15 ways to improve your credit score
Improving your credit score can help boost your chances of getting financial products such as loans, credit cards and mortgages. Here, we run through 15 simple tips and tricks that could help you improve your credit rating.
Taking steps to improve your credit score could increase your chances of getting a loan, mortgage or credit card.
Typically, lenders are more likely to approve credit applications from customers with higher credit scores. This is because a good credit score indicates that you can handle credit responsibly and can repay what you borrow.
Having a higher credit score could also mean you get offered lower interest rates and higher credit limits too.
Customers with lower credit scores are less likely to get accepted for credit because lenders see them as being at greater risk of not being able to make repayments.
The good news is that your credit score is not set in stone. So even if you have a poor credit score, there are steps you can take today to rebuild your credit history.
Here, we have put together 15 tips that could help to improve your credit score.
Check your credit score regularly
Checking your credit score regularly can help you keep track of your financial health and identify any areas you can improve on to boost your score.
The UK’s main credit reference agencies Experian, Equifax and TransUnion offer a free statutory credit report that gives a basic snapshot of your financial history.
With Experian, you can sign for a free account that offers a monthly view of your credit score, but you have to upgrade for a more detailed credit report or to check your score more frequently. Equifax has a 30-day free introductory offer but then you have to pay a monthly subscription. With TransUnion, you can find out your credit score for free through Credit Karma.
You can check your credit score for free using other platforms that use data from the main credit reference agencies. The following platforms let you check your credit score for free:
- ClearScore (uses Equifax data)
- Credit Karma (uses TransUnion data)
Each platform also offers a full credit report, monitoring services and eligibility calculators to help you boost your credit score.
Keep your credit utilisation low
Reducing the amount of credit you use can help improve your credit score. This is because lenders use your credit usage, which is called your credit utilisation rate, to judge whether you are a responsible borrower.
Lenders are more likely to approve applications for customers with lower credit utilisation rates because it shows they don’t rely heavily on credit and can repay what they borrow.
It is recommended that you keep your overall credit utilisation below 30%.
You can work out your credit utilisation rate by dividing your credit card debt by your available credit limit. For example, if your credit card limit is £2,000 and you use around £1,000 a month, your credit utilisation rate is 50%.
Pay off debts on time
You can improve your credit score by paying off debts on time. This shows lenders that you are a reliable borrower and can manage your money.
Missing or late repayments are recorded in your credit report and can negatively impact your credit score.
If you apply for new credit, lenders may see the missed repayments and reject your credit application as there could be a higher risk of you not being able to pay them back.
If you miss several payments your lender may place your account into ‘default,’ which can be more damaging to your credit score.
Missing and default payments stay on your credit report for six years, so it may take a while for your credit score to recover if you have any in your report.
Make more than the minimum repayment
Paying off your credit card balance in full each month can help boost your credit score because it shows lenders that you can afford to pay back what you owe.
If you can’t clear your balance in full, then paying more than the minimum monthly repayment can help too.
It takes much longer to clear your credit card debt if you only make the minimum monthly repayments.
This is because if you only repay the minimum amount, you will have to pay interest on the remaining balance which can quickly mount up. What is more, the interest will be rolled up into your balance meaning you will be paying interest on interest and effectively on a larger amount than you originally borrowed.
As your credit card balance rises, so does your credit utilisation rate. Using too much of your credit limit could signal to lenders that you are relying on credit and may not be able to pay it back.
There are many free online credit card repayment calculators that can help you work out how long it would take to pay off your credit card at different repayment levels.
Put utility bills in your name
Putting utility bills such as mobile phone contracts and energy bills in your name could help boost your credit score.
This is because utility bills count as a form of credit so paying them back regularly shows lenders that you are a reliable borrower. This can help improve your chances of being accepted for credit in the future.
Register to vote
Registering to vote is a quick way to improve your credit score because lenders use the electoral roll to prove your identity and where you live. It also helps to combat identity fraud.
Credit applications can take longer to process if you are not registered to vote and in some cases, your application may be rejected.
You can register to vote online in a matter of minutes on Gov.uk.
Limit your credit applications
Most lenders look through your credit report before deciding whether to approve your credit application, this is called a hard search.
Hard searches are recorded on your credit report for around 12 months and are visible to other lenders.
Applying for too much credit in a short space of time could indicate to lenders that you are in financial trouble and might not be able to keep up with repayments. This increases your chances of being rejected for credit, which could cause your credit score to go down.
Limiting the number of credit applications you make during the year could increase your chances of being approved for new credit. As a general rule of thumb, you should limit your credit applications to no more than one every three months.
