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The ultimate guide to improve your credit score

When it comes to improving your credit score, there’s a bunch of easy things you can do to get it (and keep it) in tip-top shape. We’ve broken down all the score-improving advice out there into a digestible guide to boosting your credit score for good.

CREDIT HEALTH

ACTIONS YOU CAN DO NOW

CREDIT WISDOM

DEBUNKING THE MYTHS

Stay below 25% of your credit limit

According to research, keeping below 25% is key for improving your score. So, if you had a credit limit of £1,000, by spending less than £250 each month you’ll stay under 25% of your overall limit. This can also make it easier to pay off the balance in full every month, which can boost your credit score.

Don’t open a new account for 6 months

This is probably the easiest way you could boost your score by 50 points - and it consists of doing absolutely nothing.
If you do apply for credit though, be sure to use free eligibility checkers to see whether you will be accepted before you apply. This should cut down on the number of unnecessary applications you make, as too many can start to hurt your credit score.

Have a variety of different credit types

Lenders like to see that you’re a reliable borrower across different types of credit. So if you only have one credit card, with a consistent balance and payment amount, this may not be as favourable as having a variety of (well-managed) accounts. These could be credit cards, loans, a mortgage or store cards.

Use eligibility checkers

Before you apply for credit, make sure you use an eligibility checker - this can help you limit the volume of applications you make. An eligibility checker is a ‘soft search’ tool, which means you can run a check to give you the confidence of how likely you are to be approved that doesn’t impact your credit score.

Choose the timing of your applications carefully

If you’re applying for credit, check your report to see if anything is about to expire. For example, CCJs and default accounts stay on your record for 6 years - so if this is close to expiring, it might be worth waiting until afterwards, so you could potentially get a better rate (depending on the rest of your report). It’s also worth noting that lenders tend to pay less attention to CCJs and defaults the older they are, so if your bad mark is a few years old already, it may not be affecting your chance of approval as much as you think.

Keep a fixed address

Lenders like to see consistency and reliability, so having a fixed address for a good amount of time – such as 3-5 years – looks more favourable.

Limit your applications

Applying for lots of different types of credit in a short space of time can make you seem a little desperate for cash and a risky borrower. Before you apply, do some research and think about what type of product you need - what’s best suited to you - use free eligibility checkers - and cut back on the number of applications you make.

Get a credit rebuilder card

If you’ve struggled with repayments in the past and want to rebuild your credit history, one of the best ways to do this is with a credit rebuilder card. These are designed for people with a poor credit history or none at all. They come with a low, manageable limit and making regular on-time repayments can help to rebuild your credit score.
It’s worth remembering that these generally come with a higher interest rate, so to avoid paying any interest, make sure you pay back the balance in full every month.

Check your credit report before applying

Before you apply for any credit, the first thing you should do is check your credit report. This is to see if there are any areas you can improve to help your application - and to check for any mistakes.

Debt consolidation

If you have a bunch of high-interest debts that you’re struggling to pay off each month, it may be worth considering a debt consolidation loan. This is a loan that pays off your existing debt and could help you by reducing your monthly repayment each month which could leave you with more disposable income.

Try not to withdraw cash on a credit card

You’ll generally get charged extra for a cash withdrawal on a credit card and it’ll come with steep interest fees, meaning it’ll be more of a pain to pay back. Try to avoid using your credit card in an ATM if at all possible.

Avoid payday loans if you want a mortgage

While there are plenty of different, specialist mortgage lenders, some of them won’t consider applications if you’ve ever had a payday loan, so it’s best to avoid if you can. If you need access to cash quickly, look at other options such as a personal loan.

Avoid using overdrafts

Using any form of overdraft - authorised or unauthorised - can affect your credit score, as it’s classed as a form of borrowing, but using an unauthorised overdraft (one that you haven’t arranged with your bank) can do even more harm than good. It’s best to avoid using this by keeping an eye on your balance and ensuring you have enough in the account for any bills that need to come out.

Try to pay more than the minimum

If you’re able to, try to always pay more than the minimum repayment on your credit cards. Ideally you’d want to pay the full balance, on time, each month, but we understand this isn’t always possible. If you pay more than the minimum this will help you to pay off the debt quicker.

Consider a pre-paid card

If you’ve suffered financial problems in the past and you’re struggling to get a credit-building credit card, you could consider a pre-paid card instead. These type of cards don’t require any credit checks or proof of income.
You effectively load the card up with cash and use it like a normal credit card, but you are charged a small fee. Like a credit building credit card, this should start to improve your credit score in a few months.

