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How to fix a bad credit score

Understanding how credit scoring works is the first step to fixing a bad score and improving your financial future.

  • Making payments on time and being on the electoral register are easy ways to improve your credit score

  • You can fix mistakes on your credit report to boost your score

  • A better credit score makes it easier to borrow money and access the best rates

What is a credit score?

Your credit score is a three-digit number. It’s calculated from the information a credit reference agency (CRA) holds about you. Your credit score usually comes with your credit report, which gives you more details about your credit history.

Lenders use your credit score, plus other information, to decide whether they will lend you money.

The UK has three CRAs:

  • TransUnion (formerly CallCredit)

  • Experian

  • Equifax

There’s no such thing as a universal credit score — each CRA uses different information and methods to calculate your credit score.

Understanding your credit score and report is the first step to improving how lenders view you and your credit history.

Once you’ve seen your credit report and score, you’ll be able to do things to improve it, and get a better understanding of how you can move on up to a better financial future.

Why does your credit score matter?

Your credit score gives lenders an idea about how risky it is to lend you money.

The better your credit score, the more options you’ll have when applying for credit.

If you have a good or excellent credit score you’re more likely to be accepted for credit, such as a mortgage, credit card or loan. Not only that, but you’ll have a much better chance of being approved for the best deals.

As an example, when it comes to credit cards, this means you could be eligible for:

  • a higher credit limit

  • a competitive interest rate

  • a longer 0% interest deal on purchases or balance transfers

  • cashback or loyalty points

Being eligible for the best mortgage, credit card or loan, means you’ll save money in the long run.

Check your credit report

If you sign up with TotallyMoney, the information on your credit report information is updated monthly. Your credit score however, will be calculated in real time and is updated each time you log in. So, you can always see the most up-to-date view of your financial health.

TotallyMoney shows you your TransUnion credit report and live score. You can see what your credit score means in terms of your credit rating by looking at the table below.

0 – 550 = Very Poor

551 – 565 = Poor

566 – 603 = Fair

604 – 627 = Good

628 – 710 = Excellent

There are some things you can do which will have a quick, positive impact on your credit score, and others that will help build your score over time. Don’t worry — even if you’ve made mistakes in the past, they don't need to hold you back forever.

How to boost your credit score

Check your credit report for errors

Occasionally, the information on your credit report might be incorrect.

This could be because of an error with your name or address, or because a lender or bank has accidentally passed on incorrect information to the CRA.

Incorrect information on your credit report can affect your chances of getting the best credit deals.

But don’t worry — if your credit report isn’t 100% accurate, you can get mistakes corrected.

Getting errors fixed can help improve a bad credit score. To start, sign up for your TotallyMoney free credit report and check if all the information it contains is correct.

What to do if you spot a mistake

If you see incorrect information on your TotallyMoney credit report, you can raise a dispute by selecting the ‘Raise a dispute’ option against the appropriate section of your credit report.

After this, you’ll be able to select a reason for disputing the information and this will flag the issue with TransUnion. It will then contact the lender or other company providing the data to check if it’s correct. Sometimes, you might need to give TransUnion some extra information.

Lenders have 28 days to investigate the issue and get back to TransUnion. If the lender agrees that the information is incorrect, your report will be amended and the updated information will show when TotallyMoney next refreshes your credit report.

The electoral register

It might seem like a small task, but being on the electoral register at your current address has a big impact on your credit score.

Having your name on the electoral register means you are registered to vote in local and general elections.

But, it also helps lenders check your address and identity. Plus, it can make you appear more settled and stable if you've been at the same address for a while.

If you’re a student, it doesn't matter if you register with your term-time address or your parents’ address. Just make sure you use the same address on any credit applications you make.

Financial ties

Taking out a financial or credit product jointly with someone else will create a “financial association.” This will affect your credit score.

Financial associations are things like:

  • a joint mortgage with your partner

  • being named on utility bills jointly with your housemates

  • acting as a guarantor on a guarantor loan

But, financial associations are not created by:

  • getting married

  • sharing an address with someone

If you have a financial association with someone with a poor credit score, it could affect your credit score too.

Be aware that moving house, splitting up with someone, or ending a credit agreement won’t necessarily end a financial association on your credit report.

So, it’s always worth having a look at your credit report to make sure any information on financial associations is up-to-date.

