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Credit Reports

Checking Your Credit Report

If you’ve ever applied for credit, or you’re planning to do so, your lender is more than likely to check your credit report. Every adult has a credit report, and it provides lenders with all the information they need to make a decision on whether you’re somebody they should offer credit to.

Your credit report is unique to you and all the information it contains will allow lenders to assess how much of a risk you pose when it comes to paying back the money that you borrow from them.

To understand why credit reports are so important when you’re applying for credit, or more specifically why the information these contain is so important, let’s take a look at them in more detail.

What is a Credit Report?

Your credit report provides prospective lenders with your personal details, publically-available information and track record with borrowing so they can make a decision on whether to provide you with credit.

Because of the range of information and the details that specifically refer to how you handle credit, it’s easy to see why your credit report is so important when you’re looking to apply for any new credit. Because of the significant part it plays in whether you’re credit application is accepted or not, it’s also clear how important it is to make sure your credit report is accurate and in the best possible shape.

What Information is in a Credit Report?

Your credit report contains information from a variety of sources and includes:

  • A summary of your financial track record
  • The details and status of your past and current financial arrangements
  • Your credit profile, including your credit score and credit rating
  • Details of searches carried out on your credit report
  • Public information that affects your creditworthiness, e.g. CCJs and bankruptcies
  • Your electoral roll details
  • Addresses and other finance accounts you’re linked to
  • Whether you’re subject to CIFAS protective registration (which combats identity fraud)

What’s the Difference between Your Credit Report & Credit History?

When you’re talking about credit, the phrases credit report and credit history are often interchanged, and then there are also other key phrases that are commonly used, like credit score, credit rating and credit check. So what do they all mean and what’s the difference.

  • Credit History: this is your track record of repaying your credit arrangements
  • Credit Report: this contains your credit history and other relevant personal and publically-available information
  • Credit Score: this is a three-digit score you are given (usually between 0-999) based on all the information in your credit report
  • Credit Rating: this is a value (usually on a scale of 1-5) to reflect which bracket your credit score falls into
  • Credit Check: this is the process of checking your credit score/rating or the information in your credit report

Are All Credit Reports the Same?

In the UK, Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs) compile your credit report. Despite the fact that your credit report contains specific details about you and your credit arrangements, because there are three separate CRAs, and they receive and hold information from different sources, there could be discrepancies between your reports from each of them.

To potentially complicate matters even more, these three main CRAs also have different ranges for the credit scores they give you based on the information in your credit report. Experian uses the largest range for their credit scores, from 0-999. The second CRA, Equifax, uses a range of 0-710 for theirs. The final Credit Reference Agency, CallCredit, is different again, preferring a range of 0-800 for their scores.

What is a Statutory Credit Report?

As well as the reports offered by the main Credit Reference Agencies and organisations like MyCreditMonitor, under the Consumer Credit Act of 1974, every adult is entitled to receive what is known as their statutory credit report (although a fee of £2 will usually be charged). This contains much the same information as the reports available from the CRAs, although it’s unlikely to contain a credit score or a credit rating.

A statutory credit report provides a snapshot of your relevant personal details, publically available information and your track record with credit at the time it is requested. However, it would only cover your credit activity for the particular month that you have requested the report for and isn’t likely to provide you with your previous credit history.

How Do I Get My Credit Report?

There are a number of benefits from checking your credit report on a regular basis, and doing so couldn’t be easier. As well as the main CRAs, organisations like MyCreditMonitor make it quick and easy to sign up and check your credit report online. As well as being able to see all the information held in your report, you’ll also be able to see your credit score and your associated credit rating.

Benefits of Checking Your Credit Report

Perhaps the main benefit of checking your report with a service like MyCreditMonitor is that you get to understand what information a potential lender is going to see if you apply for credit, and what this means for your credit score, your credit rating, and the likelihood of being accepted.

As a general rule, the fewer searches carried out on your credit report, the better, particularly if they appear to be unsuccessful, so having a better understanding of your own creditworthiness could help you choose a lender where you’re more likely to be successful.

As well as potentially improving your chances of being accepted for credit, it can also be beneficial to check your report regularly to make sure that it is up to date and all the information is correct. Because lenders base their decisions on the information in your credit report, your chances of obtaining credit could be damaged if any of these details are wrong. Correcting simple mistakes is easy enough, and spotting errors that could be a sign of something more sinister like identity fraud, is something best done sooner rather than later.

If you’ve checked your credit report and found it contains errors or incorrect information, we’ve created a handy infographic that provides more information about what to do, which you can find here.

Does Checking Your Credit Report Affect Your Credit Score?

When it comes to the topic of checking your credit report, one of the questions that crop up more than most is whether regularly checking your report could adversely affect your credit score. We’ve already mentioned how it’s not ideal to have too many checks on your report, as this could be seen as a sign that you’re desperate to obtain credit - so does checking your own report cause any issues?

The answer is no, and you can get more details about why not here, but essentially the checks you carry out on your own credit report don’t show up in the same way that checks by a lender would.

So, safe in the knowledge that you can check your credit report as much as you like, and now armed with a greater understanding of what your credit report is and why it’s important, there’s really no reason not to check it today and start your journey to attain a better credit score and cheaper borrowing.

What's Your Credit Score?

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