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What is a credit score?

We explain how credit reference agencies work out your credit score.

16 January 2024Jade Harvey 3 min read

Check your credit score

Understand your score better with your weekly credit report.

Get your score

Your credit score is now out of 1000. Here's what that means for you.

Since we launched in 2015, we’ve measured your score out of 700. Now, we’ve brought our scale in line with Equifax’s score out of 1000, to give you a more detailed picture of your credit history.

Your credit score is a number that represents your credit history – it gives you an idea of how lenders see your past relationship with credit. The higher your score, the surer lenders feel that you’ll repay what they lend you.

Credit reference agencies use your credit history to work out your credit score. There are three in the UK – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

We’re not a credit reference agency, but we do give you your credit score and report for free using data from Equifax.

To work out your credit score, credit reference agencies mainly look at these five things.

1. Payment history

A lender’s top priority is to make sure you repay your debt on time. The best way for them to predict this is by looking at how you’ve handled credit in the past.

The best way to build a good payment history is by consistently making repayments on time. That’s why taking out credit can be a good thing, as it lets you build up your payment history and show that you can be trusted to repay credit.

It’s a common misconception that having no credit cards or loans will protect your credit score, but that’s not the case. This doesn’t show a lender that they can trust you to repay credit.

2. Used credit vs available credit

Lenders also look at how much of your available credit you’re using. This is often expressed as a percentage of your credit limit. For example, imagine you have a credit card with a limit of £500 and your balance is £250, you’re only using 50% of your available credit. This makes you look more trustworthy to lenders.

3. Length of your credit history

The longer you’ve been using credit, the more information a lender has to decide how creditworthy you are. So if you’ve had a credit account for a while, you might see your credit score rise, especially if you’ve made all of your payments in full and on time.

4. Hard credit searches

Applying for new credit or to increase your credit limit usually has a negative affect on your credit score, but there are some exceptions.

If you’re using comparison sites to shop for types of credit, only one search will show up on your credit score, as long as you compare products from different lenders within a 45-day period.

A hard credit search will affect your score even if you decide not to go ahead with the card or loan and will stay on your report for up to 24 months.

The following things use soft credit searches, which don’t affect your credit score at all.

  • Personal credit checks
  • Pre-approved credit offers
  • Insurance applications
  • Checking your credit offers
  • Account reviews by current creditors
  • Employment applications

5. Types of credit you use

Using a range of credit types, such as revolving credit (credit cards) and instalment loans (mortgages and personal loans), can increase your credit score. Lenders like to see that you can handle several forms of credit at once.

When you apply for credit the lender has to decide if you’re a safe bet. And your credit score isn’t the only thing they look at – they also take into account your income and spending.

A lender can look at your score and report from one or all agencies to gather enough information to make their decision.

Every lender is unique – some value certain things more than others. So if you’re declined credit by one lender, you could still be approved by another.

Don’t know your credit score? Join 19 million others who’ve taken control of their finances.

We’ll tell you what’s affecting your credit score in your weekly credit reports, and give you personalised tips on how to improve or maintain your score. Because a better score means better deals, which could save you money. Get your credit score and report today, for free, forever.

Jade Harvey Image

Written by Jade Harvey


Having worked as a financial copywriter for the past several years, Jade is dedicated to helping you feel clear, calm and confident about your credit choices.