What are Credit Reference Agencies?

Credit Reference Agencies decide your credit score. A credit reference agency (CRA) is an independent organisation that collects and stores financial data about you for the purpose of helping lenders decide whether you should be approved for financial products like credit cards, loans or mortgages. Each CRA has its own numerical scale that they use to assign you a credit score, which signals to lending institutions how financially responsible you are.  CRAs might be referred to as Credit Rating Agencies or Credit Bureaus. 

What’s the Difference Between Lenders and Credit Reference Agencies?

It’s important to note the difference between lenders and credit reference agencies:

  • Lenders, also known as banks or financial institutions, grant loans and access to new lines of credit to borrowers using data provided by the independent credit reference agencies. Halifax, HSBC, and Barclay’s are all examples of lenders in the UK.
  • Credit Reference Agencies, collect, store and provide your financial history and credit score to lenders. Lenders will use this information when deciding if they should approve your line of credit or not. 

Which Bank uses Which Credit Score?

The chart below shows which bank uses an Experian, Equifax or TransUnion credit score.

Chart showing which Credit Score different banks in the UK use to assess your creditworthiness

*note Amex state they will primarily use Experian data, but may pull data from TransUnion and Equifax should there not be enough information on your file. Other banks may pull additional data if required.

Your Credit Score Determines If You Get Approved for:

To maximise your chance of approval for any of the above, you should look at which credit reference agency and credit score your lender/institution uses. Pick a lender/provider that will look at your best score!

Then look at what bills report to that agency. Make sure that your good financial habits will count towards a credit score your lenders are using to assess you.

What Information Do Credit Reference Agencies Hold?

CRAs typically only keep 6 years’ worth of data at a time. They  hold the following information about you:

  • Personal information like your name, address and former addresses over the past six years.
  • How many financial accounts you’ve had in the past six years along with when they were opened.
  • Certain bill payments including missed or late payments. This can include payments for credit cards, mobile contracts, and much more. For a detailed list of who reports your bills to which CRA look below. 
  • The amount of credit that is currently available to you and how much you currently use – this is called your credit utilisation ratio.
  • Who you are financially associated with (eg. who you have a joint account with).
  • If you have had a CCJ, IVA, default or bankruptcy and when each event occurred.

How do Credit Reference Agencies Collect Data About You?

Credit reference agencies use a combination of public records and partnerships with private companies to collect and store financial data about you. Public records that they access include the electoral roll and the Individual Insolvency Register. Private company partnerships include banks, credit card providers, utility suppliers and mobile phone companies.

What are the Three Main Credit Reference Agencies in the UK?

The UK has three main credit reference agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Each of the big three CRAs collect and hold information on you, but there are inherent differences between the three that you should know about. It’s true that everyone in the UK essentially has three different credit scores because the three companies do not use the same credit scoring system.

Let’s dive into the differences between the big three CRAs:

Experian:

Experian claims that over 8 million people regularly check their credit score for free using their online services. While Experian is certainly one of the most well known credit scoring companies in the UK, they do things a bit differently. This includes using a vastly different credit scoring system than Equifax and TransUnion.

Score range: 0-999

What is a good Experian score?

0-560 Very Poor

561-720 Poor

721-880 Fair

881-960 Good

961-999 Excellent

It’s generally a good idea to check your credit score with Experian for free so you can make more informed choices when it comes to applying for credit.

How to Contact Experian:

Experian offers a few different ways to get in touch with them online, via phone or even by post! You can contact Experian:

  • Using their online form
  • By phone at 0800 013 8888 (Hours: M-F 08:30 – 16:30)
  • By post at:

Customer Support Centre, Experian Ltd, PO BOX 9000, Nottingham, NG80 7WF

Note: Some levels Experian support services require a subscription to CreditExpert a monthly fee of £14.99.

How to Cancel Experian Services:

If you wish to cancel a paid subscription or close your free Experian account you can follow these steps:

  1. First, navigate to the Experian website and log in to your account.
  2. Next,  go to ‘Subscriptions and Payments’. 
  3. From there, you can manage, cancel and add subscriptions. You will also be able to close your Experian account.

If you have trouble cancelling your Experian services online, try one of the contact options above to reach a customer service representative.

