Credit Reference Agencies

Overview

There are three main credit reference agencies which hold your information and creditors will refer to them when they receive a credit application from you.

Consumers can access their statutory credit reports online from Experian, Equifax and Transunion (formerly Callcredit) giving victims of ID fraud and the financially vulnerable, free and immediate access to their accounts.

When you miss payments to your debts this will affect your credit rating and can make it much harder to receive further credit in the future.

What is a credit file?

Your credit file will show credit you have taken out and how you have managed your repayments. The information recorded should be accurate. Your file is made up of information shared by lenders and other public information assisting companies in carrying out ID checks, ensuring you are who you say you are.

Lenders will also use the information to determine risk, when deciding to lend you money based on how well you have paid debt back in the past. If you are considered to be high risk, you may be refused credit, only offered a small amount or you could be charged a higher interest rate.

What information is held on my file?

Standard information which is recorded on your file will be your name (and aliases), date of birth, current and former addresses. Details will also be recorded about your credit agreements, such as loans, credit cards, and bank accounts. Some utility companies may record information too. Details will include:

  • The amount outstanding on a debt
  • If an account has defaulted
  • The credit limit amount for any credit cards or overdrafts
  • Your full payment history, which will detail any missed or late payments
  • In some cases, whether you’re making reduced payments via a debt management plan (DMP)

Public information that will be recorded will include:

  • If you are listed on the electoral register
  • Any county court judgments or decrees
  • If you are currently bankrupt or insolvent
  • Any criminal fines or liability orders for child maintenance arrears

Not all lenders will share information with all three credit reference agencies, therefore if you obtain a copy of your report, it is best to get a copy from all three of the main agencies.

Information about missed payments, defaults, court judgments, Bankruptcy, Debt Relief Orders, IVAs or trust deeds will remain on your credit file for six years.These details will be removed from your credit file after six years. This is still the case even if you have a debt still outstanding.

If you have been made bankrupt and have acted dishonestly or negligently, Bankruptcy can remain on your credit file for up to 15 years in these circumstances.

Your credit score

All lenders have their own policies in place when making decisions to lend money. Many lenders will use a process called credit scoring by obtaining information you have supplied on your credit application, such as age, occupation and property status, and combine this with information on your credit report, including whether you are on the electoral register.

Every time you make an application for credit a ‘search’ by the lender is marked on your credit report. The amount of time they remain on your file varies, Experian and Equifax holds search entries for 12 months and TransUnion for up to 24 months.

If you are turned down for credit you should be provided with a reason, for example, because of the information held on your credit report. You should also ask for the name of the credit reference agency that they used that influenced their decision.

Joint accounts

Other people living in your home will not be affected by your credit history. Credit history is based on you, as an individual and not on the property.

If you have taken out a credit agreement in joint names with someone else however, your credit file will show a link or ‘association’ to them and vice versa.

If the joint account has been paid in full and you do not live with the other person you can ask for your credit files to be ‘disassociated’ removing the link between your credit file and theirs.

Guarantors

If you agree to act as a guarantor for someone, you will be asked to repay that debt if they do not pay. As a guarantor the details are not normally recorded on your file if payments have been kept up to date. However if payments are missed a default or county court judgment could be recorded on your report.

The myth of a blacklist

Despite common misconceptions from a few consumers there is no such thing as a blacklist on either an individual or a property. It is down to the lender to make an informed choice based on the information held on your credit file and using their specific criteria to decide whether to lend you money.