Whenever you apply for credit, whether it's for a credit card, mortgage or loan, or even when you attempt to sign up for a contract with a gas and electricity supplier or mobile phone network, the provider will rely heavily on your credit report to determine if you get accepted or rejected.
These credit reports come from credit reference agencies such as Experian, Equifax and Callcredit. They are commercial companies and often make their money by charging people to access their full credit report and score.
Meanwhile, some credit reference agencies will offer a free credit report and take a small amount of commission from the credit products they advertise to you, which are often marketed as "matching" your credit rating (see below for sub-heading, "Free credit reports explained").
If you want to see your credit report and score, you can sign up to a free trial with one of the main credit reference agencies or pay for a one-off report. See the table below for a credit reports comparison.
There are a range of options for getting your free credit report and score online. Firstly, you could sign up with a service called Noddle, which is part of Callcredit, which gives you access to your credit report from Callcredit at no charge to you.
Noddle offers their customers a range of financial products based on their credit rating. If the consumer chooses to take up any of these offers then as part of the commercial agreement Noddle may receive a commission.
However, the comparisons you get will never show you everything that you could get – only the products they have commercial relationships with. You're also not guaranteed acceptance for any credit product, and it’s worth noting that you’re not obliged to take-up any of these offers.
Remember: there is no legal right for you to have a credit card or borrow money – the final decision always comes from the provider.
Noddle can be a good tool for people who just want a glance at what report contains, so it depends on what you want to gain from accessing your credit report.
You can also get a free credit report from Experian or Equifax, but this is a free trial, lasting 30 days. Once the trial is up you'll be charged in the region of £10-£15 per month, but there is no contract so you can cancel.
You may want to take out one of the so-called premium credit reports from Experian or Equifax if you're looking to manage your credit rating in the run up to a big credit application such as a mortgage.
Getting a free credit report from one of the premium credit reference agencies could be useful in the run-up to applying for a mortgage to check everything is in order
If you discover your rating is good enough within the free trial and you feel like you know how to continue managing it, then you may feel comfortable enough to cancel it before you get charged and go ahead with your credit applications.
On the other hand, if you feel like you need to make improvements, you can keep checking it to see if any actions you've made recently have made a difference before you risk damaging your credit further by failing on a credit card application or mortgage.
If you're simply curious, then a free service like Noddle is great value, but it all comes down to what you hope to gain from seeing your credit report.
A statutory credit report costs £2 from Experian, Callcredit and Equifax. For £2 each time you can view a current snapshot of your credit report and score online or you can ask for a written copy.
Something to consider, however, is that all three of the main credit reference agencies, Experian, Equifax and Callcredit, have credit information from different lenders. They're most likely to have roughly the same things but they still might differ on a few areas of your credit history.
As a result, you may wish to get a statutory credit report from all of the main providers so you can get a full overview of your credit score.
You can read another one of our guides to find out what kind of details you might see from an Experian credit report (as the leading credit reference agency) or use the link below to compare credit reports.
There are a range of factors that could make a lender, financial service provider or even energy supplier or mobile phone network reject your application.
Your credit rating is important, but there are other factors to consider. Firstly, there's the provider's minimum eligibility criteria.
It's a very simple one but many people still think that meeting most of the minimum eligibility criteria listed next to a credit product is enough to be accepted.
Make sure you read this information closely and take all of it as gospel. It also does not mean you will be accepted if you meet all of the minimum eligibility criteria.
This is where your credit rating is likely to play a pivotal role. Once you've met the minimum eligibility criteria, the provider will do a credit check to find out a few things about you.
The main issues providers are looking for are signs that you may pose a risk of committing fraud, or less likely to pay your bills on time.
Now you may have no intention of doing either, but the information the provider has to work with is all on paper.
There is no personality involved. Your previous addresses and employment history are considered, as well as your financial repayment history.
If you've moved from address to address on a regular basis or been out of work for regular periods of time, your chances of being accepted for a credit application will be limited because lenders will see it as a lack of stability and thus assume that you could be a fraud risk.
Similarly, if you've missed repayments, that suggests to credit providers that you cannot be trusted to pay your bills on time.
If you are looking for credit products that you could be accepted for then a credit report can be a useful first port of call.
For those with bad credit, you can start off small with a credit builder credit card, which are often provided by lenders who are more likely to overlook some marks on your credit file.