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How to get a loan when you have a low credit score

Hannah Patnick
10 February 2017

We explore different lending options for those that have a low credit score or poor credit history.

Applying for a loan might be the first time you know anything about having a low credit score or problems with your credit history.

If this is the case - don’t panic. There are, generally speaking, lending options out there for everyone – including loans purposefully designed for people with poor credit scores or problematic credit histories.

Here we’ve put together some of the basics about having bad credit, what bad credit loans are, as well as how you can improve your credit rating.

If you’re struggling with debt there are charities such as Step Change who can offer free debt advice and help.

What is ‘bad credit’ and why might you have it?

Whenever you apply to borrow money, lenders will check your credit report (also known as a credit file) before they agree to lend you money.

A credit report is a record of your behaviour when it comes to borrowing. It includes how much money you’ve borrowed, if you’ve paid it back and whether you’ve done this on time. (We’ve gone into this in more detail in our article about credit reports).

If you have ‘bad’ credit it means you’ve probably struggled to pay back your debts and a mark has been left on your report by a lender. This might be for a number of reasons, for example:-

  • You haven’t made the monthly repayments on time
  • You’ve missed the repayments altogether
  • You’ve been declared bankrupt
  • You’ve entered into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement
  • You’ve had a County Court Judgement (CCJ) awarded against you

Check your credit report and score for free through ClearScore

What are 'bad' credit loans?

Bad credit loans are loans that are specifically designed for people with a low credit score. Lenders offering these types of loans tend to charge higher rates of interest because they’re taking on a bigger risk with the people they’re lending to.

As with most loans, you can get two types: unsecured or secured. The main difference is that a secured loan uses something valuable that you own (such as your house or car) as collateral for the debt. This means if you fail to make your payments, the lender keeps whatever this is – even if it’s your home. Obviously this is a very big risk to take, especially if you’re not sure you can make the repayments, so you should think this through very carefully.

Things to think about when it comes to loans for bad credit:

  • Loans for bad credit tend to be an expensive way to borrow money. Before you take out this kind of loan, you should make sure you’ve thought about all of your options. This might mean you go to a credit union for a loan or you look at debt consolidation loans instead if you’re trying to manage your debt.

  • Try not to apply for multiple loans at once. This could damage your credit score and make it harder for you to be accepted by a lender. Instead, use a quotation search (known as a soft search) to see how likely you are to get a loan before you apply – these kind of checks won’t damage your credit score.

  • If you do take out this type of loan you should try and pay it back as quickly as you can in order to avoid expensive interest rates.

A loan for 'bad credit' could make or break your credit rating

If you take out a loan for bad credit and you’re able to make all your payments on time and in full, it can really help your credit rating. It will show lenders you can borrow responsibly and be trusted to pay back your debt. This means if you need to borrow again you might be able to take out a loan at a much cheaper rate of interest.

On the other hand, if you take out a loan for bad credit and you fail to repay it, this could have a negative impact to your credit score – more so than if you had problems repaying a standard loan. This damage is likely to hinder your chances of being able to borrow again in the future.

What can I do to improve my credit score?

Unfortunately, the best loan rates and offers will only be given to people with high credit scores. The good news is you can start to build up your credit score at any time to get yourself on the right path for a cheaper loan.

You can find out more in our articles on 10 steps to improve your credit score and factors affecting your credit score.

In short, here are some of the steps to improve your credit score:

  • Check your credit report regularly, making sure all the information you expect to be there is present and correct (you can do this for free with ClearScore. You can also read our 5 minute checklist of things to look out for in your credit report each month.

  • Sign up to the electoral roll – lenders see this as a sign you’re more stable if they can verify where you live.

  • If you borrow money, pay it back on time and (if possible) in full each month

  • Try to avoid using too much of your credit limit

Try to avoid applying for too much credit in a short space of time. It's worth checking how likely you are to be approved for a loan in the 'Offers' section of your account before you officially apply. Every time you apply for credit a 'credit application' search (aka hard search) will be carried out and a mark will be added to your report. If lenders see a lot of applications in a short space of time they may view you as a riskier borrower and may choose not to lend to you.

by Hannah Patnick

In her previous life Hannah was a consumer journalist making primetime television shows. Now she's ClearScore's new Content Producer. Amongst her many talents, Hannah is famed for her excellent tea-making skills.

ClearScore exists to make your finances simple.
We offer a free service where you can handle everything to do with credit in one place. In your ClearScore account, you can see your credit score and the full details of your credit report. Your credit cards, mortgages, mobile phone contracts, loans, overdrafts and utilities all on the record. Our goal is to make ClearScore as simple, calm and straightforward as possible. Money is stressful enough.