The Truth About Credit Searches

Friday, 17. February 2017

Hi, Graham Hill here, thank you so much for visiting my blog, I hope you learn a lot and as a result end up driving a great car. In order to do so you can get all the information you need by buying my book, An Insider Guide To Car Finance or use me to finance your next car. Happy driving.

After a spate of adverts on the TV in which various lenders suggest that they can carry out a search to see if you are eligible for a loan, without leaving what is known as a ‘footprint’ on your credit file, many questions have been asked by customers and those on my blog regarding theses searches and their own credit files. In general they want to know how this can be done, are our searches recorded and what is the purpose of having searches registered on your credit file if some lenders are apparently ignoring the rules?


OK let me explain. First of all the rules are very clear, if you make an application to a lender for credit, which will cause a lender to access the information held on your credit file, they will register the search with the agency. More on this later. However, the rate you are charged for finance is often based on your credit status so to help the industry and avoid you suffering as a result of ‘shopping around’ a new search was introduced known as a ‘quotation search’.


This is different to a credit application search, known simply as a Credit Search. All Credit Searches are available to anyone who has access to your file after you have given them permission. But only you can see the ‘quotation searches’, none of these searches are available to lenders or anyone else accessing your credit information such as potential employers, association membership applications etc. Each of the three UK credit reference agencies, Equifax, Experian and Call Credit will list all ‘credit searches’ on your credit file once you have made an application for credit.


However, this encouragement to ‘shop around’ is promoted in the knowledge that whilst attempting to get to the best rate through lenders or brokers, your credit score won’t be penalised. That seems reasonable. However, lenders and credit card companies are using this loophole to drum up business. Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m not actually opposed to some form of pre qualification as it can save a lot of pain. If you are pre-qualified on the finance you will know, before you get excited over the new car you’ve chosen, if you will be offered the finance to acquire the car and the car salesman won’t waste time showing you cars that you can’t finance.


But it’s the abuse of the system that I, and many others, object to. There are some lenders and search agents that will offer to carry out a free credit search for you to see how your credit stacks up and your likelihood of receiving the loan you are thinking of applying for. But having carried out the search you are then inundated with offers of  ‘Pre-approved’ loans and credit cards. Not, in my opinion, in the spirit of the FCA regulations to treat customers fairly etc.


Anyway, let’s get back to the recorded searches and their affect on your credit. Different lenders have different attitudes towards the searches. If you have a number of credit searches on your file within a very short period of time, i.e. several over a few days they will approach your application with caution as it could be that you are applying for credit to many funders at the same time that could take you out of your affordability range.


Of course several searches could be the result of several applications being made around the same time. As the approval doesn’t get registered on your file, only the loan when you draw down the amount borrowed or, in the case of HP, when you take delivery of the car, the only way that lenders are aware of each other is via the searches. So whilst imperfect they can act as a warning.


For example, let’s say you have had agreed 5 different loans from different lenders, you could arrange draw down on the same day and only after that would each lender be aware of the other, so that’s why searches are important. To avoid the lender believing that you could be doing this make sure that if you are ‘playing the field’, when you ask for a quote the lender is only carrying out a quotation search. You should also be aware that when searches are registered they are only registered with the agency that the lender uses. In other words there is no sharing of information between credit reference agencies, so if the lender searches Experian the search will only be registered with them, not with Equifax or Call Credit.


Of course some of the larger lenders will search all three platforms, especially if the loan amount is substantial. When checking your own files, there are new agencies such as CheckMyFile who purport to check all the platforms for information on you but I’m unsure about the accuracy but in the meantime, because of the way the systems work you may find information on one platform about you that doesn’t appear on another. This is what one of the agencies said to me:


However, please know that the information held by xxxxxxxxx is dependent on what is shared with us by lenders. Not all lenders share account information with all credit referencing agencies, and so it’s possible that we may not hold any information at all about a particular account. This is why we recommend that you check your credit report with all three major credit referencing agencies, in order that you can get a complete view of the information held on you.


So much for the adverts on TV enticing you to check your credit score with them. If you are just going to check one it might be useful to know that 76% of lenders use Experian, 54% use Equifax and 30% use Call Credit. Why doesn’t this add up to 100%? Because some lenders search 2 or all three platforms. The Moneysavingexpert has helped out by listing the various lenders and which credit reference agencies they use. So if you are applying for say a credit card with the Co-op you will see that they only check Experian so that’s the one you need to check out. Here’s the link:


There are no legal obligations applied to searches and the amount of time they should remain on your file but for information credit searches remain on your Experian and Eqifax files for 12 months whilst they remain on Call Credit for 2 years.


