Content provided by nudge, the financial wellbeing platform that helps people take control of their money.
A good credit score can increase your options and reduce the cost of borrowing money. Some of the tips below need to be done months before applying, so ensure you do the necessary groundwork in good time or risk a rejection.
1. Get on the electoral roll
Go to gov.uk to register on the electoral roll or to check whether you’re already registered. For anyone ineligible (mainly foreign nationals), send all credit reference agencies proof of residency and ask them to add a note to verify this.
2. Check your credit file
Get copies of your credit file from all three credit reference agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Once you get your file, check everything for errors. If you think your file is wrong, ask the lender to correct it. You can add a notice of correction to your file explaining why it’s unfair or how the circumstances arose by contacting the credit agencies directly.
3. Check addresses on your file
Check your address is up to date on all active accounts (even if you no longer use them). Your address plays an important role when applying for finance, as lenders will need to verify your current address.
Even if your address looks correct at first glance, it's always best to double-check. For example, if your house has a name, is it written the same on the report as it appears on the electoral roll?
4. Break with past relationships
When you’re sure you’re no longer a joint account holder with another person (for example on a mortgage or current account) contact credit agencies asking to be delinked from them. This stops their credit history from affecting your applications.
5. Build/rebuild your score
If you have a poor credit score, it'll take time to rebuild it. One way to do that is to get a credit card, spend on it each month then repay the full balance on time. This proves to lenders that you can borrow responsibly.
6. Time it right
Issues such as county court judgements for unpaid bills are wiped from your record after six years, so wait for that until you apply.
Applications only stay on your file for a year, so if you’ve a raft of those (such as credit cards) then wait.
7. Don’t miss payments or pay late
Set up a Direct Debit to make at least the minimum repayment on credit cards so you’re never late and never miss a month. It’s always better to repay more, so you may want to make manual payments on top of what you’re already paying when you can.
8. Keep other applications to a minimum in the months before a mortgage
Whether successful or not, applications go on your file, so space out applying for anything that adds a footprint to your file.
It's not recommended to make multiple applications within a short time as lenders may question your ability to take care of your finances.
9. Don't withdraw cash from a credit card
While you can, it doesn't mean that you should.
If you do withdraw cash from a credit card, it'll be noted on your credit reports. Lenders won't be happy to see this as it questions whether you can live within your means or even pay the money back.
10. Check for errors on your file
Always check for errors on your credit files before applying for anything else. If not, even if you fix a mistake later, all the footprints from rejected applications may affect your ability to gain credit anyway.