Your credit score can be the deciding factor in whether you buy a home, get a loan or even sign a mobile phone contract. But how good is your score compared to other people in your local area?
Your credit score, which is based on data collected about your financial history, is meant to show how reliably you pay back loans or use credit.
People living in the City of London have the best average credit scores, while those in Kingston-upon-Hull have the worst, according to a new study from credit reference agency Experian.
Which? looks at how the average credit score varies in different regions and the steps you can take to boost your credit to satisfy lenders.
Which area has the best credit score?
Experian released credit score data for the highest and lowest local authorities, as well as UK countries and regions.
Residents of the City of London, a borough in the heart of the capital, had the highest average score, with an impressive 871. Other areas with a strong showing were Chiltern, with an average score of 859, and Wokingham with an average of 858.
By contrast, residents of Kingston-upon-Hull in Yorkshire had the lowest average score, at just 669. Only slightly ahead were two neighbouring boroughs in Wales – Blaneau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil – where residents’ scores were 671 and 685 respectively.
Looking at the UK as a whole, the South-East tended to have the highest scores, topping the table at 795. By contrast, the average score in the North East was a much lower 727.
The map below shows the average credit scores for UK countries and regions.
- Find out more: Credit reports: all you need to know
Older people have a better credit score
Perhaps unsurprisingly, older people tend to have better credit scores, as they have a longer track record of repayments (and often are in a better financial situation).
Those aged 55 and over have the highest average, scoring a solid 841.
Interestingly, those in their late 20s have lower scores than younger people – perhaps because many are struggling to pay down overdraft or credit card debts, or taken out loans to support living independently.
As people move into their 30s, their scores tend to creep up and this continues over their 40s and 50s.
The table below shows the average score for different age groups.
|Age group||Average score|
What is a good credit score?
A credit score or rating is used by lenders to see whether you would qualify for financial products.
In general, a higher credit score will improve your chances of being approved, but it doesn’t automatically mean you will be accepted.
Confusingly, each credit reference agency uses a different scoring scale. Experian’s grading is shown below.
- Very Poor – 0-560
- Poor 560-720
- Fair 721-880
- Good 881-960
- Excellent 961-999
In some cases, you might be marked as a ‘thin file’, rather than given a rating. If this is the case, the agency doesn’t have enough information about you to rate you. You can follow our tips on how to improve your credit score to build up a positive track record.
Keep in mind that lenders will look at your full financial situation, not just your credit score, when making a decision.
Your score can also vary between credit reference agencies, so if you receive a Poor rating from one, you should also check the others.
- Find out more: how to improve your credit score
How can you check your credit score?
You can get free access to your Experian credit report via the Money Saving Expert Credit Club.
Alternatively, you can sign up to a free 30-day trial of Experian’s CreditExpert service – it’ll cost you £14.99 a month after that if you don’t cancel.
Signing up to Clearscore will give you your Equifax report free every month.
Like Experian, Equifax also offers a free 30-day trial of its full credit monitoring service. It costs £9.95 a month after the free trial.
TransUnion (formerly Callcredit)
TransUnion (formerly Callcredit) offers free access to its credit reports through a service called Noddle.
- Find out more: how to check your credit score for free.
How can you improve your credit score?
Credit reference agencies will take into account several factors when generating your credit score, including existing loans, repayments, previous applications for credit and past defaults or bankruptcies.
Yet, while it’s a common misconception that where you live also matters, your address won’t affect your score.
The most reliable way to improve your score is to build up a history of responsible credit usage. If your score is low, you could apply for a credit-builder credit card, which can help you establish a pattern of reliable repayments.
You can also give your score a boost by making sure you’re on the electoral roll when you move house.
It’s also important to avoid multiple applications for credit in a short period of time. Rejected applications are recorded on your file, and may bring down your score. To avoid this, you can often use an eligibility checker before applying for a loan or credit card.
Finally, you should always check your credit file for errors. Companies sometimes provide incorrect or outdated information, which you can apply to have removed. And if applications are listed that you know you didn’t make, it could be a sign of fraud or identity theft.
The video below shows five simple tips for boosting your credit score.
If you want to find out more about the confusing world of credit scores, you can read our investigation of the credit scoring process.