Protect yourself from identity theft

Falling victim to identity theft can cause unfair damage to your credit score. Make sure you protect yourself by doing the following:

  • ● Choose your passwords carefully - don’t go for anything obvious like your middle name or date of birth
  • ● Make sure you’re careful on social media about giving private details away - you shouldn’t be sharing your address or any other personal details
  • ● Check your bank balance frequently - be vigilant and look out for transactions you don’t recognise, contact your bank immediately if you spot one
  • ● Dispose of your rubbish carefully - shred any documents with your address and banking details, such as bank statements and bills

Give it time - you need to rebuild history

It’s hard to be patient when you’re in a hurry to improve your credit score, but there isn’t a quick method to completely overhaul your score. There are quick fixes to give you a boost and make sure you’re heading in the right direction, but you’ll build up to a good score over time, with consistent, responsible behaviour.

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Get on the electoral roll

Registering to vote is the easiest way to boost your score by around 50 points. It provides proof of address to credit reference agencies, making you seem like a more reliable candidate. And the best bit? You can register online in minutes over on GOV.UK.

Can’t register to vote? Get proof of residency

If you’re not eligible to vote in the UK (for example, if you’re not from an EU or Commonwealth country) then you can send all three credit reference agencies proof of address in the form of a UK driving license or utility bills. The agencies can then verify this for you and add it to your credit report.

Set up Direct Debits for your bills

This one is simple. It’s obvious. But it’s really important. Missing just one payment - or making a late payment - can have an impact on your report, so if you want to improve and maintain your score, make sure all your bills are paid on time.
After 6-12 months of paying every bill on time each month, you could start to see a positive difference. The easiest way to do this is by setting up Direct Debits or Standing Orders, that way you’ll never forget to repay on time.

Lower your existing debt

Try to pay off your existing debt before applying for more credit whenever possible. Having a lot of outstanding debt is a bit of a no-no for lenders when you’re asking for more credit - and unsurprisingly, it’s one of the biggest factors that affect your credit score.

Take advantage of the Rental Exchange Initiative

The Rental Initiative is a way of helping improve your credit score by showing that you’re reliable with your rent payments. Make sure your landlord has registered you on the Rental Exchange initiative or register yourself with partners such as CreditLadder or Canopy.

Decide if you want to be financially linked to others

Before you enter into any form of joint finances, decide if you do actually want to financially link to others. This includes a partner or someone you live with if you want to share bills.
If the other person has a bad credit rating, there’s a chance it could impact your score and your chances of being accepted for credit - so think about it thoroughly before you decide if you want a joint credit agreement.

Disassociate from previous financial partners

If you have any previous shared finances (like a joint current account or mortgage) with anyone, their name will still appear on your credit report unless you’ve disassociated yourself from them.
If they have a bad credit history, potential lenders might worry they’ll put your finances at risk.
It’s worth considering any financial links you have on your credit file and detaching financially those that are no longer relevant or you do not have any open financial credit commitments with, in order to keep your credit score on track. To do this you’ll need to close down the joint accounts and then file a disassociation notice with all three credit reference agencies.

Check your address on older accounts

As the credit reference agencies improve your score for accuracy and consistency, check that you definitely have the right address details on your older, active accounts.

Increase your credit limit

This tip would only work if you’re already very reliable with your borrowing and repayments. If you know you need to make a big purchase soon, you could increase your credit limit beforehand, to ensure you stay under the optimal 25% credit utilisation mark.

Adding a landline

When proving stability, the little things go a long way. Even something as simple as adding a landline to your personal details can be beneficial.

Get your name on household bills

Make sure you get your name on at least some household bills, even if you’re in a share-house. This is a good way to prove to credit reference agencies that you can make payments on-time and in-full. Remember though, check if definitely want to link with others on the bills, as this is classed as joint finances.

Use reminders to stay on top of your money

If you struggle to keep your finances organised, consider getting a service with push reminders to help you stay on top of your money. These can include text reminders, apps with notifications or bank accounts that actually separate money for bills so you don’t miss a payment.

Pay off your debts with your savings

It can be tough to spend hard-earned savings on debts - as you feel like you’re not seeing an immediate reward, but financially, it is the most sensible thing to do. This is because you’re likely to end up spending more in interest on your debts than you’ll ever gain on the savings, so you’d be losing money overall.

