Article by Sam Griffin - 17th October 2019

Which Credit Reference Agency Is Best?

Whenever you make an application for credit, you’ll naturally want to do everything you can to improve your chances of being accepted. So, given the vital role that Credit Reference Agencies play in the process, should you try and get the decision based on any particular one? To help answer that question, we take a wider look at how everything works.

Who are the UK’s Credit Reference Agencies?

The four UK Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs) are Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Crediva. If you are a UK resident and over 18 years old, then these companies are likely to hold and share data that will play a big part in your life – influencing everything from your monthly car insurance payments to being accepted for a mortgage.

In simple terms, Credit Reference Agencies work like large data libraries, where lenders and other organisations can access information on their applicants’ credit reports. This data plays a vital role in determining whether an application will be accepted or rejected.

It’s important to remember that the CRAs themselves have no say which way a decision goes. This lies solely with the company you are applying to, with the data providing an insight into what sort of borrower you are likely to be, based largely on your Credit History.

What information do the Credit Reference Agencies hold about me and where does it come from?

Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion receive account information from a range of sources including banks, lenders, mobile phone providers and utility suppliers. Data is typically passed to the CRAs no more than once a month and will detail whether a scheduled payment was made on time, the current balance, any credit limit and more besides. This information then forms the backbone of what is known as Reciprocal Data Sharing. Where an organisation shares information, it will in turn be able to access data that has been submitted by other organisations about their customers. This allows potential lenders to make more informed decisions and to be able to lend responsibly.

A wide range of public information is also collated by Credit Reference Agencies through various sources including local councils, and the Registry Trust which acts as a central record of court information in the UK. This means that Electoral Roll Information, Bankruptcies, and County Court Judgments are amongst the other entries that feature in Credit Reports.

Crediva is perhaps the least well known of the UK Credit Reference Agencies and differs in the information it provides in Credit Reports when compared to the other three. This is because Crediva reports only public information and does not include account repayment information. Whilst this means that lenders won’t be basing their decisions on Crediva’s data alone, it does have unique information that you won’t see from the other CRAs.

Entries from the Death Register show on your Crediva Report, along with any Politically Exposed People entries and Financial Sanction alerts with your name details. Chances are that you won’t feature on these databases, but it is important to check as errors do happen.

How are Credit Reference Agencies different?

The crucial difference is that, as separate companies, each Credit Reference Agency will hold different information about you, depending on which lenders and organisations it works with. The difference in what is reported can often be subtle but can be enough to determine the outcome of a credit application. Even Electoral Roll information is maintained separately by the agencies, so it’s important to check what is held by each CRA to ensure that everything is correct.

Only our Multi Agency Credit report will show you everything there is to see from the four CRAs in addition to your checkmyfile Credit Score allowing you to see how a typical lender would judge you.

What about Credit Scores?

Credit scores are a useful indicator of your Credit Report’s overall health, but it’s the data behind the number that really matters.

Because each lender will assess your Credit Report information according to its own criteria, it’s not possible to wear your score like a badge and know for sure that it’s how you’ll be judged. Depending where you check your Credit Report data, you are likely to get numerous variations of your Credit Score, with no single ‘correct’ figure. It’s just intended as an easy-to-understand guide.

It is worth noting that because Credit Scoring scores are subjective interpretations of your credit rating, any CRA or score provider you check with will calculate different scores for you. There is no one true credit score and, when you apply for credit, the organisation will calculate its own score based on the data on your report.

For that reason, it’s important to dig into the data on your report to ensure that the entries themselves are correct, as your potential lenders will focus on this information when deciding to accept or decline you.

Which Credit Reference Agencies do most lenders use?

There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to identifying which Credit Reference Agency’s data will be accessed by a lender when you apply for credit. Each lender will have different relationships, and many will have the ability to vary the CRA it checks each time.

Crucially, many lenders will also check the data held by more than one Credit Reference Agency at the same time to ensure that there is nothing held by one that isn’t at another. This occurs most often during mortgage checks or larger purchases, where the lender wants to ensure that it has as much information as possible with which to come to a decision.

Which Credit Reference Agency a particular lender uses is often kept secret, so there is no way of knowing which set of data will be viewed when you apply. In most cases, you’ll only be told which Credit Reference Agency was used to assess your application after the application – and chances are, if you need to be told, you won’t have been successful.

As you can never be sure which Credit Reference Agency will be checked when you make an application, ensuring they all hold the correct information is vital. You can have more confidence with your applications knowing all your information with the CRAs is correct, so we always recommend checking your files with all four.

How can I check what’s held by all Credit Reference Agencies?

The only way to ensure that you’ll see everything a lender will see when you apply for credit is to check what’s held by each Credit Reference Agency, and the only place to see all that in one place is with checkmyfile.

As well as being able to compare everything being reported in the same, easy to understand format, you’ll also get your checkmyfile Credit Score, which will give you an overarching view of how a typical lender is likely to rate you.

Should you find any errors in the data being reported, we can assist in getting it updated. Similarly, any questions you might have about your report, or what it means, our team of professionally qualified Credit Analysts is on hand via phone, secure message or email.

You can try our Multi Agency Credit Report free for 30 days, then for just £14.99 a month afterwards, which you can cancel online at any time, or by phone or email.

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The UK's First Provider Of Online Credit Reports

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