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Improve your chances of getting the best deals
If you’re over 18 and have ever taken out credit, a credit reference agency is likely to hold a credit report on you. It’s a personal history of the credit you’ve had, including mortgages, credit cards and even mobile phone contracts.
You can see your credit report whenever you want with CreditExpert, offered by Experian, the UK’s largest credit reference agency. The more you know about what your credit report contains, how it’s used and what you can do to improve it, the better your chances of getting the credit you need at the best rates.
Why lenders use your credit report
A credit report provides a snapshot of your credit accounts, repayment record and how well you are coping with your finances.
Lenders can look at your report only with your permission. They use it, along with information on your application, to decide whether to offer you credit (usually by calculating a credit score for your application).
They may also use it to decide how much to charge – people with an excellent record of handling credit, for instance, may be offered lower interest rates.
What sort of information is in there
Your report contains information that help lenders confirm your identity (to fight fraud) and to assess whether you’re a reliable borrower (to make sure you can afford to take out more credit).
Your report shows what credit accounts you’ve had and whether you’ve made repayments on time and in full. Items such as missed or late payments stay on your credit report for at least three years, while Court Judgments for non-payment of debts, Bankruptcies and Individual Voluntary Arrangements stick around for at least twice that long.
Your credit report shows the current address at which you are registered to vote as well as the previous one. It also contains details of other addresses you’ve been linked to in the last six years (such as those you’ve given to lenders on application forms).
Another section lists the people with whom you have a financial connection, such as a joint mortgage. They are known as your financial associates. Their credit history doesn’t appear in your credit report. But when you apply for credit, lenders are able to look at their credit history - because their circumstances could affect your ability to repay what you owe.
Where the information comes from
Information in your credit report comes from two major sources:
Public information This includes Electoral Roll information and Court Judgments.
Your credit history Many lenders share information on what you owe, and whether you’ve paid on time. You agree to this as part of any application for credit some lenders only contribute information on accounts that have defaulted. Others share all accounts including those where regular repayments are made.
Why you should check your credit report
Changing jobs or home
Lenders are not the only people who can check your credit history. With your permission, prospective landlords and employers can see parts of your credit report, so it can also affect your job prospects and chances of renting a home.
Applying for credit
If you are thinking of opening a new credit account, it makes sense to get to know your credit report first and make sure that everything is accurate and up to date. If there is an error, contact the organisation responsible with proof and arrange to get it corrected.
Protecting against ID fraud
Monitoring your credit report can offer protection from one of the fastest-growing crimes of the 21st century — identity fraud. This involves criminals stealing your personal information and using it to take over existing accounts or set up new accounts in your name. Keeping an eye on your credit report enables you to spot suspicious entries and deal with problems before they escalate.
Check your Experian credit report online with a free trial of CreditExpert, the UK’s leading online credit monitoring and identity fraud protection service.