Your credit score is important when you need to be approved for credit. Whether you want to set up something small like a monthly phone contract, or you’re hoping to apply for a mortgage, the chances of being accepted for credit are significantly higher if you have a strong credit score.
There are simple ways to improve your credit score, even if you’re a renter. Unfortunately, moving home frequently, as some renters are forced to do, can have a negative impact on your score.
And you won’t necessarily benefit from your successful rent payments helping your credit score, like home owners have with their mortgage payments. But following these easy steps can still help you to improve it.
1. Join the electoral register
Putting your name on the electoral register is one of the easiest and quickest ways to help your credit rating – and it won’t cost you a penny.
Lenders will know that if you’re on the electoral register you are who you say you are. This means you need to update your details every time you move – the wrong details can be as damaging to your score as not being registered at all.
To join the electoral roll, you can either apply online on the government’s Register to Vote page, or apply by post.
2. Cancel old or unused credit accounts
Maintaining a long-standing credit account with a history of regular, timely repayments can have a great impact on your credit score. Having an unused credit account left as open – even one that is fully paid off – is not so positive.
Lenders will look at all of the credit that’s available to you when you apply for a loan, and having unused accounts will give the impression that you are using more credit than you actually are. Similarly, if you decided to access this credit it could quickly put you in further debt, leaving you at risk of being unable to meet all of your repayments, including the loan you’re applying for.
Forget the myth of chopping up cards; to close your unused accounts, you need to phone your credit supplier and ask them to close the account.
Ensure you get confirmation in writing, as it’s possible they could leave them open in case you decide you want to use the card again. This closure should appear on your credit report in a few months following notification.
3. Use The Rental Exchange
When homeowners repay their mortgage, their credit score improves with each timely payment. Currently, rent payments aren’t attributed to the tenants’ credit score, even when payments are made in full and on time.
Experian has begun something called The Rental Exchange, which lets tenants to contribute towards their credit score by registering their paid rent. People living in social housing should contact their landlord to report the payment record to Experian, who will update the credit score accordingly.
Private renters join the scheme by signing up to Credit Ladder, which works in conjunction with Experian to add these payments to the tenant’s credit score. It takes a while for payments to show on the report, but this scheme could be hugely beneficial. And won’t cost a penny more than you already pay for rent.
4. Use your credit score from a foreign country
If you previously lived in another country, you might have built up a credit score there if you had a bank account or any type of credit (such as a phone contract, and so on). Unfortunately, when people move to the UK, this credit report doesn’t automatically follow.
Contact a credit reference agency from the country you previously lived in, and get a record of your report to show any new lenders from whom you’re apply for credit. Legally, they don’t have to take it into account, but, if the report is positive and you’ve not had the opportunity to build much of a report in the UK, it might help.