Your credit report has a lot of impact on your financial future. It’s what lenders will use to help decide whether to approve an application for credit, such as a loan or a mortgage. It can also determine whether you’re able to access the cheapest interest rates and how much you pay to borrow. It’s an important document that many people still don’t take the time to keep track of.
Why should you read your credit report?
To make sure your details are correct. If your credit report has mistakes in it then this could affect your credit score. It could also give lenders a false picture of whether you are a potential borrowing risk. For example, your credit report may not show an address for you for a period of time which a lender may find suspicious.
To identify any mistakes. For example, your report might show a missed credit card payment from years ago that you cleared straight away. You can ask that this is removed, which will improve your overall credit history.
To look for inconsistencies. If you’re repeatedly being turned down for credit, looking at your credit report could help you work out why. For example, is your report still linked to an ex-partner who has a bad financial history?
To understand what you can do with your finances. While credit scores differ from agency to agency – and lenders don’t actually use them to assess your credit worthiness – they can be a good indication of your financial potential. By looking at your credit score you’ll be able to gauge what mortgage rates might be available or whether you’ll be able to get a low interest credit card, for example.
To avoid fraud. Regularly monitoring your credit report will ensure that you spot any signs of fraud quickly, for example multiple credit cards being opened in your name.
There are three main credit agencies in the UK: Experian, Equifax and CallCredit. You have a legal right to receive a statutory credit report that will provide you with key information, including whether you’re on the electoral roll, the credit accounts that you have, any missed payments and searches against your credit report. It costs £2 to access a statutory report and all of the main agencies are legally obliged to provide you with one.
How to access your credit report for free
You can access your entire credit report for free with Equifax for the first 30 days. After that it’s £14.95 per month with the option to cancel at any time. You’ll need addresses for the past six years and details of mobile phone contracts, credit cards etc to confirm your identity, just as you would for any of the other credit agencies.
Pros: Equifax is the UK’s second-biggest credit agency so you’ll see what many of the lenders you apply to will see.
Cons: the monthly fee is quite substantial, particularly if you’re planning to access your credit report every month on an ongoing basis.
You can also access your credit report for free with Experian, although the agency places the same 30-day limit on free access as Equifax. After the 30-day free trial it costs £14.99 a month to have ongoing access to your credit report.
Pros: Experian is the largest credit agency and also puts together a selection of credit offers based on your credit info.
Cons: you can only access the 30-day free trial once and the monthly fee is high.
Noddle (now Credit Karma)
Noddle was developed by TransUnion, the UK’s third credit reference agency. It provides free access to your credit report. In fact, its marketing is all based around the fact that access to your credit report and credit score is “free for life.” Noddle was acquired by Credit Karma in 2019 and it continues to offer a free-for-life service.
Pros: it’s free – forever and gets some pretty good reviews on Trust Pilot.
Another service that provides free access to your credit score and credit report for life. ClearScore is based on your Equifax credit report although the two companies are not connected. It’s very straightforward to navigate and updates once a month with new credit information. The app is particularly easy to use.
Pros: it’s free and easy to access
Cons: there’s a lot of advertising for financial products although you’re not obliged to apply for any of them
Amanda Gillam is Solution Loans's General Manager and has been since 2009. She is also a prolific writer on personal finance issues, and has been quoted numerous times in articles published on 3rd party websites and in press releases. Her...Read more about Amanda Gillam