When you relocate to the UK, no matter how much credit history you managed to build in your home country, you will essentially be starting from scratch in the UK. As such, there will be certain things you won’t immediately be able to do once you arrive in the UK, for example, you won’t be able to apply for a mortgage, loan or even particular types of phone contract at first. In this article, we will explain the best ways to build up your credit rating to allow you to apply for credit and work towards buying a house in the future.
Please note that we are not financial advisors and this article is merely a guide. Please consult a professional if you would like further information.
Your credit score or credit rating is what a potential lender would use to assess you to ensure that you are a good investment. When you first arrive in the UK, you will likely have a poor credit score, purely because you do not have any credit history. There is a myth that you have a fixed credit score, however, different lenders may use slightly different methods to assign a credit rating to you, and these may vary slightly from lender to lender. Essentially, their assessment will determine whether they’re willing to lend you money, if you’ve had any credit products in the past, how reliable you were at paying money back, how much they are willing to lend you and how much interest you will be charged.
You may wonder why having no credit history means that you have a poor credit rating, the reason for this is that lenders have no way to assess if you will be a good and safe investment for them, if you look at it from the lender’s perspective, they only want to lend to people who will reliably pay their money back, this is why it is important to start building your credit score as soon as possible.
Get a UK Address
This will likely be something you do quite soon after you arrive in the UK anyway, so it will hopefully be an easy win! Having a fixed, UK address is an excellent way to start building your credit score. The reason for this is that in order to borrow money from any lender, you will require a permanent residence. As well as this, they can use this information to confirm your identity, and if you have multiple forms of credit further down the line, they will likely check that all of your credit agreements are linked to the same address to ensure that you are not a fraudster.
Keep Your Accounts up to date
Linking on from the previous point, once you do have accounts, it is important to ensure that you keep these up to date, inform the bank if you change your address. It may seem like a small thing, but having the wrong address listed on accounts can have a big impact on any credit applications you make, as previously mentioned, this is one way that lenders check your application is legitimate, if they see you have multiple addresses listed, even if this is an old address, they could deny your application for fear that it is not legitimate.
Open a UK Bank Account
It can be tricky to open a UK bank account initially as you will need proof of address in order to open an account, and you need a UK bank account to secure accommodation! If you have not yet secured accommodation, this can be a hindrance. That said, there are now online banking services such as Monzo that only require a passport and video of yourself to open them. For more detailed information on how to open a UK bank account, you can read one of our previous articles.
Once you have opened a bank account, this can be a great and simple way to build credit. Make sure to maintain it by ensuring that, if possible, you always have enough money in your account to cover your payments and bills each month. This is beneficial as it shows lenders that you can maintain a responsible relationship with a bank.
As an alternative to applying for a credit card, in certain situations, banks may offer you an interest-free overdraft for the first 12 months of being an account holder, this is a great way to build credit so long as you ensure to always pay it off in full before the end of the interest-free period.
Set Up Direct Debits
This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. Set up direct debits for your bills and rent to ensure that they are paid on time as any late or missed payments could cause issues when you are applying for credit.
Provide Proof of Employment
This may seem like an easy one, but being able to prove that you are in a stable job with a regular income will give your credit score a little boost, as it proves to lenders that you have the means to pay them back. Once you have been receiving regular pay into your bank account for a few months, this can help you to apply for credit.
Get a Mobile Phone Contract
You may not be able to do this immediately as you may need to build a little credit first, or you may only be able to apply for a SIM only contract to begin with. You can learn more about acquiring a phone contract in our previous article about things to do when you first arrive in the UK. This would be considered a small credit account, so you will not need to build as much credit to open a phone contract as you would, for say, a mortgage.
Ensure that you pay your phone bill on time every month, and this will show lenders that you can reliably make repayments.
Get a Credit Card
Once again, it is unlikely that you will be able to do this as soon as you arrive in the UK, as you will likely need some credit history to actually be eligible for a credit card, so it might be worth waiting a few months until you’re settled and have been regularly following some of the previous steps. If you would like to find out how to get a credit card, you can read our recent article on the matter. In order to get a good credit card with a low interest rate, you will need a good credit rating…so unfortunately, your first credit card will likely have a high interest rate, it’s estimated that 34.9% is the most common interest rate for these types of cards.
It is advisable that prior to applying for a credit card, you check which cards you will be eligible for. You can use Money Saving Expert’s calculator to check your eligibility without negatively impacting your credit score.
Once you have acquired a credit card, it is incredibly important to ensure that you use it responsibly and make your repayments on time each month so that you don’t need to pay interest. The best way to make use of it to build your credit is to use it for payments you were already going to make and have the money set aside for, such as rent or bills.
It is also highly recommended that you do not withdraw any cash on your credit card as it can be seen by lenders as poor money management. In addition, the interest is higher, and you will be charged for doing this, even if you repay this in full.
In doing this, you will be able to demonstrate that you can be trusted to make credit repayments.
Try to only use a small amount of your credit limit, the average you’re recommended to use is about 25%-30%. For example, if your credit limit is £500, try not to spend more than £125.
If, for any reason, you are struggling to repay your credit card on time, make sure that you contact your lender and ask if you can change your repayment schedule, it may have a negative impact on your credit score, but not as much as missing payments or continuing to pay late will.
If you find that later down the line, you are not using a credit card, it is also important to cancel it, as if you have access to too much credit, even if you are not using it, can reflect badly on you when you apply for other forms of credit.
Check your Credit Report for Errors
It is important to regularly check your credit report for errors. If you find any incorrect information, ensure that a notice of correction is added to your file. To check your credit report, you will need to order a copy of your credit file online, you will usually be charged a small fee from this, and you can order your file from the following agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
Don’t Submit Credit Applications Too Frequently
It is important not to apply for too much credit in a short space of time, as this can have a negative impact on your credit rating. Where possible, try to space out any applications you make so that it doesn’t appear you are bad at handling money and need to rely on credit.
Don’t get a Pay Day Loan
The Money Saving Expert website warns against applying for pay day loans, reportedly, these companies claim that this can be a good way to build credit, however, there interest rates are generally ridiculously high, and can end up getting you into debt, rather than improving your credit score.
Register to Vote
Admittedly, this one won’t be very helpful to you when you first arrive, as you will need to obtain British Citizenship in order to have the right to vote. However, if you have been in the country for five years you may be eligible to apply for British Citizenship which allows you the right to vote and apply for a British passport. If you are looking to improve your credit score and you have British Citizenship, this can be a great way to give your rating a boost, as it is one way that lenders can confirm your identity and address.
You might be wondering what information lenders will be able to obtain about you, and why. We will list what lenders will be able to see below, it is important to note that the reason they can learn this information about you is so that they can ensure you are a reliable person to lend money to.
It can seem daunting and even frustrating to have to completely rebuild your credit score once you arrive in the UK, particularly if you are hoping to secure a mortgage to buy a house later down the line. While it can be discouraging, take your time and follow these tips and gradually, you will be able to build up a good credit score, which is sure to benefit you in the long run.
If you would like further advise on managing your credit or other financial matters, we would advise that you speak to a professional.
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Moneyadviceservice.org.uk. (2020). How to get credit for the first time. [Online]. Available at: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/getting-credit-for-the-first-time [Accessed 30 Jan. 2020.].
http://www.facebook.com/katsgoneglobal (2019). How to Build a Credit Score as a New UK Resident. [Online] Kats Gone Global. Available at: https://katsgoneglobal.com/credit-score-new-uk-resident/ [Accessed 30 Jan. 2020.].