Our guide to understanding what a credit report is and what you need to know about it.
What is a credit report?
A credit report is a record of information about your credit history. It shows how you've handled credit in the past and it allows lenders to assess your level of risk when you apply for credit.
What is credit?
Credit is a form of borrowing. It means you can get something now (e.g. goods, a service or money) on the agreement you will pay back the cost later. The most common types of credit are mortgages, loans, overdrafts and credit cards. But there are many other situations where you use credit, possibly without even realising. For example, mobile phone contracts spread the cost of your phone over the length of the agreement. Utility bills also count as credit, because you receive the utilities before you pay for them. Most adults have at least one form of credit, and even if you don’t, it is highly likely that you will in the future.
Repayments on credit are normally made in monthly instalments, and you'll be charged an interest rate as a percentage of what you owe.
Who compiles your credit report?
Your credit report is compiled by one of the UK’s three specially licensed credit reference agencies; Equifax, Callcredit and Experian. ClearScore gives you access to the financial data that Equifax holds on you.
You report contains information such as how much money you've borrowed and if you repay bills on time. It also contains some public record information – such as if you’re on the electoral roll, or if you have a bankruptcy in your name.
The credit reference agencies collect this information from a range of places, including banks, lenders and utility companies.
Your credit report is updated with fresh information about once a month. This data will be held on your report for around 6 years, and after that it will be removed from your report. (Though the length of time will vary depending on the type of information, and where it originally came from).
As all the information from different lenders is stored in one place (in your credit report), it makes it easier for a prospective lender to understand your borrowing habits. However, companies and individuals can’t just check your report whenever they feel like it. They need permission from you which is normally part of the process when you apply for credit.
Credit report vs credit score
Your credit report is different to your credit score. Your credit report is a file containing information about your credit history. Your credit score is a score given to you by a credit reference agency, which tells you how your credit report will look to lenders (the higher the score, the better it looks).
Why do you need a credit report?
Whenever you apply for credit, a lender will want to look at your credit report to establish whether you'd be a risky person to lend to. Generally speaking, the lower the level of risk, the more likely you are to be accepted for credit. You’re also more likely to get a better rate of interest on any credit you borrow. (If you’re not sure if you’re seen as high risk or low risk, you can look at your credit score).
When a lender checks your credit report, this is called a ‘hard search’ or credit check.
Different lenders will be looking for different things in the people they lend to, so sometimes you may find one lender rejects you for credit, even though you’re accepted by another.
What kind of things appear on your credit report
- Personal information (name, date of birth), your address, previous addresses from the past 6 years, and any financial associations with another person, e.g. joint mortgage
- Whether you are on the electoral roll, which means that you are registered to vote at your address
- County Court Judgements (CCJs), bankruptcies and Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs)
- Credit account information: how much you owe and whether you have paid on time, the age of the account (including mortgages, credit cards, store cards)
- ‘Hard’ searches carried out on your account
- Fraud that has been committed using your name or any fraud that you've committed using someone else’s name
What information is not included in your credit report?
- Current account information (unless you have an overdraft)
- Savings account information
- Your salary
- Student loans
- Criminal record
- Medical history
- Parking or driving fines
- Council tax arrears
- Information about gender or ethnicity
Can I change the information in my credit report?
As long as the information on your credit report is accurate, you can't alter it. However, there is an option to explain some of the information that appears on it by adding a notice of correction.
If, however, there is a factual mistake on your report, you will need to dispute the information. If it does turn out to be an error, the relevant credit reference agency has to correct it.
Since ClearScore itself is not a credit reference agency, you will have to contact Equifax, who provide your report.
What is a notice of correction?
This is a note of up to 200 words that you can add to your credit report to clarify any late payments or defaults on a debt, e.g. if they were caused by a redundancy.
What is a statutory report?
Everyone is entitled to a £2 statutory credit report which the credit agencies are obliged to provide within 7 working days of your application. The document you’ll receive is a simple print out or online version of your report and will not provide you with any supporting information or your score.