How much is a credit report worth? It’s impossible to put a figure on it, but when you consider it can affect the interest rates and fees you might get on mortgages, loans and credit cards, it’s no exaggeration to say it could be worth thousands of pounds to you.
The whole point of the credit report is to give lenders a fair and balanced assessment of what kind of borrower you’re likely to be. It bases this largely on how you’ve dealt with credit in the past.
If you take out credit and pay it back on time as planned, you’ll get a good credit score and cheaper credit. But if you have a chequered past when it comes to repayment – or no history of borrowing at all – you’ll find you’ll be charged higher rates or possibly won’t be able to get credit at all.
So what happens if the reference agency has got it wrong?
Credit reference agencies rely on the information being passed from an array of organisations, but the information they gather can broadly be broken down into four types:
The more severe and regular any issues in the above factors are, the more your credit score will be affected. However, as time goes by, old factors will carry less weight, and are usually removed altogether after about six years.
When you think about all the factors that go into a credit report, it’s easy to see how inaccuracies can creep in. It’s worth pointing out that due to the highly sensitive nature of credit scores, errors are quite rare, but they do happen and you need to know how to deal with them.
Sometimes errors are the fault of the lender or body taking bill payments. Say for example you pay on time but it doesn’t register on the system, or maybe you have a credit card and manage it well but the card company fails to inform the reference agency you have a card at all. They’ll both have an adverse effect on your credit score. Sometimes bank errors or system failures mean Direct Debits don’t go through, and that could trigger several late payments.
If your credit/debit card is stolen and used, you’re generally covered as long as you report the theft in a timely manner. But the risk remains that certain transactions carried out in your name could come back to affect your credit score.
County Court Judgements can stain your credit score, but you’re allowed to settle them in a certain amount of time. If you have settled a CCJ in time, the record should be removed from your report, but sometimes it isn’t.
Organisations report to the credit reference agencies once a month, so sometimes errors do sort themselves out. However, if you’re worried about a particular entry on your credit report, you should contact the organisation concerned – it’s up to them to correct the mistake.
When you make contact, it’s a good idea to have all the paperwork to hand, including bank statements and receipts, and even ‘soft’ evidence such as personal diaries can help.
If the organisation can’t deal with your complaint, you can go straight to the credit reference agency itself – they always have a mechanism for complaining and querying entries, usually online.
As we mentioned above, errors are remarkably rare but not unheard of. But because of the importance placed on a customer’s score, organisations will generally take complaints and disputes seriously.
It’s probably not worth contacting them to ask for a review without specific evidence of an error. The factors they base their ratings on will not have changed, so it’s unlikely your rating will. Time and good financial management are the most reliable ways to improve your credit score and open the door to cheaper credit.
Remember you can keep track of your credit score through companies like Noddle, Clear Score and Experian so it’s easy to get a regular indication of your credit score.