Bad Credit and Buy Now, Pay Later.
A Guide to help you get approved.

If you’ve ever applied for a loan, a credit card, or a buy now, pay later service, you will be familiar with the concept of credit checks, credit profiles, good credit scores & bad credit scores. That said, if these ‘things’ haven’t been explained to you, it can be quite confusing and you can be damaging your credit profile without realising. On this page we’re going to break it down so that by the end of this guide you’ll have the answers to the following questions;

Read on and we’ll provide answers to all of these questions.


How to find your credit score?

In its simplest form, a credit score is a number that represents the risk you pose to a potential lender when you are making a credit application. Typically credit scores are plotted in a range of 0 - 700 or 0 - 999, either way the higher your score the better.

Your credit score is determined by a number of different factors, including but not limited to;

  • Your residential status
  • The number of credit accounts you already have
  • Your use of your existing credit accounts
  • Your repayment history
  • The overall value of current debts
Lenders and buy now, pay later apps will use other indicators before accepting or rejecting your application for a credit account but having a good credit score is one of the key requirements to being accepted.

What is a credit score used for?

A credit score is an essential tool that helps lenders make responsible lending decisions.

  • Having a high credit score (good credit) tells a lender that you are likely to be a good person to lend to and that you will likely repay any money you borrow without issue.
  • Having a low credit score (bad credit) tells a lender that you are potentially a higher risk to lend to and that you might not repay money you borrow on time or at all.

Not all lending decisions are as simple as accepted or declined, in some cases lenders may have a range of products designed for people with different credit scores. In this case, having a good or bad credit score can also affect which product, if any, that those lenders offer to you. Your credit score can affect;

  • The credit limit you are offered,
  • The interest rate (APR) you are charged, 
  • The repayment duration over which you are offered credit,
  • Whether you are entitled to additional features.
  • A credit score isn’t only used when applying for credit accounts.

Having a bad credit history may cause landlords to not accept you as a tenant or utilities companies may force you to take a pre-pay metre for your gas and electricity services.

In short: building and maintaining a good credit score should be high on your agenda.

How to find your credit score

Accessing your credit profile is easy and can be done online using services provided directly by, or in partnership with, the three main credit reference agencies, also known as CRAs, in the UK. They are;

Each of these Credit Reference Agencies work with banks, lenders, financial institutions, local authorities and other companies to record and store different elements of your use of credit and other aspects of your personal information so that they can formulate your credit score.

It is always a good idea to check your credit before making a major credit application, such as a loan or mortgage. However keeping an eye on your score each month is also advised if you are eager to improve or maintain your score.

Note: Whilst each CRA will hold slightly different data about you, generally speaking, whatever range your score is on one of the CRAs, your score will likely be very similar on the others.

How to find your credit score

Owned and operated by Experian, CreditExpert is a paid service that costs £14.99 per month (30-day free trial) and delivers access to daily reporting. This allows you to stay on top of any information recorded and shared with Experian. The service is supported by a user-friendly dashboard and includes web monitoring and fraud support. It will also provide credit report alerts and give actionable tips on how to keep building good credit.

CheckMyFile is another paid service costing £14.99 per month (30-day free trial) and provides insight into your credit score based on data held by both CallCredit and Equifax. It is very useful for checking discrepancies between the two CRAs while also pinpointing potentially problematic accounts held on your file.

ClearScore is a free service that is supported by an easy-to-use dashboard. It offers a monthly update of your credit score based on information held about you by Equifax. ClearScore gives you clear figures on accounts held, utilisation, short and long-term debts. It also pinpoints issues that need addressing, such as signing up to the electoral roll.

Noddle is a free service that connects to your Equifax credit score. It provides a list of your accounts, payment history for six years, searches performed over the last two years, electoral roll info, any financially linked people, and current or previous address details. It can be accessed at any time and updates each month.


How to improve your credit score

Securing a good credit score isn’t an overnight task.

It may take months (or even years) to reach your desired status. However, you can start to see significant progress quite quickly. The first process to go through is checking your basic information is present and correct and that there is nothing on your credit profile that you don’t recognise, start by checking;

  • Your full name and date of birth.
  • The current and previous addresses held on file.
  • Your current status on the electoral register.
  • Current account details relating to overdrafts.
  • Financial partners, such as your joint bank account holder.
  • Details of any open or closed credit accounts.
  • Details of fraud or identity theft.
  • Data of County Court Judgements, bankruptcy, and other public records.

If any of the details are incorrect, you must fix them ASAP. To do this, call the CRA directly, their details will be available vis their websites, and provide details of the corrections that need to be made. Once you’ve got the basics up to date you should see an improvement in your score quite quickly - as soon as within 30 days but occasionally it may take longer for the changes to fully take affect.

Improving your score further requires a slightly more long term approach and requires you to take responsibility of your finances in order to earn a better score over time.

Avoid making too many applications

There’s nothing wrong with applying for credit, not least because you need a chance to build your credit history. However, applying for lots of different credit accounts does not suggest responsible borrowing. Instead, it makes you look desperate - and, therefore, a risk.

Cancel unused cards

Store cards, credit cards, and other accounts may harm your credit score even when you don’t use them. If your credit report shows any accounts that are no longer in use, it might be worth contacting the provider to formally close the account.

Pay your bills

It’s a bit of an obvious one, but paying your bills ‘in full, and on time’ will boost your score. Do this regularly and it shows that you are able to efficiently manage your finances. Missed payments can stay on your file for six years - so try to avoid them at all costs.

Break free from past links

There are many reasons why you may not be financially linked to someone anymore. A break-up, moving out of a house share, and family death are just some of the examples. Fail to separate yourself from those links, and your score could be harmed by their habits.

Stay vigilant to fraud

Encountering fraud is scary, not least because it can impact your credit score for years. Any abrupt changes or unexplained credit applications should be reported to CRAs immediately to prevent any lasting damage.

Update your details

If you seem hard to contact, creditors won’t be happy. Any changes to addresses, phone numbers, or other personal info should be reported at the earliest stage. If nothing else, it ends any damage caused by people now linked to those addresses.

Check your score before you apply

Technically, this step doesn’t boost your credit score. However, it will protect it from pointless applications. Before applying for a new line of credit, view your credit score and ask yourself whether you think it’s good enough to be accepted. If it’s not looking great, wait until you’ve improved your score before you apply.

Join the electoral roll

This is very useful if you are in a long-term place of residency. Even if you don’t plan to vote, it is a simple step that takes a matter of minutes and can give your credit score a healthy boost. Remember to update your details if you move.

Go little and often

When using a credit card or line of credit, try to keep it little and often. This means you’ll have a low utilisation while regularly clearing the account, this kind of activity helps boost your score. It also helps you avoid paying costly interest charges.

Get your name on bills you pay

If you currently pay your mobile phone or gas bill under someone else’s name, you are boosting their credit score. Wherever possible, get your name on the bill if you pay all or part of it.

The Final Word

Your credit score plays a huge role in your financial health, impacting the lines of credit available to you as well as how much interest you pay when you need to borrow money.

Thankfully, with a little effort, it is possible to view, correct, and improve your credit report with some truly life-changing results.

While a good credit score alone won’t guarantee that a lender accepts your future applications, it’ll certainly open more doors.

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