It’s important to know how your credit file and credit score affect your financial situation.
Credit rating agencies build up files on all of us based on a mix of publicly-available information (such as whether you’re on the Electoral Roll) and data from financial companies about products you have or have had, such as loans and credit cards.
From this they calculate a credit score, which companies check when they’re working out whether to give you a product, and on what terms. Managing your finances well and always paying off what you owe in time will give you a good score. Missing payments, as you’d expect, will lower your score.
Every time someone looks at your file, it is recorded as a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ search.
Finance companies make hard searches when you apply to them for a credit product, and each hard search remains on your credit report for two years. This matters because, for many lenders, a clutch of hard searches in a short period suggests you might be struggling to get a product, or that you’ve opened several accounts that could prove difficult to manage.
Soft searches occur when you or someone else looks at your file, but not in connection with an actual application. For example, when you put your details into our Eligibility Checker, we look at your file and work out how likely you are to be accepted for a range of deals, based on what we know about various firms’ acceptance criteria.
A ‘pre-approval’ search leaves no trace, so it won’t affect your score. You can use the Eligibility Checker as often as you like over any period without risking damage to your file.