How to improve your credit score

If you improve your credit score it will help you access better deals on financial products and save you money. We reveal 10 tips to boost your score

Two people looking at a credit report on a smartphone
(Image credit: Getty images)

Knowing how to improve your credit score will help you access better deals and interest rates on financial products.

If you check your credit score and it is poor, or even if it is average but you really want to bump it up to “good” or “excellent”, there are usually some simple steps you can take to improve your score.

Here, we reveal 10 tips you can use to build your credit score.

How to improve your credit score

1. Register on the electoral roll

Make sure you’re registered at your current address. This will help lenders confirm your identity. If you’re worried about companies getting your details from the electoral roll and sending you unwanted post, you can opt out of the “open register (opens in new tab)”.

If you aren't eligible to vote in the UK so can't be on the electoral roll, ask all three credit reference agencies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - to add a “notice of correction” to your credit file saying you can provide proof of residency, such as a utility bill or UK driving licence.   

2. Make all your repayments on time

This may sound obvious, but making your payments on time every month over a long period of time can really make a difference. 

It shows lenders that you can manage credit responsibly, and will help strengthen your score.

3. Check your credit report and fix any errors

Check your credit report regularly to see if there are any errors. For example, there may be a debt you don’t recognise, or it could have the wrong address. Depending on the error, your first port of call is usually to contact the financial provider to ask if they can fix it (which will then be updated in your credit report). 

You can also ask the credit reference agency to amend the report. If it refuses to amend it, you can add your own notice of correction.

Bear in mind you can keep an eye on your credit report for free, by signing up to Credit Karma (opens in new tab) (which uses TransUnion) or ClearScore (opens in new tab) (which uses Equifax). There is no need to pay the monthly fee that agencies often charge following a free trial. 

4. Check for fraudulent activity

When you’re checking your credit report, you should also look out for any fraudulent activity. 

If fraudsters gain access to your personal details, they could take out credit in your name without you realising. 

If you spot an application you don’t recognise, flag it immediately.

5. Keep your credit utilisation low

Most credit scoring models tend to reward you for only using a small amount of your credit limit. 

So, if you have a credit card with a £5,000 credit limit, you may get a better score if you only use around £1,000 of it, rather than maxing it out every month.

6. Cut financial links with ex partners or housemates

If you have any joint financial accounts, these could influence a lender’s decision when you apply for a new product. 

If you’ve cut ties with an ex partner or former housemate, make sure you close the joint account (or transfer it to an individual account) and ask credit rating agencies to add a “notice of disassociation” to your file. 

7. Do a soft search before applying

Applying for a financial product usually leaves a footprint on your credit file. 

If you’re turned down for the productand then try and apply for a different one all these applications leave footprints, and too many footprints can negatively affect your credit score. 

You can instead do a “soft search”, which will indicate whether you’re likely to be accepted, and doesn’t leave a mark on your credit report. Our friends at Go.Compare (opens in new tab) have a range of eligibility calculators that you can try. 

You can also ask lenders if they can do a soft search - also known as a quotation search - before you apply formally.

8. Consider using a free scheme to record your rent and Netflix payments

There are a couple of free schemes that claim to improve your credit score by adding payments not traditionally shown on credit files, such as rent and video streaming services. 

For example, the Rental Exchange Initiative (opens in new tab) records your rental payments by adding them to your Experian credit report. Lenders that use Experian can then see you've been paying your rent on time. 

Experian also offers “Experian Boost (opens in new tab)” which allows users to share information about their regular spending, such as payments to savings accounts and ISAs, council tax payments, and payments to Netflix and Spotify. It could improve your credit score. 

9. If your score is very low, consider taking out a credit builder card

If you’re struggling to apply for a mainstream credit card due to a low credit score, a credit builder card can help. 

These cards can rebuild your score, and typically have low spending limits and high interest rates. 

Be aware when you first get the card, it might cause your score to drop temporarily. But used well, it should start to improve your score.

10. Avoid these big mistakes

There are some things that will leave a long-lasting stain on your credit report, such as bankruptcy and county court judgements (CCJs). 

These stay on your credit report for six years. Make every effort to avoid these. 

We highlight other common credit score pitfalls  to watch out for. 

Read more

Ruth Emery

Ruth Emery is contributing editor at The Money Edit. Ruth is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times. A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service. Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.