You may not realise it, but managing credit is a key life skill. But why is a credit file important, really? And what value can it bring to you? Well, your credit can affect a surprising number of areas in your life.
From your job to your phone, your car to your home, the impact is wide-reaching. What might seem like a small detail can follow you around and either help or harm you, depending on the information your file contains.
What is a credit file?
Your credit file is a record containing lots of information about how you handle debt, plus your current financial and living situation.
For instance, it details how much debt you currently have, how you pay your bills, if you have a phone contract, and whether you rent or own a property, among many other things. It can be a shock to the system to find out just how much of your life leaves a footprint on this file.
Why is managing credit important?
Managing your credit file is important in part because banks use the information it contains to decide if they’ll lend you money or give you a credit card, and whether they will offer you a good deal (lower interest rates, for example). Lending money is a risky business, and your credit file can tell lenders how reliable, or unreliable, you are.
But even if you’re not planning on taking a credit card or loan any time soon, your credit file is something you need to keep an eye on in the long term. This is because a variety of businesses and individuals may check your credit file to make key decisions about you:
One reason why managing your credit file is important because the state of your credit could impact what kind of phone you get.
As the cost of mobile phone handsets skyrocket, network providers such as Vodafone or EE want to know that their customers are on top of their finances. They will often check your credit to decide whether they will accept you as a customer and hand over a swish phone on monthly payments.
While you won’t need to have an extensive credit history to get a good phone, phone providers will check certain details before giving you their best contract deals.
Today, employers increasingly are looking at credit as a part of their Employment Reference checks. This is because your credit file is a good way to find out how responsible you are with money, which in turn can help predict what kind of employee you will be. Some employers take the view that if you can’t manage your credit, you’re unlikely to manage work responsibilities well.
This means that managing your credit well can help make sure you look as good as possible to potential employers. Don’t lose out on the job you want because of a problem on your credit file!
Your credit file can even affect your ability to rent a property. Landlords want to know that a potential tenant is going to be able to pay rent on time, and not fail to make payments. As part of tenant referencing, a landlord may check your credit file to see if you can be trusted to consistently make payments.
In fact, recent research shows that nearly half of private landlords in the UK run credit checks on potential tenants. In London, 95% of landlords say they do it.
Poor credit can therefore hurt your chances of moving in to a great new place. Better to avoid the heartache and get your credit in shape before getting rejected!
Utilities like gas and electricity are paid for after they are used, so if a customer is unreliable with payments it can end up costing the utilities company.
As a way of avoiding this, the best utilities companies (with the cheapest rates) will check your credit before accepting you as a customer. So your credit file is important if you want to spend less on your monthly bills.
Very poor credit might mean you won’t be accepted on a standard tariff and you may have to accept an expensive pre-paid plan.
Your credit file can affect your ability to spread the cost of your car or home insurance across a monthly payment plan. Monthly insurance quotes depend on insurance providers being able to trust that you will consistently pay what you owe.
So these companies will check the information on your credit file to make sure everything is in good order before offering you a pay-monthly deal.
Getting a credit card
A credit card is a valuable tool for insuring larger purchases and spreading payments out when you don’t want to burn all your cash at once. But terms and rates on credit cards vary, so it can be more or less affordable to use one depending on what card and deals you can get accepted for.
A stronger credit file will give you access to better credit card offers. You could pay less on interest, have longer interest-free periods, or a higher credit limit if you can prove you are good at managing credit.
Getting a car
A lot of people won’t have the cash up front to buy their dream car, so many rely on some form of car financing to spread payments over a longer period. This way, they can afford the car they really want.
Poor credit can be a barrier here – low interest rates for car financing are heavily dependent on your credit file. What this really means is that managing your credit well can be an important step towards affording your next car.
Getting a home
This is the area where your credit can potentially have the most dramatic impact on your life. If you ever plan on buying property, how you manage your credit will affect your ability to get a mortgage, and the terms of the mortgage you get.
Mortgage lenders are unlikely to lend to you if you have a poor credit file. And if they do, you will likely be borrowing at a high interest rate. By contrast, if you make the effort to build up an excellent credit history, they may feel you’re worthy of borrowing half a million pounds to buy a home, and at a truly reasonable rate of interest!
This means that your credit file has an impact on the kind of home you can afford to buy. If you can get accepted for the best mortgage deals, you can afford a much nicer property on the exact same income.
What information counts on my credit file?
Now we get to the juicy bit. At this point, you’re probably wondering what counts as an excellent credit file, so you can whip your own into shape. Well, there are a number of factors to consider, and you can read more about them here.
Thankfully at Credibble we have worked out what information lenders care about when they create their assessment of your credit file. We’ve decided to break this all down in your Lender Report, which we provide for free alongside a Lender Score, a score aligned to how lenders really see you.
This is unlike an ordinary credit score and report from a credit bureau. These are not in fact designed to accurately show or clearly explain how lenders prioritise and examine the information on your file.
So all you need to do is access your Lender Report. That’s where you can see a full breakdown of the factors that matter, and if there are any areas that you personally need to work on. This way, you can manage your credit with all the facts at your fingertips. Easy.
How can I boost my Lender Score?
Our in-house Einstein has toiled away to develop the UK’s very first score booster. This tool takes the guesswork out of managing credit, by showing practical tips you can take to improve your credit file.
If you plan on borrowing money in the short or long term, looking for a new job, or trying to get a better deal on your monthly bills, your Booster provides a roadmap to get you credit-ready.
Find out where you stand with your free Lender Report today