How to improve your credit score

Your credit score affects your ability to borrow money, as lenders are always on the lookout for a good score when you apply for credit.

It’s simple - the better your score, the better the chance you have of being approved. In most cases, a good credit score can also mean getting your hands-on better interest rates, which could help you save money in the long run.

Can you improve your credit score fast?

There’s no real way of changing your credit score overnight, but it’s never too late to start.

The length of time it takes to rebuild your credit history depends on the reason why you’ve got a poor credit score. Things like late or missed payments can be seen on your credit report for a minimum of 6 years, while bankruptcy or County Court Judgements (CCJs) can stay there for up to 10 years, so it’ll take a fair bit of time to repair the damage if any of these apply to you.

Credit searches, which are carried out by financial institutions every time you make an application, can stay on your file for up to 2 years. They might not have as much of a negative effect on your file though.

Ways to improve your credit rating

There are a whole host of ways to increase your credit score to prove to providers you’re a responsible borrower. These include:

  • Making sure your details are up to date, and everything on your credit file is reporting correctly.
  • Never missing a repayment and always having credit available.
  • Creating a history of responsible borrowing and closing inactive accounts.
  • Paying off debts and checking your joint finances (accounts you might have with someone else, like a mortgage or bank account).
  • Lenders usually look for stability, so things like having a telephone landline, and maintaining a long-term relationship with a bank can help.
  • Always looking out for fraudulent behaviour.
  • Consolidating your debts and reducing your number of credit applications.
  • Registering to vote and, if you rent your home, signing up to a private tenancy scheme.

Whether you have very little history of borrowing, a low score, or simply want access to better rates, there are plenty of things you can do to build a better credit score.

1. Make sure your credit record is correct

The first thing you should do is to check your credit report and make sure there aren’t any errors. Though it’s rare, mistakes sometimes happen, and they can scupper your chances of a successful credit application. If there are late payments listed, check they’re correct, and question any you think are wrong with the lender who’s reported them.

Learn more about how to check your credit score

2. Register to vote

A better credit score is just a few steps away when you sign up to the electoral register (you might also know this as the electoral roll or voters’ roll). Online registration is open all year round, with just a few straightforward questions to answer. As well as boosting your score, there’s the added bonus of helping providers check your address and ID quickly. It’s a win-win.

3. Double check your personal details

It’s really important all your debts are registered in the right name and to your current address. Not updating your information can cause problems when applying for credit and may be seen as a sign of instability, or even flag up as fraudulent.

4. Never miss a repayment

While making a late payment or accidentally missing a payment might just be a one-off blip, it can seriously impact your credit score. Managing your account online and setting up a Direct Debit are some of the ways you can stop this happening.

5. Create a history of responsible borrowing

Every lender wants a sensible borrower. They like applicants who make repayments on time and keep within agreed credit limits. It could be something as small as a monthly mobile phone contract or a digital streaming service subscription, so if you show you can manage credit well, it could go a long way to helping you increase your credit score.

6. Close inactive accounts

Unused cards can easily pile up. If you no longer need them, it’s good practice to shut your accounts permanently. Providers look at credit limits available to you, as well as what you owe. You’ll also reduce the risk of fraud by closing unused accounts.

7. Pay off your debts

This is a key step to take when looking at ways to improve your credit score. Use your income to pay off as much as you can afford each month above the minimum payment to reduce what you owe.

8. Demonstrate a long-term record with the same bank

A lasting relationship with a bank can be a real plus for your credit application. Some providers believe this is a good demonstration of a stable financial lifestyle and shows an increased likelihood you’ll pay back what you’ve borrowed.

9. Maintain a good volume of available credit

This is the difference between your credit limit and outstanding balances, and could impact your rating. Low available credit can be a red flag for some providers, who might view having lots of accounts with less than 50% available as a sign you’re struggling to manage your money.

10. Reduce your credit applications

A record of a credit check is made every time you apply for credit. Too many in a short space of time can sound alarm bells for some lenders. Make fewer applications and you could improve your rating.

Many credit providers now offer eligibility check tools (ours is called Clever Check). Just give some basic information to complete a ‘soft search’ and you’ll be told whether you’re eligible to apply without affecting your credit score.

Learn more about Clever Check

11. Consolidate your debts

Consolidating, or putting together more expensive outstanding credit balances, could improve your credit score, and make things easier to manage, as you’ll only have one payment to make each month.

12. Watch out for fraudulent behaviour

Keep an eye on your credit report in order to spot any signs of financial fraud. Look out for new credit accounts you don’t remember setting up, and query anything you don’t recognise.

13. Check your joint finances

Your partner’s finances could impact your application if you have a joint account, like a mortgage or loan. If they’ve got a poor credit history and you’re financially linked, it can hinder your score. Where necessary, keep your finances separate to maintain your access to good credit.

14. Try a credit builder card

If your credit score is very low, you can start restoring it with a rebuild card. Although they often come with a higher APR, you can be accepted even with a poor credit history. The best way to use this type of card is to spend minimal amounts and pay the balance off in full every month to avoid any interest charges. Do this for a year or so and you might see your score improve.

In summary

As you can see, there are a whole host of simple measures you can take to strengthen your credit score. But don’t make this a one-off exercise. Continually trying to improve your score won’t just increase your chances of getting access to better rates, you’re also more likely to change your financial habits for the better.

If you're looking for credit

As with any financial decision, consider:

  • All of the options to find the right one for you.
  • The risks of taking on too much debt -do you have savings you could use instead?
  • The cost and time it’ll take to repay anything you borrow.

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Important: the content on this page is not intended to be taken as financial advice or recommendation made by MBNA. You should seek independent financial advice if unsure about your financial needs.