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Bad Credit: How Why Where & What?

Bad credit, poor credit, adverse credit - these are all terms for the same thing. If you are finding it hard to get a loan or another form of credit (even a new mobile phone contract) then you've probably got information on your credit file that is scaring lenders away.

You'll probably have lots of questions about how you came to get a bad credit rating, what you can do about it and where you can get credit from in the meantime. We reckon there a 7 key questions you'll want answers to, so we've listed those below:

Bad Credit: What Can I do?

Struggling to get credit? Don't give up. In general you should:

  • Only apply to lenders who cater for poor credit:
    • continuing to apply to mainstream/high street lenders could actually worsen your credit rating!
    • consider specialist credit rebuilder credit cards
  • Check your credit file to help fix your credit score problem

Why do I have Bad Credit?

Any company that extends you credit or lends you money reports your repayment behaviour to at least one of the UK's three main credit reference agencies - Equifax, CallCredit and Experian (more info). They will retain this information for six years. Any other company you wish to borrow from can access this information to decide whether they wish to give you credit.

There is obviously a spectrum of information that is held about your credit bahaviour - from a single missed payment on a loan 4 years ago for example all the way through to that bankruptcy that happened 2 years ago, etc. So, not all information has the same weight. Even a lack of any credit history (perhaps because you've just become an adult, or moved to the UK) can weigh against you. While you might term this "bad credit" it clearly isn't the same thing.

There is also a chance that if you have become unwittingly the victim of identity fraud that there is information on your credit file that is false and that could count against you. There is also the chance that there is information held about you that is correct but that should already have been removed.

How Long Does Bad Credit Last?

Generally the cutoff period is 6 years - e.g. credit agreements stay on 6 years after they were settled; CCJs stay on 6 years after the day of judgement. Searches by lenders to whom you have applied for credit remain on your file for 12 months. Other information (e.g. linked addresses, whether you're on the electoral role, etc) remain on your file indefinitely.

So, if today you were to classify yourself as having bad credit and had no outstanding credit agreements, it would take up to 6 years for your file to naturally "clean" itself. But there are actions you can take to speed things up.

How Do I Get Rid of a Bad Credit History?

You can do this by:

  • checking your file to ensure the information on their is all correct
  • not applying for credit you know you'll be rejected for - searches are stored for 12 months
  • taking advantage of credit products that are designed to help improve your credit rating
  • ensuring that if you do have live credit agreements that you make sure repayments are on time and in full - new good news will help to dilute bad news already held in your credit files.

Read our guide to improving your credit rating.

My Credit is Bad What Can I Do?

If you need a loan but keep being refused then there are a number of things you can do that will help you in the short term to medium term:

  • There are credit products specifically designed for bad credit situations:
  • Stop applying for credit from high street lenders - you will keep being rejected and their searches of your credit file will actually make make your credit rating worse
  • Follow our guide to help fix your credit file - this should be done in parallel with any new credit, but does take time to implement. Start today!

Where Can I Get a Loan if I have Bad Credit?

We have access to a number of options that might help you in this situation:

As with all credit and regardless of credit status lenders are obliged to ensure that loan repayments are going to be affordable. So affordability checks will be undertaken.

What Are The Best Loans If I Have Bad Credit?

First, before you borrow more do ask yourself if it is really necessary. If you are already in debt and have struggled to meet your payments you need to consider whether it would make more sense to look at cutting your expenses first and trying to repay some of what you already owe - we have lots of tips for doing this.

If you consider you are in control of your budget but want to reduce the cost of your existing debt then you could consider consolidating your debt.

If you need to borrow extra there there are some specific bad credit loan options to look at.

How Will Bad Credit Affect My Spouse?

Being married does not automatically link the two of you financially so if one of you has a credit problem it does not mean the other is affected by it. However, if you take out credit jointly then your credit files will become linked.

If you have a bad credit rating and your spouse's is excellent then they may still be unaffected. However, if their rating is OK rather than excellent then your rating could turn a credit acceptance for them into a credit rejection. And of course this works the other way around too.

It's important that married couples maintain separate bank accounts and credit cards so that they can sustain separate credit files and credit histories even if they occasionally take out credit agreements together.

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