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How to improve your credit score in 15 steps

How to improve your credit score in 15 steps

Whether you’ve got an excellent, good, poor or bad credit rating, there are always ways to improve or maintain it – and we’ve picked out 15 of the simplest.

Whether you’re buying a car with good credit or applying for car finance with bad credit, there are always ways to improve or maintain your score. To help you out, we’ve picked out 15 of the simplest.

Having a strong credit score is one of the best ways to secure car finance. It proves to lenders that you are financially reliable. The higher your score, the less risky you’ll seem to lenders.

How can I improve my credit score?

Wondering how to improve your credit score? We’ve picked out 15 simple steps to follow to increase your credit score over time.

1. Register on the electoral roll

We start with the easiest step of all. The electoral roll is a list of the names and addresses of people registered to vote in public elections in the UK and Northern Ireland.

When you register to vote, your electoral details are recorded on your credit report. It helps lenders confirm your name and address, so your score increases.

2. Make current payments on time

Show lenders you’re reliable by paying all your loan, credit card and utility bill payments on time and in full. Managing your accounts effectively is one of the best ways to boost a credit score.

3. Avoid the top end of your credit card limit

Try to keep your credit utilisation to around 30%. This is the percentage of your credit limit that you use.

For example, if you use £500 on a card with a credit limit of £1,000, your credit utilisation is 50%. A lower percentage is likely to increase your credit score.

4. Use your overdraft sparingly

An overdraft appears on a credit report as debt. But if lenders see that you can stay within the agreed limit and are able to clear it on time each month, it proves you are a reliable borrower and can even boost your credit score.

5. Keep credit applications to a minimum

Try to avoid making multiple credit applications within a short space of time, as it makes lenders think you rely too much on credit. It doesn’t matter what form of credit you apply for or the amount you require; each application’s hard search can be seen by lenders. It’s a good idea to space applications out if you want to boost your credit score.

Note: this doesn’t include ‘soft searches’, such as when you apply for car finance from Zuto.

6. Moving house

If you’ve moved house, make sure all your bills are sent to your new address. If not, you may be receiving bills at an old address that remain unpaid.

Some lenders don’t like to see somebody who’s moved house too often, though, as they like to see stability in applicants’ circumstances.

7. Settle any credit disputes

Defaults on your credit report signify that you should have made a payment and didn’t. If you think the default is incorrect, it can be disputed. This is important if you’re applying for car finance with defaults on your credit file.

If you think the dispute is an error, you could complain to the lender that put it there, raise it with the Financial Ombudsman Service, or add a notice of correction. If you can explain how the error has happened and that it’s not your fault, it’s worth doing, and removing the default will boost your credit score.

8. Ask lenders for soft searches

When looking for finance, use companies that perform soft searches first. This means that any enquiries you make can’t be seen by potential lenders. In contrast, hard searches are visible on credit reports.

Zuto always perform soft searches when checking your eligibility for finance, and will always ask you before then performing a hard search. In fact, we’ll only carry out a hard search when you’ve asked us to proceed with a specific car loan agreement.

9. Never round up time at an address

The more insight a lender has into your details, the better, so avoid rounding up time at an address. For example, don’t state two years and six months as three years. As most lenders only ask for three years’ address history, it should be easy to give the correct information.

10. Cancel some unused credit and store cards

Unused credit and store cards can have a big impact on your credit score. Access to too much available credit, even if it isn’t used, can hinder applications, so it’s a good idea to cancel some cards.

11. Avoid payday loans

Steer clear of payday – also known as short-term – loans if possible, if you’re trying to increase your credit score. Even though they may be tempting in short-term financial emergencies, payday loans are expensive and some mortgage underwriters even state they reject people who have taken one.

12. Don’t withdraw cash on credit cards

Even without considering your credit score, this is never a good idea. Withdrawing cash on credit cards is expensive, due to the interest charged, even if you do repay in full every month. Lenders can also see this as evidence of poor money management.

13. Be honest about timing

Consider potential changes to your personal circumstances when applying for credit. You score more highly when earning, but, if you’re due to take time off for maternity leave or you fear potential redundancies where you work, remember to be honest.

You’ll be more likely to get a loan before the change, but it’s also crucial to make sure you’ll be able to afford the repayments.

It’s worth remembering that big issues, such as county court judgements (CCJs) and bankruptcy, can stay on file for six years. So, if you’re nearing a time where an old issue will lapse, hold off.

If you split up with someone you had joint finances with, you don’t want their credit history to affect yours going forward. You can contact credit agencies and ask for a notice of disassociation. You would need to close joint accounts and pay off joint loans.

15. Check your credit report annually

It's a good idea to go through your credit report once a year or before any new applications. Your report contains huge amounts of data and there could be errors that you’ll want to be aware of and correct before applying.

Zuto's partner ClearScore can even send you regular updates, so you can monitor the impact of any changes to your credit score.

What is a good credit score?

Each credit reference agency has its own scoring system. They calculate it based on information sent by lenders about your credit and how you manage it. Once they have enough information, they will generate a report.

Zuto is partnered with ClearScore, which uses Equifax’s data. ClearScore then has its own rating out of 1000, and says:

  • 0-409 is very poor
  • 410-519 is poor
  • 520-604 is fair/average
  • 605-724 is good
  • 725+ is excellent

What credit score do I need for car finance?

Whatever your credit score might be, Zuto works with lenders that try to find you a deal. If your score is poor or bad, we may still be able to help you get car finance.

Why is my credit score important when applying for car finance?

When you apply for car finance, your lender will consider a range of factors when determining how much you’ll be able to borrow and at what rate.

If you have a great credit score, you’ll usually be offered the best rates, whereas a poor credit score can mean you’re offered car finance with a slightly higher rate of interest. This is because you’re considered to be a higher risk to lend to. Find out how much you might be eligible to borrow with our handy car finance calculator.

Does applying for a car loan affect my credit score?

Applying for car finance with Zuto won't affect your credit rating. If you apply for quotes with Zuto, we'll just carry out a 'soft search' – this simply tells us your score and can’t be seen by other lenders.

When you confirm you'd like to proceed, there'll then be a 'hard search', which gives lenders more details and is recorded on your file.

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How quickly can I increase my credit score?

Some of the above actions can make a swift change to your score, like paying bills on time and utilising less of your available credit. However, other actions may take longer.

As credit scores are decided by various factors, you may have to address a number of issues over some time to see a difference.

Why should I improve my credit score?

Improving your credit score is the most effective way of enhancing your chances of getting car finance. For more advice, head over to the Zuto blog, or discover even more car finance help and advice from our experts.

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