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Debt and Credit

How to Check Your Credit Score for Free

Guide - How to Check Your Credit Report For Free

Check Your Credit Score and Credit Report for Free

Your credit report or credit file plays a key role in determining which financial products (such as a credit cards or loans) you can access.

When you make an application for credit, the lender (bank, mobile phone company, car leasing company) will look at your credit reference file to help them understand the level of risk involved in lending to you.

Your credit score can determine if you get accepted for a credit agreement.  It also impacts the type of deal you might be offered. With a poor credit score you might be turned down or if accepted, offered a high interest rate.  The better your credit score the better the credit deals that will be available to you.

This guide contains the following useful sections:

  1. Who Compiles Credit Reports?
  2. What is in your credit report?
  3. Who looks at your credit report?
  4. How to check your credit score and credit report
  5. Why Should I Check My Credit Report?
  6. What Should I Do if My Credit Report Has Errors?

1 Who Compiles Credit Reports?

Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs) are companies who are allowed to collect and keep information about consumers’ borrowing and financial behaviour.

The three main CRAs in the UK are:

 

  1. Equifax is not quite as big as Experian but still has credit details for hundreds of millions of people.
  2. Experian is the largest credit reference agency. It’s commonly used by lenders, so it’s likely to be very comprehensive. 
  3. TransUnion is the UK’s newest credit reference agency.

 

Each one has it’s own model and scoring system so you will have a different credit score and different information held by each.

Though the score will differ each uses a rating scale from Very Poor to Excellent. As they use the same scale it is easy to compare how the different agencies score you by seeing where they place you on this scale.

Experian Credit Score and Credit Rating Scale

0-560 Very Poor
561-720 Poor
721-880 Fair
881-960 Good
961-999 Excellent

Equifax Credit Score Scale

0-279 Very Poor
280-379 Poor
380-419 Fair
420-465 Good
466-700 Excellent

TransUnion Credit Score Scale

0-550 Very Poor
551-565 Poor
566-603 Fair
604-626 Good
627-710 Excellent

DID YOU KNOW: The CRAs do not make lending decisions, and lenders don’t tell them how the information they provided has affected a decision.

Link to infographic - Credit Score Comparison


2 What Is In Your Credit Report?

A credit report is a summary of how you have handled your credit accounts, including the types of accounts and your payment history over the last 6 years.

Each CRA may hold slightly different information about your credit history, but typically holds the following information:

  • Your name, and date of birth.
  • Credit agreements. This includes bank and credit card accounts as well as other credit arrangements such as outstanding loan agreements or utility company debts. They will show whether you have made repayments on time and in full, or if you have missed payments.
  • Financial associations. This shows details of people you are financially connected to. For example, joint bank accounts, and any joint credit agreements
  • Public records including court judgments, bankruptcies and in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, IVAs, Debt Relief Orders and Administration Orders. In Scotland it includes decrees, sequestration orders, DAS Debt Payment Programmes and Trust Deeds.
  • Your current account provider, but only details of overdrafts.
  • Home repossessions. Whether your home has been repossessed (provided by Council of Mortgage Lenders) or you have moved away owing money.
  • Fraud. Under the CIFAS section, if there has been any fraud against you, for example if someone has used your identity, there may be a marker against your name to protect you. It will also note If you’ve committed fraud.
  • The Electoral Roll. This shows addresses you’ve been registered to vote at and the dates you were registered there
  • Previous searches. This shows details of companies and organisations that have looked at information on your file in the last 12 months
DID YOU KNOW: Your credit report doesn’t carry other personal information such as your salary, religion or any criminal record.

3 Who Can See Your Credit Report?

Be assured that data on your credit report is held securely by credit reference agencies. Companies can only see this data if they have a legitimate reason to do so, for instance when you apply for a loan.

Companies that may look at your credit report include:

Letting agents and landlords

A letting agent or landlord may ask to do a credit check so they can help confirm your identity and decide if you’ll pay your rent on time.

Mortgage provider

A mortgage is likely to be the largest loan you will ever apply for.  Mortgage providers will want to check your credit file to assess if you are a reliable borrower, and if you will make regular monthly payments.

Lenders and creditors

If you choose to apply for a loan or credit card, the lender will need to assess how well you have managed credit in the past.  Your credit report will help them make a decision on whether to give you credit and on what terms.

Insurance companies

If you choose to pay your insurance monthly, the insurer could check your credit report when deciding what premium and rate to offer you.  A history of late payments or significant debt may mean you have to pay higher premiums.

Potential employers

Most employers will not need to see your credit report before they make a job offer.  However if you apply for a job at a bank or other financial institution, certain employers may need to look at your credit file as part of their screening process. 

Utility companies

Utility and service companies – such as gas, water and electricity providers – usually charge in arrears. That means you’ll pay on a monthly or quarterly basis for what you’ve used. So when you register with a utilities company, you’ll be using a form of credit with them.

