Credit reference agency Equifax has updated its credit score scale to help customers better understand how their credit information may be viewed by a lender and whether a credit application is likely to be approved.
Equifax collects data about you to build your credit report and this information is used to generate your Equifax Credit Score, which gives you an indication of your chances of being approved for credit.
Here, which one? explains what Equifax’s new scale means and how to increase your credit score.
What does your Equifax credit score mean now?
There are three main credit reference agencies in the UK: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – and each will hold a credit report and generate a credit score based on your information.
Previously, the Equifax credit score scale ranged from zero to 700 and was divided into five categories: very poor, poor, fair, good and excellent.
Now your Equifax score is over 1,000 and is still divided into five bands, but now starts at “poor” and includes a new rating category, “very good.”
|What your score means||The Old Equifax Credit Score Scale||The New Equifax Credit Score Scale|
|Very poor||0 to 278||–|
|Poor||279 to 366||0 to 438|
|Fair||367 to 419||439 to 530|
|Good||420 to 466||531 to 670|
|very well||–||671 to 810|
|Excellent||467 to 700||811 to 1000|
Equifax says the new system will not make it easier or more difficult for Equifax customers to access credit.
For example, if someone previously had a score of 467 – in the excellent band – it is more than likely that their score will increase to between 811 and 1000 and therefore remain in the excellent band.
The problem with credit scores
There is no universal credit score. Each lender has their own system for scoring and deciding whether or not to accept you as a client, which means you could be turned down by one and successful with another.
But to give you a better idea of how your application might look to lenders, credit reference agencies produce their own version of your credit score.
The higher this number, the more likely you are to get the best credit deals – but a good score from a credit reference agency does not guarantee that your application will be accepted.
Lenders may check one, two, or all three agencies before approving your application, so it’s important to make sure your score is good with all three. This can be difficult as each credit reference agency may collect slightly different information and will have its own scoring method.
Equifax’s credit score scale change almost aligns it with Experian’s which goes from 0 to 999, but you might still find it confusing because the bands are uncorrelated and TransUnion’s credit score does not only goes up to 710.
For example, a score below 560 is “very bad” with Experian and “mediocre” with TransUnion, but “good” with Equifax.
|What your score means
||Very bad: 0 to 560||–||Very bad: 0 to 550|
|Poor: 561 to 720||Poor: 0 to 438||Poor: 551 to 565|
|Fair: 721 to 880||Fair: 439 to 530||Fair: 566 to 603|
|Good: 881 to 960||Good: 531 to 670||Good: 604 to 627|
|–||Very good: 671 to 810||–|
|Excellent: 961 to 999||Excellent: 811 to 1,000||Excellent: 628 to 710|
How to increase your credit score
Lenders, landlords, utility companies, insurance companies and others may look at your credit report to help them decide whether or not to approve you for their products or services.
It is therefore important to ensure that your credit score is as high as possible.
Paying off what you owe on time, registering to vote, getting rental information linked to your report, and keeping a low credit balance can help boost your score.
Which credit reference agency should I use?
All three agencies should have the same basic information, such as whether you’re on the voters list at your current address and how much you currently owe lenders, but chances are there will be three slightly different versions of your credit.
Indeed, the amount of personal data in a credit report is increasing as individuals and businesses begin to share more information about their payment habits, although not necessarily to all agencies.
For example, Experian Boost lets you share data about regular payments like your council tax bill and your Netflix subscription to help boost your Experian credit score.
So, since the information held about you may differ between credit reference agencies, it’s best to check all three.
You can do this for free and see a basic version of your report or you can upgrade to a paid subscription for more details. After a 30-day free trial, Experian’s CreditExpert account and Transunion charge £14.99 per month, while Equifax costs £7.95 per month.
In some cases, you may need to use a specific agency. For example, you can apply for a mortgage with a particular lender who uses Equifax to check your credit report. If so, you should check to see if your Equifax credit report is up-to-date and accurate to increase your chances of being approved.
Get acquainted with the often mysterious world of credit reports, find out what can impact your personal file and the wider implications for your ability to borrow in one of the latest episodes of Which? Money Podcast.