'It's your financial CV. You need to see what it says about you - if it's wrong it can kill cheap mortgages, debt, mobiles, car insurance & more.'
No spiel. Every UK person over 18 who cares about their financial future should join my totally free Credit Club to see how the money world views them. Today we add the biggest piece of the jigsaw, the full Experian Credit Report, so you can now interrogate point by point what lenders know about you.
Your credit report (also called credit file) is your financial CV, used whenever you apply for anything even remotely resembling credit. We use Experian's as it's the UK's biggest credit reference agency.
Your credit report impacts your acceptance chances & rates for...
CREDIT CARDS | LOANS | MORTGAGES | BANK ACCOUNTS (as they've overdrafts) | MOBILE PHONE CONTRACTS | ENERGY BILLS (direct debit is credit) | CAR INSURANCE (paid monthly)
Plus even renting is being gradually brought into this system. Yet errors happen, and as your credit record is the cornerstone of so many applications, you should check it at least once a year and before any big application. Often you still have to pay for this, but we've worked hard to bring it to you for free.
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The credit report joins the other big 5 Credit Club tools...
The aim of the free MSE Credit Club is to give you a full suite of tools to demystify the often secretive world of credit scoring. We help you analyse where you are now, and give tips to help you improve things. We're working on lots more to add to this - here's what you also get so far...
1. Experian Credit Score - are you a good risk? A score, from 0-999, based on your report, indicating if a typical lender will see you as a good or bad risk. Yet it's art not science, it doesn't include income & each lender is different.
2. THE BIGGIE: MSE Credit Hit Rate. I invented the Hit Rate, so may be a bit biased. The idea's to measure what really counts - will you get best-buy cards and loans? It shows what percentage of a basket of top credit card & loan deals you're likely to be accepted for. It shows even perfect credit scorers aren't certain of acceptance.
3. MSE Affordability Score. It's not just about risk; if you've no income and can't afford to borrow, you'll be rejected. Our Affordability Score uniquely mimics how lenders assess this.
4. Credit Card & Loan Eligibility Calc. This shows which specific best-buy credit cards & loans you're most likely to be accepted for. And whenever you want to check this, just log in again to do it.
5. Boost acceptance tips. We analyse your credit profile and show the main ways you can improve it.
Take 5 minutes to have a play with all of this...
Check out the free MSE CREDIT CLUB
Credit report and Credit Club FAQs
Q. What info does my credit report actually show? It's a very detailed document so we show a front page summary, then page by page you can go through every little thing. The main ones to check are...
- Credit accounts. Shows all accounts that report to Experian active in the last six years, your payment history, and if a lender thinks you've missed payments. Problems here can kibosh you.
- Search history. This is a record of who has looked at your report. Applications count as 'hard searches', staying on your file for up to a year. Too many close together can mean rejection, as it looks like you're desperate for credit.
'Soft searches' are those you can see but LENDERS CAN'T, so they don't impact your creditworthiness. We use these to find your Credit Club info and for things such as our eligibility calculators.
- Public record & electoral information. County Court Judgments, bankruptcies and more. Obviously these can have a big negative impact. Being on the electoral roll however makes ID checking much easier.
- Financial associations. If you've ever had a joint product with someone, you'll be financially linked, and their credit history can affect you. Apply to delink (ie, separate) if it's no longer relevant.
- Linked addresses. Address errors can kill applications. I found a wrong one on my report (due to attempted ID fraud), so do check.
- CIFAS: Have you been a victim of fraud? If you have (or it was attempted) it won't affect your credit score, but will slow future applications as lenders will do more checks to ensure it's you.
Q. What do I do if I think something is wrong on my credit report? Errors on credit reports can cause big problems - such as mortgage rejection. Where appropriate within the report there are links to 'Need some help?' and within this, if needed, you can report issues to Experian. It'll then contact lenders and liaise on your behalf.
Q. I asked Experian to change my file but it won't - what now? If there is a dispute, Experian can't change the info on your credit report, only lenders can, so...
1. Write a notice of correction: This adds a note to your credit report, letting you briefly explain the problem, eg, "I didn't pay that catalogue bill because they didn't deliver the goods". It slows applications down but can help.
2. Make a formal complaint to the lender. Explain the problem - if it won't listen you can escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman and it can adjudicate and order your credit report be amended if it thinks the info's wrong.
For more info, see Remove unfair defaults help, and even if it's fair, see how to mitigate the damage from defaults.
Q. Do I need to check other credit reference agency files too? Experian is the UK's largest credit reference agency so it's crucial to check its report.
And while the info should be similar on all three major agencies, some lenders don't use Experian, so it's a good idea to check the two others, Equifax and Callcredit, too. See how to check my credit reports for info.
Q. I can't get verified for Credit Club, or I'm in but can't see my report. This happens to a minority of people, usually as Experian can't match the Credit Club info you've given us to your info held with it. We're focused on working to improve this. For full help, see our Credit Club FAQs page, but for speed, ensure...
- You've put in correct details on the application form for every section.
- You've entered your full name as used on any existing accounts (eg, Thomas instead of Tom).
- You've put in at least six years' worth of address history.
- Your addresses are correct on your credit accounts.
- You're on the electoral roll at your address.
Q. My credit score's lower than I thought, but my report's correct. How can I improve it? Within the Club itself there's a bespoke analysis of your credit profile, but then there are also general things everyone can do to improve their scenario. For that read our 27 credit boosting tips.
Q. How can MSE do this for free? Currently, frankly, it's costing us a substantial amount of cash. But it's something we believe in. In the long run, the hope is when people want to apply for a credit product (if it's right for them) they'll use Credit Club to see their chances of acceptance and click through via us, which means we may be paid by the provider.
Q. Is my information secure? We're using security systems far beyond any of our other tools and working with Experian, which has been doing this for years. We share your details with Experian so it can match you with your credit report, and provide you with your Experian Credit Score, and with HD Decisions, which helps us provide your affordability & eligibility results and Credit Hit Rate.
This article first appeared in the weekly email on 22 February 2017.