Which Lenders Use Experian Data?

The following lenders use Experian Data in 2021 according to our research:

  • Santander
  • Barclays
  • HSBC
  • Monzo
  • Bank of Ireland
  • RBS
  • Lloyds
  • Metro Bank
  • Nationwide
  • M&S Bank
  • TSB
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Starling
  • Amex
  • Yorkshire Bank
  • The Co-operative Bank

Equifax:

As one of the “big three” consumer credit reporting agencies, Equifax collects credit information from 800 million individuals and 88 million businesses worldwide. Here’s how Equifax breaks down their numerical credit score values:

Score range: 0-700

What is a good Equifax score?

  • 0-279: Very Poor
  • 280-379: Poor
  • 380-419: Fair
  • 420-465: Good
  • 466-700: Excellent

If you’re curious, they also provide an interactive regional map where you can see the average Equifax credit score in your area.

How to Contact Equifax

If you’re looking to get in touch with Equifax with questions about your credit report, business account, or additional products and services they offer, you can call 08000 850 650 or fill out a contact form on their website.

How to Cancel Your Equifax Services

  1. First, navigate to the Equifax website and log in.
  2. Click on My Account and then Project Management.
  3. You should see a display of every Equifax subscription you are part of. Underneath each, you should see an option to cancel that service completely.

If you are having difficulty canceling your Equifax services, you can do it through their customer service hotline at 0800 014 2955* or 0333 321 4043**. They are available from 8am – 8pm daily, although their holiday hours do vary.

Before calling, have your security details ready, as they will be required before making changes to your account.

*Calls are free from UK landlines and UK mobiles.

**Calls from landlines and mobiles are normally included in bundled call packages, otherwise calls cost 15p per minute plus 23p set up fee from a BT landline. Other networks and mobiles may vary.

Which Lenders Use Equifax Data?

The following lenders use Equifax Data in 2021 according to our research:

  • Santander
  • Barclays
  • RBS
  • Lloyds
  • Metro Bank
  • Starling
  • The Co-operative

TransUnion:

According to TransUnion, the majority of UK residents don’t know how their credit score is used, and about 50% have not viewed their credit report in over a year. TransUnion provides consumers with two ways to access their credit score: statutory report or Credit Karma.

A statutory report is helpful if you just want to check your current credit score. If you opt to receive your credit report using Credit Karma, you can expect to receive your credit report and score free for life with a status update every week. The Credit Karma version is comprehensive and will include the reasons behind negative marks to your score. 

It’s important to note that Credit Karma gets all of its credit information directly from TransUnion and TransUnion receives a commission for each customer who signs up for Credit Karma.

What’s a good TransUnion score?

Score range: 0-710

  • 0-550 – very poor
  • 561-565 – poor
  • 566-603 – fair
  • 604-627 – good
  • 628-710 – excellent

How to Contact TransUnion

If you recently applied for credit and were declined, but don’t understand why, you can reach out to TransUnion at 0330 024 7574 or [email protected]. To view common questions about your TransUnion credit score visit their FAQ webpage.

How to Cancel Your Credit Karma Account

  1. Navigate to the Credit Karma Website and log in to your account.
  2. Click on the ‘Help Center’ selection found in the bottom left corner on your account homepage.
  3. Once in the Help Center, type “deactivate account” into the search bar at the top.
  4. From there, click ‘Deactivate my Credit Karma account’.
  5. Finally, scroll down and click the red Cancel account button.

The agreement with Credit Karma begins upon account creation. Oftentimes these services make cancelling too difficult. Remember that you can always contact Credit Karma Member Support at [email protected] if you are having trouble. 

How to File a Complaint with TransUnion

To formally submit a complaint with TransUnion regarding the service you received from a TransUnion employee, you should directly file with the Customer Relations Department for investigation. This can be done either verbally or in writing via email to [email protected]. We highly recommend submitting the complaint in writing for a better paper trail.

Which Lenders Use TransUnion Data?

