5 ways paying household bills could help get you better credit

Millions of people could now benefit from a credit score boost, as information about some regular household bills is now being included in their credit reports.

Since 2009, millions more records have been added to Experian credit reports from providers of gas, electricity, water and fixed communications services.

These utilities agreements now make up more than 1 in 8 credit accounts on Experian reports, as a result of Experian’s on-going programme to help widen people’s access to credit and other essential services, by helping bill payers present themselves in the best possible light. It also underlines the value of paying regular bills on time.

How can a strong credit history help you? Lenders use credit reports to help decide which customers to accept and turn down, and sometimes, for successful customers, to decide how much to lend and at what interest rates. So a strong, positive credit history can help people get quick and easy access to competitive credit deals they need, widening access to everyday services. 

How can household bill information on your credit report help? Andy Wills, Data Director at Experian Consumer Information Services, says: “This is a huge boost for people who have traditionally struggled to demonstrate their creditworthiness, perhaps because they are non-credit users, and have faced financial exclusion as a result. Lenders rely on credit reports to evidence a customer’s borrowing track record and current commitments, so it’s essential we work with a wide range of creditors to help give people every opportunity to build a strong, comprehensive credit history. This not only helps lenders extend and manage credit responsibly but it helps many more people access affordable credit.” 

In addition, Experian’s Rental Exchange, a joint initiative with Big Issue Invest, encourages landlords to boost their tenants’ credit profiles by submitting data about their regular rent payments.

Improved access to online goods and services – A wide range of organisations now use credit-report-based services to do ID checks and verify a customer’s name and address using their digital footprint, without the need for cumbersome exchanges of paperwork.

So a strong credit report could mean quicker and easier access to many online products and services, including financial products, online retail and public services.

Some groups of the population have traditionally struggled to satisfy these checks and have missed out as a result. For example, according to the Social Housing Tenants study*, 61 per cent of tenants did not have enough credit history to enable online financial services providers to verify their identities electronically.

Here are 5 top tips that could help you build a great credit score:

  1. Stay within the agreed credit limits and always make your repayments on time, paying more than the minimum off your credit cards each month if you can.
  2. Space out your credit applications and avoid making several applications close together as this can signal financial stress
  3. Make sure you register to vote at your current address – lenders use the electoral register to confirm who you are and where you live.
  4. Get into the habit of reviewing your credit report on a regular basis. Make sure everything is accurate and up to date.
  5. Review financial links to other people and ask for any out-of-date links (e.g. to an ex-partner) to be broken.

* Research was carried out on behalf of Experian by Opinium Research between 22 July and 22 August 2014 among 1,000 social housing tenants via a national telephone survey.

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