Credit reference agencies. We hear them mentioned in passing a lot, and for those of us who have borrowed money, they are very important in our lives. But how much do we actually know about them? We decided to delve further.
There are 3 main credit reference agencies in the UK. Each of them retain information on your financial affairs and certain personal details that they use to collate a report on you, resulting in an individuals score. These are Experian, Equifax and Callcredit.
When you make an application for credit, data from these bureaus is collected together to present a picture of you as a borrower.
First of all it’s important to note that most of the data in your file will only go back 6 years. This means that the way in which you’ve borrowed and paid back in the last 6 years will be looked at primarily. That is without regard to your history before that point. Although generally a history of bankruptcy or CCJs will be looked at too, however long ago they occurred.
The electoral roll verifies your permanent address and informs your local council that you are able to vote. This information will be used to confirm your address and how long you have lived there. It also refers to who you live with, and other residential details that the lender is interested in.
Any appearances in court you have made to do with debt or bankruptcies, and if you have any CCJs (County Court Judgments).
A record will be held of other lenders who have searched your file. If you have lots of these it may indicate that you have made lots of applications for credit recently. This gives the impression you are very much in need of it and therefore more of a ‘high-risk’ customer.
Anyone that you have had a joint credit agreement with in the past is relevant here, Say if had credit card with a partner, it will be noted. If your partner’s credit history has been less than pristine this could affect you.
If you have committed a fraud with credit usage in the past this will be mentioned on your report.
This includes all the financial relationships you have had with banks and building societies. These may include loans, mortgages, and also you bank accounts, credit cards, and more. It will all be on there, except for historic borrowing that ended over 6 years ago. The report shows what your general behaviour is when it comes to dealing with your finances, if you have repaid your debts on time and whether you have a history of missed, defaulted or late payments.
Using all this information your prospective lender will then decide your suitability for the product you have applied for. This means that you do not have a credit score that you carry around with you as such, just a collection of information that can be used to assess your credit-worthiness when necessary.
In this way it’s important to be able to generate a healthy credit score. The reason? If you are ever in need of credit such as a loan or credit card, it will be available to you. Even if you like to keep away from credit and only spend what you have. It is in your interest to have a sound financial grounding in case you need credit in an emergency.