You might not know it, but every time you take out any kind of loan or credit or pay something back, it gets counted on your credit rating. Who keeps a record on you will vary according to where you live, but the big three credit reference agencies are Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. They will provide your credit rating to any company that is thinking of lending you money.
What is Included in Your Credit Rating
All the debts you currently have are included in your credit rating. There is a history of all the debts you’ve had in the past ten years or so, and special emphasis is put on anything that has gone wrong. Defaulting (never paying) on any debt will ruin your credit rating completely. Borrowing a lot before you start paying anything back will make you look like a very bad risk, and so will going all the way up to (or even over) your limit on a credit card.
It is also worth considering that the credit reports of anyone you live with may be linked to your report, and could reflect badly on you – your wife or husband’s credit rating is tied to yours quite closely.
How Your Credit Rating is Worked Out
The most common method of coming up with your rating is called ‘FICO’, named after the Fair Isaac Corporation, who invented it. Your current credit status is prioritized, in this order: whether you’ve paid past debts, how much debt you currently have, your credit history, the types of debt you use, and how many times your rating has been checked recently. Things that happened more recently are given more weight than things that happened a long time ago.
Why Your Credit Rating is Important
Any time you get turned down for a credit card or any other loan, the chances are that it was because of your credit rating. Companies giving out small loans are far more likely to rely completely on this rating than to bother checking your income, and a worse rating will mean that you are offered a higher interest rate.
Your rating is important when you get car loans and mortgages too. You don’t want to find a house you love only to get turned down for the mortgage thanks to your habit of paying your credit card bills late.
How to Check Your Credit Rating
Credit reference agencies can’t hold your information on file without telling you what it is they have. If you write them a letter and pay a very small fee, they have to send you the full credit report that they have about you.
You can then check over your credit rating, and send a letter back to the agency telling them about anything that you think isn’t right. You might find that a screw-up has made you look bad when it wasn’t your fault. They will include anything you send in your file.
In some countries, you may find that you can sign up to get credit reports regularly for a small fee, or even for free! Make sure to check your local laws.