The following lenders use Experian Data in 2021 according to our research:

  • Halifax
  • NatWest
  • Santander
  • Barclays
  • RBS
  • Lloyds
  • Metro Bank
  • M&S Bank
  • TSB
  • Starling
  • The Co-operative

Ways to Check Your Credit Score for Free

As we’ve previously discussed, your credit score can typically be checked by signing up for a FREE account through one of the three main UK credit reference agencies.

Which credit cards and bank accounts get reported to which Credit Reference Agency?

Below you’ll see a list of credit cards and household bills that are reported to each Credit Reference Agency.

Chart showing which of the three main credit reference agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) major UK banks report to

Which household bills get reported to which Credit Reference Agency?

The chart below shows which household bills get reported to Experian, Equifax and TransUnion:

A chart showing which household bills, telecoms provider, mortgage lender and utility providers report to the three main credit reference agencies in the UK: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion

How to Read Your Credit Report

When you request a credit report from any of the big three CRAs, whether online or written hardcopy, you can expect to see a variety of data. If you haven’t checked your credit report in a long time, it may be worth getting a report from all three CRAs because, while they mostly contain the same info, there can be some variations here and there. Plus, it’s always worth ensuring there are no discrepancies from agency to agency. Common data you’ll find includes:

  • Data on all lines of credit/financial accounts (current accounts and credit cards, loan agreements, etc.)
  • People financially linked to you such as loan guarantors
  • CCJs, repossessions, and bankruptcies
  • Personal info like your date of birth and previous addresses
  • Electoral roll status
  • CIFAS info pertaining to stolen identity or fraud charges

Credit reports do NOT carry personal information such as your criminal record, religion, sexual orientation, salary, student loans, or savings accounts. 

When reading through your credit report, keep an eye out for mistakes in personal info, credit history, and public records — anything from incorrect addresses to fraudulent activity can have rippling consequences when attempting to access loans or lines of credit in the future.

What are County Court Judgements and How Can They Affect Your Credit Score?

A County Court Judgement (CCJ) is a court order that can be registered in your name if you have unpaid debts in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the equivalent is referred to as ‘enforcing a debt by diligence’. If you’ve received a CCJ by post, you are probably  wondering what your options are going forward. Here are a few frequently asked questions regarding CCJ’s:

  • Who can see my CCJ?

Since CCJ’s are a matter of public information, nearly anyone can take a look for a small fee – they’ll be able to see your name and address, the case and court number, and the amount of money owed. However, they will not be able to see who you owe the money to.

  • What information is included in a CCJ?

The judgment is public record and submitted to the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines—informing lenders that you are unable to repay a loan you have taken out. The report includes:

  • How much money you owe
  • How to settle your debt (in full or in installments)
  • Deadline to pay
  • Who to pay
  • How long do CCJs stay on your credit profile?

A CCJ can remain on your record for up to 6 years from the date of issue unless you pay the full amount owed within one month. A CCJ can have negative effects on your ability to obtain credit, employment and a place to live while it is actively on your report. 

The good news is the impact of a CCJ on your credit score decreases over time. That means your credit rating is likely to improve as your CCJ ages and as you manage your finances responsibly. Be sure to follow the terms and conditions of your CCJ and all other credit agreements to prevent any default on a payment.

  • Can I remove a CCJ from my credit profile? 

Yes! There are ways to properly deal with a CCJ on your credit profile. Learn how to remove a CCJ from your records from our guide.

Defaults on Your Credit Report

A default on your credit report indicates that you borrowed money or started a line of credit and were unable to pay it back under the terms of the agreement. In the UK, defaults will show on your credit report for up to 6 years. Even though the lender can’t re-register the default after 6 years (even if you still owe them money), you still won’t be out of the woods yet. The lender can still register a CCJ against you, or even sell your debt to a debt collector, which adds further headache and has other financial consequences. But lastly, it’s generally best to practice good financial habits to mitigate any bumps in the road life tosses at you.

A New Way to Build Your Credit

In today’s gig economy, service and freelance workers often depend on an inconsistent paycheck and are not provided the same financial products or resources to dig themselves out of financial hardship—this is where Portify can help. We partner with Experian to improve your credit history through your monthly membership fee of £4/month. Join a community of users who have seen their scores improve by up to 100 points in just three months.

Additional Resources

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Lauren Robson is the digital communications manager at Portify.
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