Angela Needham
By Angela Needham
Financial Writer
Updated 30 May 2024
|Read time: 5 mins

Boost your credit: things you can do to improve your credit score

There are multiple ways you can improve your credit score over time. It may be making small changes, such as updating your address, or big changes, such as reassessing your spending habits and prioritising paying off outstanding bills. Since it is case by case, how you choose to go about improving your credit score will depend on your personal situation.

 

We’ll run through how to improve credit scores, the basics of what it is and what is considered a good score.

What is a credit score?

Think of a credit score as a ‘grade’ on how you manage your finances. However, unlike GCSEs or A Levels, your score can change over time (without needing to retake an exam). Keep in mind that it can take months or even years to change your credit score, on top of managing your spending and payments.

How do credit scores work?

When applying for a mortgage or a new credit card, lenders and banks will almost always check your credit history when deciding to offer you credit.

 

The higher your credit score, the better your chance of lenders approving your application, or getting a better deal. For example, if you’re planning on buying a new car and signing up for a fixed payment plan, or car loan you might find that a low credit score will limit your options. Car sellers may require you to pay the total cost up front in cash and you may be rejected by a number of car loan providers.

 

Credit companies, lenders and banks will often need to feel confident you can manage your finances well. In most cases, they want to avoid lending money and not being paid back. If you have a low credit score, you may be seen as too risky for lenders, which can lead to a rejection of a loan or credit card.

What is a good credit score?

Many lenders will usually have their own credit scoring system to determine whether they should accept your credit card application. However, credit scores from Credit Reference Agencies can give you a general indicator of your credit worthiness. 

 

In the UK the main Credit Reference Agencies are: 

Experian

Equifax

TransUnion

 

Credit scores will differ between the various CRAs. You can check your credit score by signing up for an account with either of the three official UK CRAs.

How to improve your credit score

Check you are registered on the electoral roll

CRAs will check to make sure you are a UK resident by looking at the electoral roll. If you aren’t registered, it will hurt your credit score, so make sure you do so as soon as possible. Even if you live at home with your parents or share a home with housemates, you will still need to register.


If you have just recently moved, you can register online or by post. To double-check, contact your local electoral office for confirmation that your name and current address are in the system.

Pay off your credit card on time

Late or missing payments to credit cards and other loan repayments can cause a dent in your credit score. Credit scores will be determined based on your financial behaviour over a period of time, so paying back consistently is key.

 

Paying off your credit balances and loans in full can boost your overall score. If you cannot make a payment in full, be sure to pay at least the agreed minimum amount before or on the agreed due date. If you need help remembering to pay on time, check to see if you can set up a direct debit.

Limit hard credit checks and searches

Applying for multiple credit cards, overdrafts or loans in a short time can give lenders the impression that you are desperate for credit. During the application process, a lender or bank will perform a ‘hard credit check’, which alerts CRAs that someone is checking your credit score.

Minimise your use of credit

With most credit cards, you are given a credit limit which determines how much credit you can borrow. How much credit you use against your limit can impact your credit score, so try to keep your credit utilisation to a minimum. The lower the utilisation, the better the score. Credit Agency, Experian recommends keeping your credit usage below 30% and avoid going any higher than 50%.

 

For example, if you have a credit limit of £1,500, try to only spend £450 (30%). Consistently spending over £750 (50%) could be a red flag to Credit Reference Agencies and lenders.

Check your credit report for mistakes or fraud

Checking your credit score regularly can help monitor your performance and even flag any errors or potential cases of fraud. Sometimes these errors can be minor, such as a misspelling of your name or having the wrong address on your profile. Update any changes as quickly as you can.

 

Monitoring can also help spot any unusual activities, such as credit applications you did not apply for. If you believe there is fraudulent activity impacting your credit score, contact the CRA. Making a fraud alert will not affect your credit score

Build a positive credit history

Credit Reference Agencies will look at your credit history when assessing how you manage your finances. Your credit history will be sourced by your bank, credit companies, loans, the government and collection agencies.

 

With a credit history, it may be easier for CRAs to determine your score. You can build a positive credit history by paying household bills and council tax regularly, opening a bank account (if you don’t already have one), and paying off credit card statements all in one go.

Keep old accounts open and show a long credit history

As mentioned earlier, your credit score is determined by your overall credit history. Keeping a well-managed bank account open for a long period can give credit reporters a better idea of how you manage your money. In some cases, having an old bank account in good standing or credit cards often paid off regularly can boost your credit score. So avoid closing any active bank accounts if you can. 

Find out more about our Partnership Credit Card

If you’re interested in applying for the Partnership Credit Card, we’ll perform a soft search to check your eligibility. This means it won’t impact your credit score.

Credit subject to status. 18s and over. UK residents. T&Cs apply. John Lewis plc is a credit broker and not a lender.

Content correct at time of writing 03/08/23. 

John Lewis Finance is not responsible for content contained on external websites. This article is for promotional or information purposes only. You must not rely on it as advice. Please contact a financial adviser if you need advice before you buy a financial product or service.

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John Lewis plc is a credit broker and not a lender, introducing the Partnership Credit Card under exclusive arrangements with the lender NewDay Ltd.
John Lewis Finance is a trading name of John Lewis plc, registered in England with company number 233462, registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 724309). Credit is provided by NewDay Ltd, a company registered in England and Wales with registered number 7297722, registered office: 7 Handyside Street, London, N1C 4DA. NewDay Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority with number 690292 and is also authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority under the Payment Services Regulations 2017 (Ref no: 555318) for the provision of payment services.

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