Many people don't realise the electoral roll isn't just important for taking part in elections. Credit reference agencies use it too. Not being on the electoral register can affect your credit score.

What is the electoral roll?

The electoral roll is a list of all the people who are registered to vote in the UK. The register contains your name, address and date of birth. It also includes your electoral number. The Electoral Commission use this information to send out your ballot card when there’s an election.

I don't want to vote, so why do I need to be on the electoral roll?

It’s up to you if you want to vote. Millions of people in the UK, for whatever reason, choose not to. But if you do want to vote, you need to register first.

If you want to apply for any kind of credit, it’s also a good idea to get yourself on the electoral roll. Credit reference agencies use the information on the electoral roll to confirm your identity when you apply for credit. Whether it’s a phone contract, home insurance or a short-term loan, lenders contact the credit reference agencies so they can see your credit report.

What is a credit report?

Whenever you apply for credit, the lender is likely to approve or reject your application based on what’s included in your credit report.

Your credit report is all about your credit history, including payments you’ve made, any you’ve missed, your account limits and any credit applications you’ve made in the last six months. There’s a mountain of other data, including age of debt and whether you’ve had any county court judgements (CCJs) or bankruptcy.

Your credit report also includes the information that’s on the electoral roll. The credit reference agencies use this to help protect against fraud. They compare the name and address on your credit report with that on your application.

Why is the electoral roll important for my credit report?

If you’re not on the electoral roll, it could affect your credit score and make it harder for you to be approved for credit. This is because lenders will find it more difficult to check your address and make sure you are who you say you are.

How many points will I lose if I'm not on the electoral roll?

It’s hard to say. The three credit reference agencies use different scoring systems and don’t tell us how these systems work.

One way of working out how much your score’s affected is by getting yourself a copy of your credit report after you’ve registered. That way, you’ll be able to see how much joining the electoral roll has increased or decreased your score. Experian, for example, use green ticks for factors that increase your score and red ticks for things that bring your score down. What they don’t do is give you a fixed number for each factor.

While you’ve got your credit report, it’s worth checking that the electoral roll information the agency has is correct. If it’s not, you should raise a dispute. The credit reference agency will then check your data and update your report where necessary. You can find out how to raise a dispute on each agency’s website.

Why am I not on the electoral roll?

If you haven’t registered to vote, you won’t be on the electoral roll. If you’ve moved house and not let the Electoral Commission know, you might be on the roll with the wrong details.

How do I get on the electoral roll?

The first thing to do is check to see if you’re on the register. You do this by getting in touch with your local council. You can't check the electoral roll online, but you can find the contact details of your local Electoral Registration Officer.

If you aren't registered, getting on the electoral roll is a pretty quick process. You can register online by visiting the website. It takes about five minutes and the only thing you need is your National Insurance number. That said, you’ll also need your passport if you’re a British citizen living abroad. You can also register by post if you prefer.

You only have to register once, but don't forget to update your details if you move house. You can also do this on the website.

Once you’ve registered to vote or updated your details, the new information should appear on your credit report. If it hasn’t within a few days, you should contact the credit reference agency.

A small piece of the puzzle

We've been talking about the importance of being on the electoral roll when looking for credit. But remember, it’s only one factor that goes into the calculation of your credit score.

There are many more to consider, such as your payment history, any missed payments, the limits on your accounts and even how many credit applications you’ve made in the past. All of these add up to give your credit score and determine whether or not a lender will see you as a good risk. Making sure you’re on the electoral roll is a simple first step towards building a better credit score.