What are Credit Reference Agencies
Credit Reference Agencies decide your credit score. A credit reference agency (CRA) is an independent organisation that collects and stores financial data about you for the purpose of helping lenders decide whether you should be approved for financial products like credit cards, loans or mortgages. Each CRA has its own numerical scale that they use to assign you a credit score, which signals to lending institutions how financially responsible you are. CRAs might be referred to as Credit Rating Agencies or Credit Bureaus.
What’s the Difference Between Lenders and Credit Reference Agencies?
It’s important to note the difference between lenders and credit reference agencies:
- Lenders, also known as banks or financial institutions, grant loans and access to new lines of credit to borrowers using data provided by the independent credit reference agencies. Halifax, HSBC, and Barclay’s are all examples of lenders in the UK.
- Credit Reference Agencies, collect, store and provide your financial history and credit score to lenders. Lenders will use this information when deciding if they should approve your line of credit or not.
What Information Do Credit Reference Agencies Hold?
CRAs typically only keep 6 years' worth of data at a time. They hold the following information about you:
- Personal information like your name, address and former addresses over the past six years.
- How many financial accounts you've had in the past six years along with when they were opened.
- Certain bill payments including missed or late payments. This can include payments for credit cards, mobile contracts, and much more. For a detailed list of who reports your bills to which CRA look below.
- Whether you are registered on the electoral roll or not. Tip: Registering for the electoral roll can be a quick way to boost your credit score.
- The amount of credit that is currently available to you and how much you currently use - this is called your credit utilisation ratio.
- Who you are financially associated with (eg. who you have a joint account with).
- If you have had a CCJ, IVA, default or bankruptcy and when each event occurred.
How do Credit Reference Agencies Collect Data About You?
Credit reference agencies use a combination of public records and partnerships with private companies to collect and store financial data about you. Public records that they access include the electoral roll and the Individual Insolvency Register. Private company partnerships include banks, credit card providers, utility suppliers and mobile phone companies.
What are the Three Main Credit Reference Agencies in the UK?
The UK has three main credit reference agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Each of the big three CRAs collect and hold information on you, but there are inherent differences between the three that you should know about. It’s true that everyone in the UK essentially has three different credit scores because the three companies do not use the same credit scoring system. Let’s dive into the differences between the big three:
Experian claims that over 8 million people regularly check their credit score for free using their online services. While Experian is certainly one of the most well known credit scoring companies in the UK, they do things a bit differently. This includes using a vastly different credit scoring system than Equifax and TransUnion.
Score range: 0-999
What is a good Experian credit score?
0-560 Very Poor
It’s generally a good idea to check your credit score with Experian for free so you can make more informed choices when it comes to applying for credit.
How to Contact Experian:
Experian offers a few different ways to get in touch with then online, via phone or even by post! You can contact Experian:
- Using their online form
- By phone at 0800 013 8888 (Hours: M-F 08:30 - 16:30)
- By post at:
Customer Support Center
PO BOX 9000
Note: Some levels Experian support services require a subscription to CreditExpert a monthly fee of £14.99.
How to Cancel Experian Services:
If you wish to cancel a paid subscription or close your free Experian account you can follow these steps:
- First, navigate to the Experian website and log in to your account.
- Next, go to 'Subscriptions and Payments'.
- From there, you can manage, cancel and add subscriptions. You will also be able to close your Experian account.
If you have trouble cancelling your Experian services online, try one of the contact options above to reach a customer service representative.
As one of the "big three" consumer credit reporting agencies, Equifax collects credit information from 800 million individuals and 88 million businesses worldwide. Here's how Equifax breaks down their numerical credit score values:
Score range: 0-700
What is a good Equifax credit score?
- 0-279: Very Poor
- 280-379: Poor
- 380-419: Fair
- 420-465: Good
- 466-700: Excellent
If you're curious, they also provide an interactive regional map where you can see the average Equifax credit score in your area.
How to Contact Equifax
If you're looking to get in touch with Equifax with questions about your credit report, business account, or additional products and services they offer, you can call 08000 850 650 or fill out a contact form on their website.
How to Cancel Your Equifax Services
- First, navigate to the Equifax website and log in.
- Click on My Account and then Project Management.
- You should see a display of every Equifax subscription you are part of. Underneath each, you should see an option to cancel that service completely.
If you are having difficulty canceling your Equifax services, you can do it through their customer service hotline at 0800 014 2955* or 0333 321 4043**. They are available from 8am – 8pm daily, although their holiday hours do vary.
Before calling, have your security details ready, as they will be required before making changes to your account.
*Calls are free from UK landlines and UK mobiles.
**Calls from landlines and mobiles are normally included in bundled call packages, otherwise calls cost 15p per minute plus 23p set up fee from a BT landline. Other networks and mobiles may vary.
According to TransUnion, the majority of UK residents don’t know how their credit score is used, and about 50% have not viewed their credit report in over a year. TransUnion provides consumers with two ways to access their credit score: statutory report or Credit Karma.
A statutory report is helpful if you just want to check your current credit score. If you opt to receive your credit report using Credit Karma, you can expect to receive your credit report and score free for life with a status update every week. The Credit Karma version is comprehensive and will include the reasons behind negative marks to your score.