Use an eligibility checker
It is always worth using an eligibility checker before applying for new credit, such as personal loans, mortgages and credit cards. Eligibility calculators check your credit history using a soft search, which is not visible to lenders.
Using the data in your credit report, they calculate how likely you are to be approved for certain financial products, such as loans, credit cards and mortgages. This can help you find the most suitable products and increase your chances of being approved.
Eligibility checkers are available for free online and some lenders offer their own eligibility tools too.
It is important to note that eligibility checkers just provide estimates and should be used as a guideline for your credit options. The final decision rests with the lenders, so there may be cases where you have a high eligibility score but still have your application rejected.
Avoid payday loans
Some lenders are more likely to reject credit applications from customers with payday loans. This is because payday loans are a red flag that you may be struggling financially and might not be able to repay what you borrow.
If you have a poor credit history but need to borrow money, try using a credit builder loan or a credit builder card instead. These products were designed to help people with lower credit scores access credit. They can help to rebuild your credit history if you make repayments on time.
Cut old financial ties
When you apply for credit, a lender may check the credit history of your financial associate too because they may affect your ability to repay your debt.
If your financial associate has a poor credit history, for example, if they were declared bankrupt or have county court judgments (CCJs), this could increase the chances of you being rejected for credit, which could harm your credit score.
You can remove a financial associate from your credit report when your credit agreement comes to an end or if your circumstances change by contacting a credit reference agency directly.
Correct mistakes on your credit report
Correcting mistakes on your credit report can help boost your credit score. Errors such as typos in your name and address or outdated address information can make it harder for lenders to verify your identity.
This could affect your chances of being approved for credit, which could harm your credit score. You can update your name and address on all of your credit accounts through each provider.
There may also be errors with your payment history, such as missed payments or defaults. It is really important to get these corrected as soon as possible as they can harm your credit score.
You will first need to raise a dispute with the credit reference agency. They will investigate the issue and decide whether it can be removed from your report.
During the investigation, you can add a notice of correction to your credit report, which explains why you are challenging the payment record. The notice of correction will be visible to other lenders and can help give context about your credit history until the investigation closes.
Pay your rent on time
Paying your rent on time could help to boost your credit score. There are several schemes that allow private renters and social housing tenants to link rent payments to their credit report.
Rent payments are not automatically recorded in your credit report and therefore don’t count towards your credit score. But signing up for one of these schemes is a simple way to show lenders that you are good at managing money.
- Canopy links to your bank account and monitors your rent payments. It currently reports your rent payments to Experian and Equifax for free.
- CreditLadder Connects to your current account and monitors rent payments. Credit Ladder lets you report your rent data to either Equifax or Experian for free. You will have to pay a £5 monthly fee for it to report to both agencies.
You could also ask your landlord to sign up to The Rental Exchange Initiative, which records your rental payments and adds them to your Experian credit report.
Apply for an instant credit score boost
Signing up to Experian Boost could help you improve your credit score quickly. It lets you share information about your regular spending that wouldn’t ordinarily impact your credit report. The payments include:
If you keep up to date with these payments and don’t spend more than you earn, you could boost your credit score instantly for free.
It is worth noting that Experian Boost will only affect your credit score with Experian. The other credit reference agencies don’t currently use your spending habits to calculate your credit score.
Clear outstanding CCJs or defaults
It’s never too late to clear your debt and paying off outstanding CCJs or account defaults can help improve your credit score.
This is because paying off your debt shows lenders that you are taking control of your finances and improving your money management.
As with missed payments and defaults, CCJs stay on your credit report for six years.
Watch out for fraud
Identity fraud is becoming increasingly common with more criminals than ever stealing personal information to access goods and services. This includes applying for credit cards, bank accounts and loans.
If someone successfully opens a credit account in your name, you can become responsible for their credit actions. The criminals often vanish with the money and leave their victims with unpaid debt that could damage their credit scores.
Checking your credit report regularly can help you spot fraudulent activity.
It is important to act quickly if you think you’ve fallen victim to identity theft. You should contact the banks or lenders involved as soon as possible, so they can investigate.
You should also report the incident to Action Fraud, which can look into the scam and help prevent other people from falling victim to it.
It is also worth alerting the credit reference agencies about any fraudulent activity, so they can investigate and have them removed from your credit report.
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Ruth is a freelance journalist with 15 years of experience writing for national newspapers, magazines and websites. Specialising in savings, investments, pensions and property. Read more
Brean is a personal finance writer at NerdWallet. She covers a range of financial topics and has written for consumer titles including Which?, Moneywise and The Motley Fool. Read more