What is a credit score?

When you apply for credit, a few things help lenders to make decisions, including your credit score.

How do credit scores work?

Credit reference agencies collect information about you and your financial past, issuing you with a credit score. All lenders access this information, helping them to measure the risk of offering credit.

Each credit reference agency uses a slightly different scale for credit scoring.

Why is a good credit score important?

  • The higher your credit score is, the more likely it’ll be that an application is accepted.
  • The lowest and longest lasting interest rates are offered to low risk applicants, who’ve shown they can manage credit well.
  • Your credit score can also affect the credit limit you’re offered.

For a quick run through, watch our short video.

 

Watch our video to understand what a credit score is.

What else do lenders check?

 

Details you provide

As part of the application you’ll be asked for some personal and financial information, including your address, employment status and income.

What you can afford

Lenders also consider what you can reasonably afford to repay for the foreseeable future, based on things like your income and the total amount of credit that’s already available to you.

Your account history

Lenders usually keep records about accounts you’ve held with them in the past, including information about how well they’ve been managed.

Protecting your credit score
 

  • Declined applications
    If you submit a full credit application, a full or ‘hard’ credit search will be completed. If you’re declined, this will affect your credit score.
     
  • Multiple applications
    If you submit a number of full credit applications in a short time, that can also negatively impact your credit score. If you’re declined, it’s a good idea to wait 6 months or more before trying again.
  • Missing payments
    You must keep up with payments, making at least the minimum payment by a set date each month. Missed payments are reported on your credit record.
     
  • Going over your credit limit
    If you go over your agreed credit limit, that might be recorded on your credit record too.

    Tips for managing a credit card

Checking your credit score

It’s a good idea, especially if you’re planning to apply for credit, to check the details held by each credit reference agency is correct. If not, you could apply to have it updated.
The agencies used by Halifax are TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.

Boosting your credit score

It’ll take time, but there are things you can do to improve your credit score:

  • Always pay bills on time – including credit card, utility and other household bills.
  • Manage accounts well – stay below your credit card limits and try to reduce your balances whenever possible.
  • Wait to apply again – avoid making a number of credit applications in a short period.
  • Register to vote – make sure you’re on the electoral register.

Looking for a new credit card?

Many lenders, including Halifax, now provide an eligibility checker to help you to find and compare cards you’re likely to be accepted for, without impacting your credit score.

Check your eligibility

Frequently asked questions on credit scores
 

  • All lenders have different criteria for assessing applicants. If you have a low credit score, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t borrow, but you might not be offered the lowest and longest lasting interest rates, or a high credit limit.

    To find and compare cards you’re likely to be accepted for, without impacting your credit score, look for lenders who offer an eligibility check first.

  • Each credit reference agencies collects similar information, although not necessarily the same, so it’s a good idea to check more than one before you apply for credit of any kind.

    As well as information about the way you manage credit accounts, credit reference agencies also collect public information, such as electoral register and court records.

  • If you’ve checked the information held by a credit reference agency and there’s an error, you can contact the agency and ask them to investigate.

    If there’s definitely an error, they’ll make a Notice of Correction, which anyone reviewing your credit history in the future will see and take into consideration.

  • If you’ve never had a credit card, or have limited experience with credit full stop, your credit score can reflect this. With no track record of being a responsible borrower, your score could be pretty low.

    Many people get their first credit card as a way to build up a stronger credit score for the future. If you’re relatively new to credit, we’ve published useful guides which should help.

    More on how to choose a credit card

A summary on credit scores

Credit scores are issued to you by the credit reference agencies in the UK.

  • Low risk borrowers have a higher score. A low score indicates limited experience, or a higher risk.
  • The lowest and longest lasting interest rates are offered to those with the best credit scores.
  • You can check your ratings with each agency. At Halifax we use Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
  • The information held by each agency may differ, so it’s a good idea to check more than one.

Want to read more?
 

Halifax is a division of Bank of Scotland plc. Registered in Scotland No. SC327000. Registered Office: The Mound, Edinburgh EH1 1YZ. Bank of Scotland plc is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under registration number 169628.