It’s important to note that Credit Karma gets all of its credit information directly from TransUnion and TransUnion receives a commission for each customer who signs up for Credit Karma.
Score range: 0-710
What is a TransUnion good score?
- 0-550 - very poor
- 561-565 - poor
- 566-603 - fair
- 604-627 - good
- 628-710 - excellent
How to Contact TransUnion
If you recently applied for credit and were declined, but don’t understand why, you can reach out to TransUnion at 0330 024 7574 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To view common questions about your TransUnion credit score visit their FAQ webpage.
How to Cancel Your Credit Karma Account
- Navigate to the Credit Karma Website and log in to your account.
- Click on the ‘Help Center’ selection found in the bottom left corner on your account homepage.
- Once in the Help Center, type “deactivate account” into the search bar at the top.
- From there, click ‘Deactivate my Credit Karma account’.
- Finally, scroll down and click the red Cancel account button.
The agreement with Credit Karma begins upon account creation. Oftentimes these services make cancelling too difficult. Remember that you can always contact Credit Karma Member Support at email@example.com if you are having trouble.
How to File a Complaint with TransUnion
To formally submit a complaint with TransUnion regarding the service you received from a TransUnion employee, you should directly file with the Customer Relations Department for investigation. This can be done either verbally or in writing via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We highly recommend submitting the complaint in writing for a better paper trail.
Ways to Check Your Credit Score for Free
As we’ve previously discussed, your credit score can be checked by signing up for a FREE account through one of the three main UK credit reference agencies.
Your Credit Score Determines If You Get Approved for:
- Credit cards
- Unsecured personal loans
- Home mortgages
- Auto financing
- Gas & electricity accounts
- Mobile phone contracts
- Flat rentals
How to Read Your Credit Report
When you request a credit report from any of the big three CRAs, whether online or written hardcopy, you can expect to see a variety of data. If you haven't checked your credit report in a long time, it may be worth getting a report from all three CRAs because, while they mostly contain the same info, there can be some variations here and there. Plus, it's always worth ensuring there are no discrepancies from agency to agency. Common data you'll find includes:
- Data on all lines of credit/financial accounts (current accounts and credit cards, loan agreements, etc.)
- People financially linked to you such as loan guarantors
- CCJs, repossessions, and bankruptcies
- Personal info like your date of birth and previous addresses
- Electoral roll status
- CIFAS info pertaining to stolen identity or fraud charges
Credit reports do NOT carry personal information such as your criminal record, religion, sexual orientation, salary, student loans, or savings accounts.
When reading through your credit report, keep an eye out for mistakes in personal info, credit history, and public records -- anything from incorrect addresses to fraudulent activity can have rippling consequences when attempting to access loans or lines of credit in the future.
What are County Court Judgements and How Can they Affect Your Credit Score?
A County Court Judgement (CCJ) is a court order that can be registered in your name if you have unpaid debts in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the equivalent is referred to as ‘enforcing a debt by diligence’. If you’ve received a CCJ by post, you are probably wondering what your options are going forward. Here are a few frequently asked questions regarding CCJ’s:
Who can see my CCJ?
Since CCJ’s are a matter of public information, nearly anyone can take a look for a small fee – they'll be able to see your name and address, the case and court number, and the amount of money owed. However, they will not be able to see who you owe the money to.
What information is included in a CCJ?
The judgment is public record and submitted to the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines—informing lenders that you are unable to repay a loan you have taken out. The report includes:
- How much money you owe
- How to settle your debt (in full or in instalments)
- Deadline to pay
- Who to pay
How long do CCJs stay on your credit profile?
A CCJ can remain on your record for up to 6 years from the date of issue unless you pay the full amount owed within one month. A CCJ can have negative effects on your ability to obtain credit, employment and a place to live while it is actively on your report.
The good news is the impact of a CCJ on your credit score decreases over time. That means your credit rating is likely to improve as your CCJ ages and as you manage your finances responsibly. Be sure to follow the terms and conditions of your CCJ and all other credit agreements to prevent any default on a payment.
Can I remove a CCJ from my credit profile?
Yes! There are ways to properly deal with a CCJ on your credit profile. Learn how to remove a CCJ from your records from our guide.
Defaults on Your Credit Report
A default on your credit report indicates that you borrowed money or started a line of credit and were unable to pay it back under the terms of the agreement. In the UK, defaults will show on your credit report for up to 6 years. Even though the lender can't re-register the default after 6 years (even if you still owe them money), you still won't be out of the woods yet. The lender can still register a CCJ against you, or even sell your debt to a debt collector, which adds further headache and has other financial consequences. But lastly, it's generally best to practice good financial habits to mitigate any bumps in the road life tosses at you.
The Proper Path to Good Credit
The Pave app credit builder actively works with you to help you build your credit score. We offer credit building insights that are targeted, actionable and unique to you, and report your good behaviour to help build your credit health. We partner with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion to improve your credit history through your monthly membership fee. There's no magic bullet to improve your credit score overnight but Pave credit builder builds credit the proper way.
Pave has been voted the Best Credit Building Product in 2021 by customers in the Consumer Credit Awards and was voted the Best New Personal Finance App 2021 by Moneynet.