Look at ways of earning extra income

While your income doesn’t directly affect your credit score, having access to more funds may help you stay on top of your finances and make payments on time. There are loads of ways to make money in your free time and many don’t require any specific skills at all.

Make two payments per month on cards

Even though there is little evidence to show this has a direct link, sources suggest that making two payments per month could potentially help improve your over time for the following reasons:

  • ● If you’re making two payments, it’s likely you’re paying over the minimum so you shouldn’t have any late payment fees
  • ● Paying more often means you’ll consistently keep your credit utilisation limit lower (the amount of your limit you’re using), which can have a good impact on your score
  • ● If you get paid weekly or fortnightly, it could be easier to manage two smaller repayments than one, more expensive bill monthly

Be frugal - follow money-saving tips and hacks

If you live within your means, it’s more likely you’ll need to borrow less and you can maintain a good credit score. Become a money-saving maven and budgeting expert by reading up on handy tips.

Pay for your car insurance monthly by Direct Debit

You can boost your credit score by a few points by simply paying your car insurance monthly, instead of annually. There are pros and cons to doing this though - as you can usually save money by paying the annual amount in one go, so it's worth considering both options.

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Remember, it's all about predicting future behaviour

One of the most important things to remember is that your credit score is about predicting your future behaviour - and your history is the most informative way to predict this. Having absolutely no credit history could be having a negative impact on you, as there is no history from which to predict the future.

Make sure you fully understand your score

Learning more about how to read and understand credit reports is important for figuring out exactly how to improve your own score. Take a look at our blog for handy tips and information.

Check your credit report for mistakes

Mistakes do happen, even on your credit report, so it’s worth going over your credit report with a fine-tooth comb to check that all your personal details are correct. Having mismatching details on your report and credit application could mean you’re getting rejected when you apply.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • ● The wrong address or name, including your middle name
  • ● Accounts you don’t recognise
  • ● Closed accounts that are still marked as open
  • ● A duplicate account

If you spot something incorrect, contact the credit reference agency directly to fix it.

Check ALL THREE credit reference agencies

There isn’t just one all-knowing credit agency, there’s actually three and banks and lenders all check different ones. It’s worth checking all three for mistakes, errors and inconsistencies.

Know exactly what doesn’t affect your score

Not everything that you expect actually does affect your credit score. Here’s a handy list of factors that have no bearing at all:

  • ● Your income
  • ● Your savings and investments
  • ● Your age
  • ● Your job
  • ● Checking your own credit report
  • ● Using a debit card (although regularly using an overdraft could affect your score)

Don’t pay to get your score - you can get this for FREE

There are ways to get your credit score for free, forever. One of the better options is to sign up for Money Saving Expert’s Credit Club.

Check for identity theft

Falling victim to identity theft can have an unfortunate impact on your credit report, so it’s best to regularly check for any signs that something could be wrong. Any transactions you don’t recognise? Any accounts on your credit report that aren’t yours? If you spot something, report it to your bank and credit reference agency right away.

Dispute any errors

If you do see something that’s wrong or out of sorts on your credit report, tell the credit reference agency. They will contact the account provider for you to investigate and a note will be put on your report in the meantime. This could be that an outstanding balance is wrong, that an account is marked as unsettled when it is or anything else that doesn’t look right to you.

Add notes about issues to your report

Did you know you can add notes to your credit report to explain any less-than-ideal situations? This doesn’t have to be because there’s an error, you may just want to highlight why a certain situation happened.

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There’s a credit blacklist - MYTH

There is no credit blacklist. All lenders have different criteria and look for different things in your report. There are also loads of specialist lenders out there, including those that specialise in lending to those with a less-than-ideal credit history.

A bad credit score lasts forever - MYTH

This is not true - you can re-write your recent history which can drastically improve your score. As long as you stay on top of your finances, this will continue to improve. After 6 years, even CCJs and default accounts leave your report.

Your income impacts your credit score - MYTH

This isn’t directly true. Your actual income figure has no significance to your credit score. What impacts your credit score is how well you pay money that you owe (utility bills, credit cards etc) which might be indirectly affected by your income. That being said, lenders can take your income into account when making a decision about whether to offer you credit.

Debunk credit score myths

There are a lot of scare-inducing credit score myths out there - learn this handy hit list to stay in-the-know about what’s true and what isn’t.

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