When setting up a new utility or service, these companies will search your report to see how you’ve managed previous credit. If you have a history of late payments, they may put you on a prepay account instead, like a key meter.

Mobile phone companies

Mobile phone companies operate in a similar way to utility companies – you pay for what you’ve already used.  Hence mobile phone contractors may want to check your credit report before offering you a pay monthly deal as part of their contract terms.

Debt collection agencies

If you’ve taken out credit in the past, such as a credit card or loan, you will have agreed to allow the lender to check information from your credit report.

If your loan is passed on to a debt collection agency, this consent stays with the debt. The debt collectors have a right to search your credit report to get a snapshot of your financial situation and make appropriate decisions on how to best collect the money you owe.

Government agencies

In a few specific cases, government agencies can also check information on your credit report, such as for the prevention of crime, or collection of taxes, or as part of a legal case. This access might not always show as a search on your report.


4 How to Check Your Credit Score and Credit Report

It is sensible to check your credit report at least once per year, and definitely before applying for any credit.

This will enable you to pick up on any mistakes that could hurt your chances of getting the best credit deals.

You will never be penalised for checking your report, so check as often as you like.

Did You Know: If you have been refused credit, you can find out from the creditor which credit reference agency they used to make their decision. 

Three Ways to Check Your Credit Report

  1. Pay for a subscription to one or more of the CRAs
  2. Request a free basic statutory report from one or more of the CRAs.
  3. Sign up to one or more free credit monitoring services

Paid Subscription Service

The big credit reference agencies try to lure you in with free 30-day trials followed by paid subscriptions, but there’s no real need to pay at all. 

Free Statutory Report

All Credit Reference Agencies have an obligation to provide you with a copy of your statutory credit report.  It used to cost £2, but since GDPR was introduced in 2018, it’s now free

Ask for a copy of your credit reference file from any of the credit reference agencies.

Your Statutory Credit Report is a snapshot of your credit file, and does not include your credit score or credit rating. 

Your file shows your personal details such as your name and address, as well as your current credit commitments and payment records.

  • Check your  statutory credit report with Equifax.
  • Check your  statutory credit report with Experian.
  • Check your statutory credit report with TransUnion.

 

Free Credit Monitoring Services

It is easy and free  to access your credit report and credit score through the online credit monitoring services.

Each of the free credit monitoring services partners with one of the credit reference agencies.

Check Your Experian Credit Report for Free

MSE Credit Club,  in partnership with Experian – offers full access to your Experian credit report for free anytime. Your report updates each month.

Check Your Equifax Credit Report for Free

ClearScore, in partnership with Equifax, provides free access to your Equifax report, and is updated monthly. Plus it has an eligibility checker.  ClearScore app is also available in AppStore and on Google Play

Check Your TransUnion Credit Report for Free

Credit Karma, in partnership with TransUnion gives you free access to your TransUnion report.  Credit Karma updates your score weekly. CreditKarma  app is also available in AppStore and on Google Play.

Or

Credit Monitor (by MoneySupermarket) also offers free access to your TransUnion credit report and score. Credit Monitor updates your score monthly. The MoneySupermarket app is also available in AppStore and on Google Play.

 

Do I have to get my credit report from all three CRAs?

There is no requirement under data protection law for lenders to report data to all the CRAs.  It is up to the lender to decide which CRA they wish to use.

It is a good idea to get a copy of your credit report from all three main CRAs. Each CRA might have different information from different credit providers, although there is quite a lot of overlap between them.

 


5 Why Should I Check My Credit Report?

  • Checking your credit history and credit scores can help you better understand your current credit position
  • Regularly checking your credit reports can help you be more aware of what lenders may see
  • Checking your credit reports can also help you detect any inaccurate or incomplete information

If the information on a credit reference file is wrong

If you think any of the information held on your credit reference file is wrong, you can write to the credit reference agencies and ask for it to be changed. But you can’t ask for something to be changed just because you don’t want lenders to see it.

You can also add extra information about your situation. For example, you can add information if you have had a past debt but have now paid it off. This is called a notice of correction. This might help you if you apply for credit in the future.


6 Further help and information

The Money Advice Service

The Money Advice Service website has lots of useful information about borrowing and managing your money.

Credit Reference Agencies

Credit reference agencies are companies which are allowed to collect and keep information about consumers’ borrowing and financial behaviour.

The 3 credit reference agencies are:

Experian 

Equifax 

TransUnion 

CIFAS

The CIFAS website has information about what CIFAS does as well as a list of its members and details of its complaints procedure.

Card Watch

The Card Watch website has helpful tips about how to protect yourself against fraudsters and keep your card details safe.

Action Fraud

Action Fraud’s page on identity theft has useful information about all aspects of identity fraud.

Registry Trust

Registry Trust operates the public registers of court orders for the UK. You can use their online search to check whether you have a court order registered against you.

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