Experian score by 50 points and it’s super easy to do.
The process is also called ‘registering to vote’ and can be done by contacting your local government. You can do it online or by post. To register you need to be aged 16 years old or over and a UK citizen (or an Irish, EU or Commonwealth citizen with a permanent UK address). You’ll also need your national insurance number.
Note - if you’re not eligible to register on the electoral roll, you can still submit proof of residency directly to the main credit reference agencies. You’ll need a UK driving licence or utility bills. Contact each credit reference agency individually.
Week 2: Register on the Rental Exchange initiative
If you’re a tenant and maintain your rental payments, think about registering for free on the By including rental payments on your credit report, you can build up your credit history in the same way homeowners do.
Week 3: Spend this week understanding your score
Check your credit score for free with the top three credit reference agencies in the UK: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You can look at your credit file as many times as you like without affecting your credit score, as it only counts as a ‘soft search’.
Find out how high up your score comes on the scoring models used by the top credit reference agencies. Bear in mind that the figure you see will vary from one agency to the next. Look into how points are awarded by Experian, to identify where you can make positive changes.
There are apps available that enable you to check your score and offer advice to help you improve it.These include CredAbility, Credit Monitor and the Experian app, but check as charges may be applicable.
Week 4: Check your report for errors
Make sure any errors on your credit file are rectified as soon as possible. Mis-matched details could be having an unnecessarily negative impact on your score.
If you spot something wrong on your credit report, get in touch with the credit reference agency directly to fix it. Here’s what to look out for:
- The wrong address or name, including your middle name
- A duplicate account
- Accounts and credit searches you don’t recognise (which could indicate fraud)
- Closed accounts that are still marked as open in error
- Payments marked as missed or defaulted, when they were paid on time (missed payments can cost you around 130 points)
Week 5: Add your name to household bills
If you rent a house with friends or you’re a joint homeowner, think about adding your name on some, if not all of your bills. As long as the bills are consistently paid on time, you will prove to the credit reference agencies that you can handle your finances well.
Be aware that if the person you’re financially linking yourself to has a bad credit history, it could negatively impact on your credit score. It’s best to think about this before you go ahead.
Week 6: Consider any existing finances you could utilise
You can also improve your credit rating by paying for insurance or a mobile phone contract monthly. Remember though, this may not be the cheapest way to pay and you may be charged extra to cover the interest.
Week 7: Disassociate yourself from old financial ties
Are there records of joint finances on your credit file? If you’re no longer connected to this person financially, you can ask the credit reference agencies to issue a ‘notice of disassociation’. This will remove any connection with this person from your credit file. It’s especially useful if they’re bringing your credit score down by association.
Week 8: Consider a credit rebuilder card
For those who don’t have much of a credit history, your score is likely to be lower than you’d like and you may be refused credit.
Lenders use your past financial behaviour to predict whether or not they’ll get their money back. With little payment history on your credit file, you could seem risky to lenders, and they may reject your credit application.
If you pay off the balance in full every month then you’ll show lenders that you can borrow responsibly. Clearing your credit card balance each month could boost your score by 60 points.
Alternatively, you could apply for an interest-free overdraft from the bank. Make sure you pay it off in full before any interest or fees are added. If you use any of these options for borrowing a small amount of money that you pay off quickly, you can avoid charges and improve your credit history.
Remember, only apply for credit if it’s affordable for you. If you want to see if you’re eligible for credit before you apply, use an eligibility calculator to perform a soft search. It will indicate whether you’re likely to be accepted or not, without it affecting your credit score.
Although you need a strong credit history, don’t make the mistake of making too many credit applications. This can make it look like you’re struggling financially. In fact, not applying for credit for a period of six months can actually add 50 points to your score in some circumstances.
Week 9: Set up a direct debit for your bills
Missing payments is one of the most common ways to decrease your credit score. It’s important not to miss any payments so you can gradually build a good credit history. Just one missed payment could cost you around 130 points.
Set up Direct Debits or Standing Orders for your bills. Or you can set yourself reminders on your phone (e.g. via apps or your calendar) to keep on top of your repayments. Can you afford to pay your balance in full? If you’ve set up a new card to build your credit, paying the amount in full will reduce any interest charges. Try to limit the amount you spend on these each month to make sure you can afford to do this.
However, certain lenders will look favorably on the debts being cleared, so it may help you in financial applications in the future.
Having said this, it’s still important to maintain payments towards defaulted debts, to prevent further action such as a County Court Judgement (CCJ). Receiving a CCJ can cost you around 250 points.
Week 10: Consider reducing your debt with savings
Once you’ve got all the correct paperwork and payment structure in order, the next thing is to focus on reducing your debt, especially if you’re over any of your credit limits, as this will be having a negative impact on your credit score.
If you have any savings, you should use these to pay off your debt. Generally, the interest you’re paying on your debt will be greater than any interest you’ll be receiving in your savings, making it cheaper in the long run. Reducing your debt can also make your monthly repayments lower, meaning it’s much easier to ensure you’re paying on time, in full each month.
Reducing debt will help to improve your credit utilisation ratio – and that can increase your credit score by 90 points if it’s kept below 30%. Read more on this later on.
If you don’t have savings, you could consider looking to generate extra income to put towards your debt and make your finances more manageable.
You can sell second-hand items on websites like eBay, Gumtree, PreLoved and Facebook Marketplace. There are also ways in which you can make money from your home, as well as starting a side hustle for extra cash.
Recoup any money owed to you by friends or creditors. Check if your energy bill has gone into credit and claim back the excess, for example. This happens when your energy provider overestimates how much energy you will use and overcharges you as a result.
The more you can pay towards any existing debt, the stronger your credit ratio will be.
Paying more than two payments a month towards your debt could potentially help to improve your credit score in the long term. It doesn’t have to be twice the amount you normally pay, and you may find it easier to manage paying two smaller amounts on a fortnightly basis. This could be easier if you get paid weekly or fortnightly.
As long as these payments total at least the minimum amount due, your account won’t default and no late fees should be charged. If you pay more than the minimum amount it will reduce the amount of interest you will pay overall, as you will pay your debts off quicker (and reduce that all important credit utilisation). If you are charged interest on a daily basis for that account, it will also cost less interest than one larger payment at the end of the month.
For more strategies on clearing your debts, check out our blog ‘10 strategies for paying off debt’.
Always meeting your contractual payments on time and reducing the amount you borrow will, on top of the financial housekeeping we’ve explained above, push the score in the right direction.
Building up and improving your credit score takes time and patience. If your debts have defaulted, for example, they will remain on your credit file for six years. It's also worth noting that the three main credit reference agencies work to different timescales. Each lender also uses their own criteria when assessing credit applications.
Another factor to bear in mind is managing your credit utilisation ratio month to month. This is amount of your available credit that you’re actually using. For example, if you have a credit card limit of £2,000 and your balance is £500, you have a credit utilisation of 25%.
Debt Camel point out that if you keep your credit card balance below 30% of your limit, then you will gain approximately 90 points. By contrast, borrowing more than 90% of your credit limit can cost around 50 points. And if you have more than £15,000 of debt on a credit card, this can cost you an estimated 50 points, as it could look like you are struggling financially.
Finally, be mindful of how long this activity will take to have an impact. Experian advise it can take just three months to update your credit file with new information. So you should start seeing gradual improvements to your credit score around the three months mark after you make any of the above changes.
Going forwards, check out our article on ‘New Year’s money resolutions you can actually keep’. It includes tips on how to stick to your financial goals in 2020, whatever they may be.
Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.
By Adele Kitchen
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