When you’re applying for credit: whether that be a mortgage, an overdraft, a credit card, or even a mobile phone contract, your credit report will be checked by the lender to make sure that you’re a good credit risk.
Your credit report includes a history of the accounts that you’ve used in the past: from credit cards to bank accounts, each of these is reported back to one (or more) of the three Credit Reference Agencies in the UK.
You should check your credit report at least annually, just to make sure that nothing untoward is on there: if you don’t recognise something on your report, you could be the victim of identity fraud.
How can I check my report?
There’s a free service called Noddle, run by CallCredit, the smallest of the three credit reference agencies. This allows you to get a free copy of your credit report, as well as a score out of five. There’s also a few paid add-ons, but the free service is the easiest way to get a copy of your file from CallCredit.
There’s two more credit reference agencies (Equifax and Experian), which may have slightly different information about you. Unfortunately, neither of these offer a free service, and whilst both Equifax and Experian offer online credit monitoring (Credit Watch and Credit Expert), they both charge a monthly fee after the free trial is up: plus you usually have to go through a sales pitch over the phone to cancel.
For a small fee of £2, you can get a copy of your credit report, but without a score. For Equifax, you can view it online instantly, but for Experian, they’ll send you a code in the post if you request to view your report online: so it’s probably best to just ask for the whole thing by post.
You might also want to check whether credit monitoring is included with your credit card – some Capital One credit cards includes a limited version of Equifax Credit Watch that doesn’t include your credit score, but does let you refresh your credit report twice a year, and sends you alerts when your account changes.