The chances are you have come across the term “credit score” on numerous occasions. It is one of those subjects we all know about. But do we know what it means? How might a credit score impact your life? What is the average credit score in the UK?
To understand the importance of your credit score, we need to look at who calculates your credit score and how they do it.
What is a credit score?
If you Google the term "credit score" or "credit report", you will likely see it described as reflecting an individual's creditworthiness. However, there is an awful lot more to your credit score than just creditworthiness, as we will cover. Perhaps the best way to describe this is a rating of your financial management skills. The higher your credit score, the better your financial management skills and financial situation are perceived to be. As such, you may enjoy better access to credit and finance and more attractive interest rates and offers. The reverse is true if your credit score is on the low side.
How is your credit score calculated?
There are several credit rating agencies (CRAs), each with slightly different criteria and weightings when calculating your credit score. All of the information used to calculate your credit score is in your credit file, which contains information such as:
- Credit history
- Amounts outstanding
- Payment history
- New credit applications
As you will see from the table below, using data taken from the Experian website, each of these factors is given a particular weighting when calculating your credit score. As you would expect, payment history is the most meaningful measure. This element will take into account missed payments. In essence, this reflects your ability to keep up with your repayments. Then we have amounts owed, credit history, new credit, and mix of credit agreements – all taken into account when calculating your score.
|Influence On Credit Score|
Other factors will also have a (reduced) impact on your credit scoring system, such as:
- Whether you are on the electoral roll
- The number of bank accounts you apply for
- Recent CCJs
- Mobile phone accounts
As new information can be added to your credit file and be used to calculate your credit score, credit rating agencies will only calculate your current score when there is an enquiry. Consequently, don't be alarmed if the next time you apply for credit, you see a different credit score next time you check your report.
This enquiry could be from a third party business or individuals using credit score tracking services. The information in your credit file will generally remain "live" for seven years, after which it will not impact your credit score. Consequently, those who have complicated financial histories can, in due course, improve their credit rating.
Who are the major credit rating agencies in the UK?
There are three leading credit reference agencies in the UK:
There is also a fourth company called Crediva which specialises in "alternative credit scoring models", which they believe improves traditional credit risk analysis. The three leading credit rating providers manage credit files for individuals and businesses. As we touched on above, the information in these files is then used to calculate credit scores.
As you will see online, many companies offer credit score services. To calculate their version of your credit score, they will need access to the credit file managed by the above companies. So, while the credit score services deliver your actual credit score, the credit files are the vital element of this process.
What is the average credit score across the UK?
The three leading credit rating agencies have slightly different formulas and use their own score range. For example, this is the data for the three top agencies in the UK:
- Average Equifax credit score 383 (0 to 700)
- Average Experian credit score 759 (0 to 999)
- Average TransUnion credit score 610 (0 to 710)
While Experian has the highest average score, this must be considered relative to the range (Equifax scores have the shortest range). You would be deemed to have a good score if above the average and a bad credit score if significantly below this level. Those with a much higher credit score will have access to a greater choice of finance.
When you log into any credit rating agency's services, they tend to highlight your credit score in graphical format. The lower the dial, the lower the score, and the less flexibility you're likely to have around credit options. For example, if your rating is low, you may still have access to 10 credit cards, but they will likely charge higher interest rates. These services also allow you to see the range of different scores. As these services record similar information in your credit file, they should broadly reflect the same scenario, just using different scales.
Average credit report scores by location and age
To give you an idea of average credit scores across the UK, we have looked at the information for the top five populated cities:
- City of London
Average credit score by location
The following table denotes the average credit score in each of the five major cities. Each score is calculated out of a maximum of 999.
Average Credit Score
City of London
Average credit score by age
If we now dig a little deeper, using different age bands, the range of credit scores starts to expand and become a little more interesting. It is important to remember that only 18 year-olds and above will have a credit score.
The Experian website again provides the following information to compare like-for-like with the above table.
18 – 20
21 – 25
26 – 30
31 – 35
36 – 40
41 – 45
46 – 50
51 – 55
As you can see from the above information, there is one standout trend. Credit scores tend to be relatively high for those aged 18 to 20, perhaps because they have limited debt in the early days. The average credit score then dips in the following age groups before rising again for over 50s. It may be that over 50s have fully repaid their mortgages, which can obviously reduce financial pressure, hence their relatively high credit rating.
What is a good credit score?
The Experian credit score map is a handy means of comparing and contrasting your credit score against your region and age group. However, you must compare apples with apples instead of apples with pears to put this in context. For example, the employment opportunities, cost of living and additional expenses are very different in London compared to Newcastle.
In theory, income and expenditure should be relative across different regions of the UK, but this is not always the case. So, compare your credit score with those of the same age group in your area and then compare this to the average UK score. Doing so will give you an idea of whether you are below, around, or above average.
Does your credit report score really matter?
You'll undoubtedly see differences of opinion regarding credit scores and how much they matter. However, the fact remains that information in your credit file and your credit score is the only way a lender can understand your financial management skills. Contrary to popular belief, there is no "banned list" of individuals who won’t have access to any credit. Whether a credit card company, lender or even mobile telephone company, each third party will obtain your current credit score and make a decision based on their criteria.
As we touched on above, the information in your credit file covers the previous rolling seven-year period – not six years, as some people believe. Consequently, you may have had difficulties eight years ago, which would no longer impact your credit score. Indeed, as your historical financial information approaches the seven-year tipping point, it will become less influential. Thus, while people may argue about the details of your credit score and its importance, it does matter.
Do you need to monitor your credit file entries?
Unfortunately, a rogue entry on your credit file could impact your credit score and restrict credit services available to you. Consequently, you must monitor your credit file entries regularly. There may be misunderstandings, simple errors, or the information may not be accurate. If you see any errors, you must raise a dispute with the relevant parties as soon as possible.
If your dispute is upheld, the relevant credit reference agency will remove the information from your credit file immediately, and future calculations of your credit score will reflect this. Therefore, it is dangerous to assume that all information in your credit file is accurate. Keep checking!
How can you improve your credit score?
Thankfully, there are ways and means to improve your credit score, which should hopefully open up additional credit lines in future. Even if you have one of the worst credit scores, there are still ways to improve your score, such as:
- Pay your bills on time
- Retain old credit cards to extend your credit history
- Build a credit history by using different services, but remain in control
- Try not to use more than 25% of your available credit – above this level will negatively impact your credit score
- Limit your number of credit applications
To expand on the final point, a lender will conduct a credit check each time you apply for credit. These show on your credit file and can affect your score. If you repeatedly apply for credit over a relatively short period, this could set alarm bells ringing for future lenders.
It is essential to go back to the basics of your credit file and your credit score. These reflect, among other things, your financial management skills. So even though you may retain an old credit card to extend your credit history, this does not mean that you have to overspend.
How does your credit score compare against the average?
The above information will give you an idea of the average UK credit score and variations for different regions and age groups. Of course, credit scores are not static figures and vary depending on your credit history, payment history and other elements detailed above. However, regular checking of your credit score may allow you to improve ahead of, for example, a mortgage application in a couple of years.
Your credit score will ultimately decide whether a mortgage company will extend credit and impact the headline interest rate available. So treat your credit score with respect!