Do you need to check your credit records at both Experian and Equifax? They are the two largest credit reference agencies (CRAs) in Britain. Which gives the most accurate score? And what about Call Credit, the third and smaller CRA, can you ignore that?
I often get asked these questions. Most people would prefer a single CRA with “the right answer” and don’t want to have to look at different ones. But that’s not how things work :(
In 2016 there are now a confusingly large range of ways to check your credit file. Sign up to them all and you won’t be able to move for data and it will cost a fortune. So see Which is the best way to check your credit score? for my suggestions.
If you do get your credit scores from all three CRAs, you may be surprised that they aren’t all the same…
“Why are some of my debts missing?”
Not all lenders report to all the CRAs. So if you have a loan from a lender that only reports to Call Credit, then it isn’t going to show up on Experian or Equifax. If you have had missed payments or a default on this loan, then you are likely to find that your Noddle score, which checks Call credit records, is a lot lower than your Experian and Equifax scores.
There isn’t a public database of who reports to which CRA. On MoneySavingExpert one forum poster has a list based on what other forum posters have reported, which he tries to keep up to date – see Who really uses who? That shows two lots of information – which CRAs a lender checks before offering credit (“Search”) and which CRAs a lender reports to monthly about whether your payment was on time, late or missed (“Report”).
If some of your debts are really old – perhaps a credit card you took out a long while ago which you are still using – it may not appear on any credit records. This is because the original agreement you signed wouldn’t have included a statement that you consented to the lender sharing your data with the credit reference agencies.
“Why aren’t the credit scores the same?”
Even if two CRAs show the same details about the same debts, they may calculate a different credit score for you. This is the bit people find most difficult. For example, one reader had one small default, less than £50 over 4 years ago, which he paid off in full, then he found:
“Noddle gave me 2/5 with a default, then 1/5 when it was satisfied. Experian gave me a fantastic score 996/999 and Equifax middle of the range but above the national average.“
Another reader reported:
“With Equifax I have a poor score ( 360) so below national average and Experian an excellent score which is slightly confusing as they appear to have the exact same information.”
So which is best? The answer is that you shouldn’t think that any of them is “the right score”.
Lenders don’t use the CRA scores at all – they use their own systems to assess the details of your credit history. A lender that is lending longer or larger sums at a market leading rate is likely to be much fussier than your average store card. So whilst a bad credit lender won’t care if you have a few missed payments a few years ago, a mortgage lender may well reject your application.
“There are debts that aren’t mine on my record”
You are going to have to do some sleuthing to work out what is happening here. It could be you are being mixed up with another debtor or it could be identity theft. See Unknown debts on your credit file for more information about how to tackle this situation.
“Do I have to check all three CRAs?”
That depends on why you are checking your files.
If it’s just curiosity and you only want to be bothered with checking one, then go for Experian – they are used by a lot more lenders.
There are four situations where you really should check all of them:
- if you have been rejected for credit recently and are surprised about this. There may be errors on your credit file that need to be corrected, or even identity theft;
- if you want a mortgage in the next year or are going to make another important credit application.
Even if you think your credit file is spotless, still check all three CRAs – you don’t want to have a mortgage application turned down because of some error on a file that it will take months to correct!
- you are going to clean up your credit records after insolvency. I have written articles on how to do this after bankruptcy, after a IVA and after a DRO – it’s pretty much the same procedure (bankruptcy isn’t more difficult!) but the dates and the template letters are a bit different.
- if you want to add a Notice of Correction to your credit records. The three CRAs may not all show the same thing, so you need to check them all individually and correct them separately – see How to Add a Notice of Correction for more details.
Make sure you check every detail, not just the headline “score” and the list of your debts. Check your old addresses are correct if you have moved and see if you are linked to anyone that you shouldn’t be.