Oh and as a couple of final thoughts, firstly if you are looking to take out a loan, thanks to the EU Consumer Credit Directive of 2010 those advertising representative APR’S must be seen to provide 51% of all customers with the rate advertised. This changed from 66% under our own UK legislation so the EU has provided banks and other lenders a licence to print money. And to prove my point, in an advert on Barclay’s Bank website they advertise a personal loan of between £7,500 and £15,000 at an APR of 4.9% Representative over 2 – 5 years. It also says rates may differ with a tiny 3 attached to it. This is what tiny 3 says right at the bottom of the page:


  1. The rate you’re offered may differ from the representative APR shown – and will be based on your personal circumstances, the loan amount and the repayment term. The Barclayloan advertised here is available over terms of between 2 to 5 years, with a maximum APR of 26.9%.


Wow, bit of a difference eh! And as they only need to provide the 4.9% APR rate to just 51% of the customers how many of the other 49% do you think are having to pay closer to 26.9% than the 4.9%? Hmmm!!


Secondly, and finally, there is confusion over your ability to obtain finance and your credit score. Having many credit searches on your file will, in many cases, drop your credit score slightly. So your score may drop from say 99 out of 100 to say 95. In some cases I’m told that your credit score won’t be affected at all but this doesn’t mean you can finance a new Ferrari on a take home pay of £2,000 per month.


And this is where the more important score comes into play, the underwriters ‘Score Card’. This score takes into account many other things such as where you live, what company you work for and the industry you’re in, how long you’ve been in your current job, number of dependents and of course your income along with many other factors, put together by each individual lender.


It is this scorecard that determines whether you will be advanced the money or not, not your credit score which is just part of the equation. By all means make sure that you look after your credit and maintain a high credit score but remember that a high credit score doesn’t mean auto accept on anything you want to finance.


Absolutely finally if you find that you have applied for credit at several dealerships over a few days then changed your mind, or applied online, not for a ‘quote’ but actually for the finance to several lenders, leaving a string of Credit Searches on your credit files, make sure that you explain what happened on each of the 3 credit agency files by posting a ‘Notice of Correction’.


Explain that you have been test driving cars and each time was talked into checking if you could be cleared on finance by their lender or if you have been applying for finance online and again not realised that search footprints, left behind, might affect your credit score, post a note to this affect. If you do this it forces an underwriter to check your file rather than rely upon the autoscore to either accept or reject your final application.


In fact the same applies if you have some negative activity on your file (defaults, arrears) as a result of say a marriage breakup or redundancy, you have 200 words to explain what happened and that you are now on top of things (if you are). It could certainly help your application if the problems took place some time ago, Just thought I would mention!

By Graham Hill



Graham Hill’s Advice On Preparing For Credit Pt1

Friday, 29. August 2014

I recently answered a frequent question in one of my standard mailouts which received a massive response so I am reprinting it on my blog for you to come back to if needed. Part 2 will be a further blog when sent out to my database, here is part 1:

Q. I have never been declined for finance in the past but just been declined this time around, could I have prepared better?
Answer Part 1:
If you didn’t carry out a credit search on yourself then that was the first thing you did wrong. There are 3 credit reference agencies used by lenders,Experian, Equifax and Callcredit. You can access your credit report for free to see what your credit score is and what information is held on you. Experian and Equifax offer a 30 day free trial following which they charge your credit card monthly but for this you receive alerts whenever anyone searches your file or when you or anyone else tries to take out credit in your name.

