How to Protect Your Credit Score in 2020
While the Coronavirus pandemic has predominantly affected people’s health and welfare, it has also had a serious impact on people’s finances and the UK’s economy, and as a result, we are now in the midst of a recession.
The Covid-19 outbreak has meant that many workers in the UK and across the globe haven’t been able to work as usual since March 2020, so a lack of income has made it difficult for consumers to keep up with their every-day bills.
Failing to pay bills on time will have a negative impact on your credit score and your ability to borrow money again in the future, but how can you protect it during these unforeseen times?
In this article, we provide you with helpful tips on how to protect your credit score during this difficult and unstable period, which will subsequently help to recession-proof your finances for 2020.
In this guide:
Why has my credit score gone down?
7 tips for protecting your credit score
Credit counselling service - StepChange
Why has my credit score gone down?
If you’ve noticed that your credit rating has decreased, try not to panic about this as your score can and will change regularly, depending on your latest credit activity.
Here are some of the reasons for why your credit score may have go down:
- You’ve failed to make payments
- You haven’t made payments in full
- You recently bought an expensive item with your credit card
- You recently applied for a new credit card, loan or mortgage
- There’s incorrect information on your credit report
To prevent your score from dropping, follow our 7 tips below to ensure you’re keeping tabs on your credit score and preventing it from being negatively affected.
7 ways to protect your credit score
1. Make payments on time
You must try to make any monthly loan repayments on time if you can, as any missed payments will result in your credit score going down.
As long as you’re paying off the minimum amount owed for the month, your credit score will be protected. If you have a lot of debt to pay off, try focusing on it payment by payment, otherwise it’ll seem overwhelming.
2. Stay up-to-date with your credit score
Given that the country is in a state of financial uncertainty, it is now more important than ever to keep checking your credit score regularly.
By doing this, you can spot any potential errors or signs of fraud, which you can try to rectify before your score gets damaged any further.
To get an accurate, reliable credit score, you should check your report with the main credit reference agencies in the UK (also known as credit bureaus): Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
You can check them all at the same time by using Checkmyfile, which uses data from Experian, Equifax, TransUnion and Crediva to produce a full, detailed report which shows you information that is also viewed by lenders when they assess your credit history. It is free for the first 30 days, but once you’ve received your free report, you can easily cancel to avoid being charged £14.99 per month thereafter:
It is also possible to get a credit report with each individual CRA at annualcreditreport.com, but signing up to Checkmyfile will save you so much time as you can see them all in one place, and you’ll be able to identify any errors easily.
3. Address any problems or errors on your credit report
Once you’ve checked your credit report with Checkmyfile, you may notice an error or realise that one CRA has different information compared to another, which would explain why your score has plummeted. You must dispute this to try and rectify your credit score as soon as possible.
If you need to dispute anything, there is advice available to help tell you the best course of action to take. Generally, however, it is best to question the issue with the lender itself.
It is your lender’s responsibility to pass on any information regarding your borrowing activity to the main CRAs, which they do every 4 to 6 weeks.
If you address the problem directly with your lender, it may be that they have either sent incorrect information to the CRAs or it has not yet been updated. In any case, they should be able to help you rectify it if they admit that they caused the mistake to show up on your report. They will need to inform the CRAs about this for it to be rectified, but just bear in mind that it can take up to 2 months to show on your credit report.
If your lender does not help you, you can then contact the CRA that’s reporting this particular information to see if they will remove it from your report.
To take further action, you can make an official complaint to one of the following:
- Financial Ombudsman
- Office of Fair Trading
- Information Commissioner's Office
If you don’t address any mistakes or anything that looks out-of-the-ordinary, it will probably stay on your report and you’ll find that your credit rating won’t improve.
4. Beware of scams and fraudsters
Checkmyfile reports that there are “almost 180,000 people falling victim” to identify fraud every year.
Unfortunately, criminals have now also taken advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic by targeting vulnerable people via email, text and phone call to steal their banking details and personal information, so there are likely to be a lot more people affected by fraud today.
This is undoubtedly a time when you need to take extra precautions to protect any of your personal information and identity. Any signs of fraud, no matter how small, must be reported immediately.
Checkmyfile has a free Identify Fraud Assistance feature, where their team of credit analysts will do all the work for you, helping you to resolve any damage as soon as possible.
The website itself will also be able to spot any errors in your report, and will notify you of what they are and how to rectify it.
If you’re checking your score directly with CRA Experian, for example, they have a ‘free security freezer’, which prevents lenders from being able to see your report.
If you’re at all worried about identity fraud, this allows you to stop people from being able to see your information and apply for credit using your name and other personal details, so you can rest easy while it gets resolved. You can then lift the security freezer whenever you want.
5. Contact your lenders if you’re struggling financially
While the majority of the UK is finding it difficult to keep up with monthly payments, most lenders, such as credit card companies and mortgage providers, are now offering payment holidays to those who have been affected by Covid-19.
If you’re worried that you’re going to miss your next payment with them, you’ll need to apply for a payment holiday as soon as you possibly can to avoid impacting your credit score.
CRAS state that credit scores will be protected from payment holidays
On March 31st, the three main UK credit reference agencies confirmed that consumers who have taken payment holidays due to the Coronavirus pandemic will not have their credit score impacted.
They have introduced an “emergency payment freeze”, which makes sure that peoples’ credit scores are protected.
6. Contact other providers you have bills with
As well as credit card lenders and mortgage providers, many other companies are offering help to their customers who have been affected by the crisis.
If you’re finding it difficult to keep up with your utility, phone, broadband bills or any other monthly commitments, directly contact each provider to see how they can help you. They may be able to offer you a payment break or a more flexible payment plan that’s suited to your situation.
It’s also worth signing up to an automated switching company for your utility bills, such as LAMB, who will do all the hard work for you and save you at least £50 on your energy bills.
7. Set a budget and find the best way to manage your finances
If you are concerned about the impact the Coronavirus pandemic is having on your funds, or if you think it could affect your finances in the near future, it is vital that you start planning ahead and having a monthly budget to work towards.
Now’s the time to be even stricter with yourself, so think about having a smaller budget for non-essential expenses so that you know all your bills are covered.
It is also the time to be taking advantage of modern ways to save by using money-saving apps, like moneybox, and switching to challenger banks like Monzo that help you save money without even realising.
For help with budgeting, read our useful guide: How to budget on a low income
For further advice on how to prepare for the UK 2020 recession, be sure to read these articles also:
Credit counselling service: What is it and is it worth it?
As reported by Martin Lewis’s MoneySavingExpert website, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service changed its name to StepChange in 2012, which is now commonly known as the UK’s main debt charity where people who are struggling financially can seek professional help and advice for free.
If you are struggling to pay back loans and you are finding it hard to manage your finances, StepChange offers independent advice to help those affected.
The people at StepChange help consumers straighten out their finances, such as arranging repayment plans between borrowers and lenders, to help them avoid missing payments and having their credit score affected, as well as preventing them from getting into more debt.
If you’re looking to get help with managing your debt and finances, always be sure to use a free service, like that offered by StepChange or Citizens Advice.
Check your score now
To get a full credit report from the main credit reference agencies in the UK, simply tap the green button below to head over to Checkmyfile’s website where you can sign up for free.
If you want to find out more about Checkmyfile first, take a look at our related guides below for further help and advice.
Remember, the first 30 days is free, then a monthly charge of £14.99 per month will apply - cancel anytime if you do not wish to pay: