►What is a credit score?
A credit score is a number that lenders assign to their customers based on their credit reference, which broadly speaking tells them what credit limit the customer should have, or whether they should lend to that customer at all.
It's important to understand that you don't have a single credit score – each lender calculates theirs slightly differently, according to the way they do business. For instance, even if your credit history has stopped a mainstream lender from offering you credit, a specialist lender might still consider you – though normally at a higher rate of interest.
►How is my score calculated?
When you apply for credit, the company you're applying to will check your credit reference file (also known as credit history) with one of the three main credit reference agencies: Experian, Callcredit and Equifax. These agencies share information
with building societies, banks and retailers to build a picture of how "creditworthy" someone is – how likely they are to repay money that is lent to them.
A lender will use its own system to give you a credit score, usually based on a combination of your credit history, your application and any other information they already have about you.
Different factors are more important to different lenders: some might penalise your score more heavily if you don't have a full-time job, for example. The type of credit you are applying for will also affect your score; and applications for a credit card will be scored differently to an application for a loan.
A high (good) credit score means you'll qualify for better products, which usually means credit at a lower rate of interest. A low credit score means you might have to pay more for your credit, or you might not be able to borrow at all if the lender considers you too much of a risk.
Put simply, there's no easy way to tell what credit score a lender will give you – and most won't tell you your score even if you ask. However, you can always check your credit history, which will give you a good idea of your credit score before applying.
►How can I check my credit history?
While the lenders won't tell you what credit score they gave you, a lender must tell you which credit reference agency they used to calculate it. You can then visit this agency's website and, for a small fee, get a copy of the same information
that lenders see when they check your credit reference file.
Checking your file does not hurt your credit history, but too many unsuccessful applications will: so if you've been turned down by a lender, it's better to check your file before applying to another one. You can also check your eligibility by completing a ‘Soft Credit Search’ application, however, be careful as not every lender offers this option. For more information on ‘Soft Searches’ please see our FAQs page.
You can view an example of an Experian credit report here. As you can see, the agency should give you helpful information on the positive and negative factors affecting your credit history, as well as the individual score the agency itself gives you. You might see things like missed payments on bills or credit cards, which will negatively affect your score.
In general, you can use this as a guideline to how lenders will see you and if your credit score is low, take action to correct it before you apply again.
Click on the links below to find out more information about each section.
Our Budgeting Tools
⏩ It can sometimes be hard to budget properly if you don't have the right resources. We've created some visual tools to help you plan and rebuild your credit rating.
Understanding Credit for Children
⏩ View our useful info-graphic and frequently asked questions which have been specially designed to help children better understand credit.
Credit Score Myths
⏩ Check out our Credit Card Myth section to find out the truth behind credit building products!
⏩ Improving your credit rating can take a lot of time and effort, but the good news is it can be done. We've created a guide to help you find out how.
⏩ Understand the differences between secured and unsecured cards. Read our useful guide on our website and find out which option is best for you.
⏩ Here you can find out more about our new eligibility checker and understand how it works without damaging your credit file!