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Callcredit, the new kid on the block, offers Noodle which gives you free credit reports for life. If you would like daily updates, fraud alerts etc. you can sign up for Callcredit Credit Compass and pay a monthly fee as you do with Experian and Equifax.
There is a limit as to the amount of information stored on you and sadly there is no Government regulation that forces every credit reference agency to store the same information so the information could vary between each report. In my opinion this makes a nonsense of our credit system and means of assessing affordability.
You tend to only find out which CRA the lender uses when you have been declined – by then it’s too late as it is much more difficult to have a decline overturned than to get it right in the first place. One area which causes more delays and declines than others is Voters Roll information. You may decide never to vote, that is your prerogative but you should still make sure that you are on the voter’s roll as this is the link to your address and the credit information stored against you.
If you do not appear on the voters’ roll you stand a good chance of being declined. If you find you are not on it you can enter your details very quickly online these days. Of course not being on the voters’ roll could mean that you are avoiding council tax which would be a good enough reason for a lender to decide you are not worthy to lend to. Oh and make sure that your date of birth is correct on the credit file, this is key to carrying out a search on you.
Having a linked financial relationship to a third party with poor credit could be enough for you to be declined for credit as both of you are assessed and if the other party fails you can be brought down and declined. Even if you have no joint financial arrangements but applied jointly for a credit card or even HP on a fridge that was not eventually taken out the link remains.
You need to correct this by writing to each of the CRA’s and explain you have no financial involvement with the 3rd party. However, this is also weak as you could still be living together and sharing bills but as if by magic your credit has been repaired. Information showing credit agreements fully paid up help you out but keep a credit card, even with no balance on it, after transferring a balance to another card provider will definitely work against you.
Let’s say you have £5,000 on card A which you transfer to card B. If you don’t have card A removed from your file by cancelling the card with the provider you will be seen to have already spent the £5,000 available on the old card when assessing your current commitments even though you have spent non of it. Either remove the card completely or get the limit reduced to its minimum.
County Court Judgements (CCJ’s) from a lender’s point of view are an instant decline, often as the application goes through the auto – underwrite.
The fact is that when information gets passed to the various credit reference agencies mistakes can be made so first of all check to see if there are any CCJ’s on your file that shouldn’t be there. The fact is that CCJ’s need not be the result of an unpaid credit transaction and if that is the case should it even appear on your ‘credit’ file in the first place? Another failing of our hit and miss credit assessment system. A client came to me having been declined for credit on a car.
We checked his credit file and we found a CCJ which the client knew about but didn’t think would affect his credit, which of course it did. He had bought a bespoke suite from a furniture shop but when it arrived it was nothing like the design he ordered. He spends many months a year working abroad so after lodging his complaint with the shop he left for a 2 month trade visit to Africa.
When he returned the shop had sued him for the money unpaid and as a result of non appearance a CCJ was issued which he was seeking to have reversed. I drafted a note to be appended to the CCJ on each credit file explaining the above, this is called a notice of correction (maximum 200 words) and we had the finance cleared. I just mentioned a Notice of Correction, this is very powerful if you find a mistake or you want to make a lender aware of any special circumstances surrounding any issues on the file.
For example a redundancy or illness may have caused some arrears or a default but has since been resolved and all credit is now running smoothly. If you put this into a Notice of Correction it does two things it ensures that anyone checking your file sees the circumstances and it ensures that you application misses auto underwrite and forces an underwriter to review your case, this is the law. If you don’t do this it will cause your credit score to drop below the threshold  that triggers an auto decline and you are left fighting to get the decision overturned.
I’m sure I don’t need to explain the importance of keeping up payments. In the past missing the odd credit card payment and paying the minimum amount was not such an issue but these are now being factored into the credit score – I’m told. So best to pay your credit cards by direct debit and make sure you make the minimum payment and don’t exceed your limit.
The CRA may also hold details of your bank including your current balance and any arranged overdraft facility along with loans and all other credit contracts. There are two things that the CRA’s lie about, firstly they say they only store factual information they don’t provide an opinion regarding the individual’s credit worthiness.
This is stated by all three CRA’s but it simply isn’t true! Each has their own set of calculations that results in a credit score. If this isn’t an opinion I don’t know what is? They even have a gauge that goes from poor to excellent. Will lenders fund you if you are considered poor? And the auto underwriting systems use this information as part of their auto accept or auto decline calculations.
So they are liars, they are virtually underwriting for the lenders. They also explain that they don’t have a black list, they do. By considering you poor or providing a low score you are on a sort of black list. You will also be actually black listed if there is a concern by a lender that you have committed fraud and you have a CIFAS alert on your credit file.
If you see this you need to act immediately as you won’t get credit if  a lender sees it. If you are a tenant will you be refused credit as you don’t own your property? No. Fewer people are buying these days and whilst, in the past, a lender would assume equity in your property if you defaulted on a loan judges these days are very reluctant to throw you and your family out of your home because you have defaulted on a loan.
They could do but it is less likely, so a lender is no more likely to collect a bad debt if you are a home owner than a tenant although they could place a charging order on the property if you default which means they can recover the debt if you ever sell your house. A charging order showing on your credit file won’t help you.
The strange thing is that landlords are not required to lodge their tenancy agreement with the credit reference agencies or report any missed or defaulted payments – which is of course wrong. For the record missed mortgage payments can lose you a lot of points.
If you don’t think that the above won’t apply if you are putting the car through your company, think again.
The lender needs to see how it’s main director(s) run his or her private affairs and of course if you are a current or recently discharged bankrupt or in an IVA. These of course could cause applications to fail. When making an application in the name of a company, you will normally be asked for maybe one or possibly two partners/directors.
It makes sense to see which director is the strongest by way of credit and add his or her name to the application. I have known directors with poor credit resign from the company until after the credit has been approved then join again. Not that I suggest anyone does it but I know it goes on and the lenders seem to do nothing to prevent it. By Graham Hill