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:

 

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/credit-reference

 

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

 

 

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