What is a credit score?

When you apply for credit, lenders check a number of things before making a decision, including your credit score.

Why a good credit score is important

Credit reference agencies securely hold information about you and your financial past, using this information to give you a credit score. All lenders refer to this information, which helps them to assess the risk of offering you credit.

  • The higher the credit score, the more likely it is an application will be accepted.
  • The lowest interest rates are offered to low risk applicants, who have a good track record of managing credit well.
  • The credit limit you’re offered is also influenced by your credit score.

It’s useful to know that each credit reference agency uses a slightly different scale for credit scoring.

 

For a quick summary, watch our short video.

Watch our video to learn more about credit scores.
  • When you apply for a borrowing product like a credit card or loan, lenders will consider a number of factors to decide whether they can lend to you responsibly, one of those factors is called a credit score. If you also have a good payment history on all your accounts, have low outstanding debts and are able to afford your repayments, a good credit score means you're more likely to be seen as a lower credit risk. 

    Usually the higher your credit score the better and that means you're more likely to be offered credit. You're also more likely to be offered lower interest rates which makes borrowing cheaper and more likely to be offered higher credit limits.

    To work out your credit score, a lender checks a number of things which may include details on your application form, how you've managed your accounts in the past and information from a credit reference agency. Some of this information is given a score. The lender adds up those scores as part of their credit score assessment and may check policy rules and affordability. They'll then decide whether they can lend to you and on what terms. 

    Credit reference agencies are companies that hold important information on people's identity, address and personal financial history. These companies get some of their information from public records like the electoral register and from court records. They'll also have information from other lenders showing whether you made repayments on time. Many lenders including Bank of Scotland offer eligibility checkers - ours is called One Check. This can help you find out what credit cards you may be eligible to apply for. Your answers to eligibility checker questions are not available to credit reference agencies and therefore they do not affect your credit score.

    There are lots of things you can do that may improve your credit score over time. These include checking you're registered as a voter, making sure you pay your bills in time, clearing your debts and not regularly maxing out your credit card limits. 

    You should also avoid applying for lots of credit cards or loans at the same time. Your credit score is an important part of managing your borrowing so we hope you found this video helpful.

    To find out more about credit scoring, please go to www.bankofscotland.co.uk/credit scoring

What else do lenders consider?

In addition to your credit score, lenders take a number of factors into consideration when making decisions about a credit application.

Details provided by you

As part of the application you’ll be asked for some personal and financial information, including your address, employment status and current income.

Affordability

Lenders also consider what you can reasonably and sustainably afford to repay, based on things like your income and the total amount of credit that’s already available to you.

Current and past accounts

Lenders usually hold a record of accounts you’ve held with them before, including information about how well they were managed.

Make sure you manage credit carefully

The best way to protect and improve your credit score is to use and manage credit carefully. The following things could affect your score and your ability to get credit in future:

  • Declined applications
    If you submit a full credit application, a full credit search will be completed. If you’re declined, this will affect your credit score.
  • Multiple applications
    If you submit a number of full credit applications in a short period, that can also negatively impact your credit score. If you’re declined, it’s a good idea to wait at least 6 months before trying again.
  • Missing payments
    You must make at least the minimum payment on time each month, as detailed on your statements. If you miss a payment, this will be recorded on your credit record.
  • Going over your credit limit
    If you go over your agreed credit limit, that may also be reported on your credit record.

How to check your credit score

It’s a good idea, especially if you’re planning to apply for credit, to check that the details held by each credit reference agency is accurate. If it’s not, you could apply to have the information corrected. Bank of Scotland primarily use Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

Improving your credit score

It may take some time, but there are things you can do to boost your credit score:

  • Always pay bills on time – that includes credit card, utility and other household bills.
  • Stay below your credit card limits and try to reduce your balances whenever possible.
  • Avoid making multiple credit applications in a short period.
  • Make sure you’re on the electoral register.

Looking for a new credit card?

Many lenders now provide an eligibility checker to help you find and compare cards you’re likely to be accepted for, without impacting your credit score. The Bank of Scotland version is called One Check.

Check your eligibility

Frequently asked credit score questions

  • All lenders have different criteria for assessing applicants. If you have a low credit score, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t borrow, but it may mean that you aren’t offered the lowest interest rates or a high credit limit.

    Submitting a number of credit applications could affect your credit score further, so look for lenders who offer an eligibility check first. That way you can find out if you’re eligible to apply for a credit card, without affecting your credit score.

  • All credit reference agencies collect similar information, although they don’t necessarily hold the same details, which is why it’s a good idea to check more than one if you’re working to build your score.

    As well as information about the way you manage credit accounts, credit reference agencies also collect details from public sources, such as the electoral register and court records.

  • If you’ve checked the information held by a credit reference agency and there’s an error, you can contact the agency and ask them to investigate and correct their records.

    They’ll make a Notice of Correction, which anyone reviewing your credit history in the future will take into consideration.