What is a credit report?
It starts with the data gathered on you by the three credit reference agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. What credit reports offer is an interpretation of this data, in a way that is digestible and easier for people to understand.
The online Cambridge Dictionary says a credit report is “a document that contains a record of debt and payment of debt.”
This is a basic definition of a credit report, but it goes a long way in explaining what one is.
The word “debt” might sound a bit negative. We like to think of it in terms of “credit” — that is, money you’ve borrowed and are paying back in a responsible way, which can work wonders for improving your credit rating.
All this information is gathered on your credit report. It’s also a record of your personal information, such as name and address, CCJs and bankruptcies, and financial links with other people (more below).
What is on your credit report?
Your name and date of birth
Whenever you apply for credit, it’s important you use the same name that’s on your credit report. For example, if your name is Judith Margaret Jenkinson, that’s the name you should use. Avoid nicknames or abbreviations, such as Judy M Jenkinson, or J Maggy Jenkinson.
Where you live (past and present)
A credit report shows your current address and addresses of where you’ve previously lived. It’s important you dispute any address the report shows that you haven’t lived at, as it could mean someone else is using your identity.
Whether you’re on the electoral register
This helps verify your address history. It also means you can vote. Whenever you apply for credit, you should use the same address that’s on your credit report.
Any overdrafts on your bank account
Your credit report shows how much your overdraft — if you have one — is on your bank account.
Accounts where you have taken out credit
Credit accounts include mortgages, loans, credit cards, credit agreements (things you’ve bought on finance), utility debts, and may include closed accounts from where you’ve taken out credit in the past. All this appears on your credit report.
Information in the public domain
If you’ve been taken to court due to financial problems (such as an outstanding payment), it could appear on your credit report. For example, if you’ve declared bankruptcy or you’ve been given a CCJ. These stay on your credit report for six years.
Any joint credit
Do you have joint credit with someone else, such as a joint current account with an overdraft, or a mortgage? If so, it will show on your credit report. You can contact lenders and ask to be financially disassociated from anyone you no longer have a financial connection with. It’s important to do this so their spending habits don’t affect your credit rating.
If you’ve been a victim of fraud — such as identity theft — it will appear on your credit report. Note, this is only the case if you’ve added a Notice of Correction to your credit report. Looking at your credit report is a good way to identify any false actions under your name.
Your credit report also shows if you’ve been convicted of fraud. This is the only criminal conviction it will show.
How to get a free credit report
First things first…
Before you sign up for a free credit report, it’s important to check the company you use pulls information on you from a credit reference agency that’s regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
In the UK, there are three licensed agencies that gather information on you: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Some companies are authorised to pull this information from one of these agencies to compile your credit report.
If you choose the TotallyMoney Free Credit Report, you’ll never pay a penny — plus you can check it as many times as you like. We compile your report using information TransUnion has on you.
You can get an Experian free credit report from Money Saving Expert, and an Equifax free credit report from ClearScore.
Which is the best credit report?
There’s no straightforward answer to this, as each credit reference agency holds different information on you. Lenders give details about you to the credit reference agency they use, which is why credit reports can vary.
It might be best to compare all three credit reports from the three credit reference agencies. This way, you can make sure the information on your credit reports is consistent and accurate on all of them.
This is important, because lenders use different credit reference agencies to decide whether to lend to you. If your details are incorrect on one of them, it could impact your ability to get credit.
In any case, a good place to start is with your TotallyMoney Free Credit Report.
A summary: what is a credit report?
- A document that records information about your financial and credit history
- Shows your name and where you live, account overdrafts, joint credit, accounts where you have credit, and any information in the public domain.
- Available for free — at any time — with TotallyMoney
- Best to check all three credit reports.