If you’re no longer connected to a particular person, you can ask the CRA to remove them from your credit report.

TotallyMoney: Your Score Analysis

TotallyMoney offers various tools to help you understand your credit report.

TotallyMoney’s Analysis feature looks at the past six years of your credit behaviour, so you can see how it affects your credit score today.

The analysis includes:

  • Your payment history: do you always pay on time?

  • Your credit utilisation: have you used 25% or more of your available credit?

  • Your account activity: how many accounts have you opened and closed?

TotallyMoney: Credit Assistant

Credit Assistant is a feature on the TotallyMoney app. It scans your TransUnion credit report data to give you a picture of how you use credit. This includes the types of credit you use, including credit cards, overdrafts, loans and mortgages.

It tracks your credit use and how it changes over time, as well as highlighting if any particular borrowing habits could be expensive.

From this, you can see if there are any areas where you can improve how you use credit.

Never miss a repayment

Making payments for credit cards, loans, mortgages, phone contracts, and utility bills on time is a major way to keep your credit score as high as possible.

Missed payments have a harmful effect on your score and leave a mark on your file for up to six years.

The easiest way to stay up-to-date with payments is to set up direct debits.

Get in touch with your lender if you’re struggling to make your repayments. You might be able to arrange a repayment plan that harms your credit rating less than missing payments altogether.

Limit hard searches on your account

There are two types of credit searches that can be carried out on your account:

  • soft searches

  • hard searches

Soft searches aren’t anything to be worried about. They’re usually carried out by lenders or comparison sites when you check your eligibility for a credit card or loan. You’ll be able to see soft searches on your credit file — but lenders won’t see them.

Hard searches are carried out by lenders when you complete an application for a credit product. A hard search will take a complete look at your credit data to decide whether to accept you.

Hard searches are visible to other lenders, and too many hard searches in a short space of time can affect your credit score. This is because it makes you seem desperate to borrow money and, therefore, higher risk.

Look for a 'soft check' or 'eligibility checker' before you apply for credit. That way you can find out if you'll be accepted before you apply.

Cut your debt by using savings

If you have some spare cash, one way to fix a bad credit score is to cut your overall debt. This might sound obvious, but many people hold onto savings when they also owe money.

You'll usually find that you’re paying more interest on your debts than you’re earning on your savings. So, as well as improving your credit score, paying off your debts with savings can improve your financial position.

Although you may feel more comfortable having savings, it’s worth knowing that if you use them to clear your debt, not only will you pay less interest, you’ll also have more available credit.

This means that in those moments where you’d rely on your savings (an emergency, for example), you can use credit instead.

Review the credit you have

Some lenders view payday loans and other high cost credit as a sign that you might be struggling financially. This will make them wary to lend you money.

If you owe money to payday lenders, check if it’s possible to pay off the debt using your overdraft, or a money transfer credit card .

If you’ve had various credit cards over the years and now don't use some of them, consider closing unused card accounts.

A large overall credit limit, even if unused, could be seen negatively by some lenders.

But, it’s best not to use more than 25% of your available credit. This means for each credit product, as well as overall. This shows you’re in control of your borrowing.

Consider a credit building credit card

If you want to fix a bad credit score, you have to show lenders you can borrow money and pay it back on time.

If you have a poor credit score, you might find the only credit cards you’re eligible for are credit building credit cards, or “bad credit” cards.

These cards often have high APRs and low credit limits.

Using a credit building credit card responsibly — borrowing a small amount each month and paying off the balance in full each month — can improve your credit score.

To avoid missing payments, you should set up a direct debit each month.

Check your free credit report

See six years of your credit history, and we’ll tell you why your credit score is what it is, plus how to improve it.

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We don't provide financial advice. Product information is obtained from independent sources and rates displayed may vary depending on your personal circumstances. While we make every effort to ensure that information is up to date, you should always confirm the terms of the offer with the product provider.

TotallyMoney is owned and operated by TotallyMoney Limited which is registered in England and Wales (Company Registration Number 06205695). TotallyMoney Limited is an Appointed Representative of TM Connect Limited, which is registered in England and Wales (Company Registration Number 06967012) and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in respect of consumer credit related activities (FCA FRN: 511936). Registered Office: 5th Floor, Halo, Counterslip, Bristol, BS1 6AJ. Credit is available, subject to status, only to UK residents aged 18 or over.

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