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Published: 23 August 2023

Just so you know, this article is intended to provide helpful information, not financial advice. We’d always recommend that you seek independent advice if you’re concerned about your credit score or want more information.

Financial lenders such as building societies use credit scores as part of checking someone’s suitability for a loan or mortgage. As it’s our aim to make home ownership a reality for as many people as possible, we thought it would be helpful to provide a quick breakdown of what a credit score is, why it’s important, and the things that can affect it.

What's a credit score?

Your credit score is a number that shows how likely you are to repay your debts. It’s based on your credit history, which shows how well you’ve managed debt in the past. It’s used by lenders to help assess if someone is suitable for financial agreements, such as loans, leases, and mortgages.

Why is my credit history important?

Your credit history can influence all kinds of big financial decisions and is taken into account when you apply for a mortgage.

But bear in mind that different credit reference agencies will score you in different ways. And your credit history is just one of many factors that lenders might consider.

What affects my credit score?

You might already know the basics of credit scores – for example, that paying your bills late will likely have a negative effect. But not all factors affecting your credit score are obvious. Here are a few things you might not have considered yet:

1. Not taking out any credit

Taking out credit means borrowing money from a lender. It can include things like spending on a credit card or taking out a loan. It might sound strange, but if you’ve never done this, it can have a negative effect on your credit score. That’s because your credit score is affected by how reliably you’ve paid back credit in the past. So if you’ve never taken out credit, it’s harder to tell how well you’d manage debt.

2. Maxing out your credit card... or not using it at all

Keeping up with your credit card payments can have a positive impact on your credit score. But it’s not as simple as that. Lenders will also look at how much available credit you’re using. And if you’re spending lots on your credit card, it might look like you’re relying on large amounts of credit to get through the month.

So is it more responsible not to use your credit card at all? Not necessarily. Having a credit card you don’t use could make it seem as if you’ve got access to too much credit. As a result, it could still have a negative impact on your credit score.

3. Using Experian Boost

To potentially help people turn their dream of owning a home into a reality, we recently teamed up with Experian and their Boost service. Experian Boost allows you to potentially improve your credit score by sharing information about your regular spending, allowing payments such as council tax and streaming subscriptions to contribute to your score, when they usually wouldn’t.

4. Forgetting old financial ties

If you’ve shared finances with an ex-partner or ex-flatmate in the past, your credit history might still be linked with theirs. It could be that you took out a loan together, or even shared a bank account for bills. This can mean that their credit history is considered along with yours. However, if you’ve broken off your financial ties with this person, you can ask credit reference agencies to de-link your credit histories.

5. Not registering to vote

Credit agencies look at the electoral role to confirm your identity. And if you’re not registered to vote, it’s more difficult for them to check you are who you say you are. Just bear in mind that if you register to vote, it can take a while for it to appear on your credit history.

You should also keep an eye out for incorrect information or fraudulent activity. By checking your credit report on a fairly regular basis, you can flag up anything that doesn't look right.

This article is intended for information purposes only and is accurate at the time of publication. It’s always advisable to verify any information you take before relying on it.

Your property could be repossessed if you don't keep up your mortgage repayments.

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