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What are credit reference agencies?

What is a credit reference agency? What are the names of the ones that exist in the UK? Read our quick guide on the UK's 3 credit reference agencies


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You don't just have one credit score. You actually have three - one from each of the UK's credit reference agencies. Here's how you can check each one and how to understand what they mean.

Your credit report is compiled by companies known as credit reference agencies (CRAs). There are 3 CRAs in the UK – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (formerly Callcredit).

These CRAs are the companies that create, and keep hold of your credit reports. They gather information about your credit history, and 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.

ClearScore is not a CRA. We show you your Equifax credit score and report for free.

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 be slightly different 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, the CRA that we use here at ClearScore use, have 700. They all have different scales, too.

So, your credit score might be 459 with Equifax, 999 with Experian and 609 with TransUnion, even with 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.

You’re already in the right place to check your Equifax credit report – ClearScore gives you your full Equifax score and report absolutely free.

Equifax:

  • ClearScore. It’s free and always will be. You'll get access to your full Equifax report and score, updated monthly, and you'll get weekly alerts if something changes on your report. You'll also get a free coaching tool to help you improve your finances, and an eligibility checker that tells you the likelihood of you getting accepted for credit cards and loans.

  • 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, but you won’t have access to your 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. 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 can't send 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 other 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 (do this on ClearScore here, and add a notice of correction if anything seems wrong.

It’s best to continue checking your report regularly to look after your score. You can read our cheatsheet on the 4 main things to check each month here.


Lucy has a wealth of personal finance knowledge, and is one of our in-house experts.