What are credit reference agencies?

Getting your head around the world of money can be tough. But, once you’ve got the fundamentals down, everything gets that bit easier. In this blog, ClearScore gives you a deeper dive on credit reference agencies and accessing your different credit scores.  

  

Interested in finding out more? Sign up for one of The Money Charity's free and interactive virtual workshops by emailing fintechpledge@themoneycharity.org.uk for a deeper dive on managing your personal finance. 

 

We’ve already covered the basics of credit scores in this blog. Now let’s talk about credit reference agencies (CRAs) and how to access your scores.  

 

You don’t just have one credit score, you have three - one from each of the UK's credit reference agencies. In the UK, these are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. 

 

CRAs create and keep hold of your credit reports. They gather information about your credit history, put this into a credit report and calculate a score for you based on this information.  

 

In turn, lenders will ask one or more of these agencies for information about you before accepting your credit application. 

 

How do CRAs work? 

Each CRA is sent information by lenders about the credit you have and how you manage it. Other information, such as public records like the electoral roll, are also sent to the CRAs and form part of your credit report. Once a CRA has enough information on you, they will generate your credit report and calculate your credit score. 

 

Why do you have different credit scores? 

Your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (formerly Callcredit) scores may differ slightly because not all lenders report to every CRA. Some lenders only report to one or two CRAs, whereas others will report to all three. 

 

CRAs also have different maximum scores. Experian’s score is out of 999, TransUnions’ is 710 and Equifax uses 1000. They all have different scales, too. 

 

So, your credit score might be different with each agency, even if they have the same information.  

 

This is nothing to worry about — as long as your information is accurate, this won’t affect your creditworthiness. 

 

How do I check my credit report? 

To look after your credit score, it’s important to get a full picture of your finances. To do this, you can check in with all three UK credit reference agencies periodically. This is especially true before an important application like a credit card, loan or mortgage. 

 

Equifax: 

  • ClearScore. You'll get access to your full Equifax report and score, updated monthly, and you'll receive weekly alerts if something changes on your report.  

You can also use Equifax’s Credit Report and Score. This service is £7.95 a month, after a 30-day free trial. 

Experian: 

  • Experian’s free credit score. You can sign up and see your credit score for free, this provides a score, but not a full report. 

  • Experian CreditExpert. This gives you access to your full report and score and is £14.99 a month after a 30-day free trial. By subscribing, you get real-time access to your credit report (as opposed to information that's updated monthly). 

  • MSE’s Credit Club. This gives you your Experian score and report for free. You get a once-a-month snapshot of your credit report and they cansend you updates every time something changes. 

TransUnion 

  • Credit Karma. You can access your TransUnion credit report through Credit Karma (formerly Noddle), though it's not as widely used by lenders as the  two agencies above. 

  • Credit Monitor. This is powered by MoneySuperMarket, and gives you free access to your TransUnion credit score. 

  • CheckMyFile. This site shows you your TransUnion, Experian and Equifax information, and it costs £14.99 a month after a free 30-day trial. 

 

It’s worth noting that you can get a statutory copy of each report for £2 – for Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This is a one-off: you have to pay £2 each time you want to see your report. You can choose either an online or a paper copy. 

 

Once you’ve checked in with each credit reference agency, you’ll have a good idea of your overall financial situation and you can fix any mistakes.  

 

It’s best to continue checking your report regularly to look after your score.  

 

That’s everything for now. Keep an eye on the blog as we’ll be posting more articles to help you master your money.  

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