How to Build a Credit Score as a New UK Resident

How to Build a Credit Score as a New Immigrant in the UK - 9 Simple Steps

When moving to the UK I had no idea I would be starting from scratch with my credit score (totally naïve of me!). No matter how good or bad your credit score is in your home country you will be starting from zero when you move to the UK.

Whether you’ve just moved to the UK or been here for a couple of year this article will cover who the credit agencies are, what they generally look for and how to build your credit score as a new resident.

Stay tuned until the end to hear about the drama I had getting a phone contract and contactless card.

Who Are the Credit Reference Agencies (CRA) in the UK?

The UK has three Credit Reference Agencies (CRA) that lenders generally use to verify you when you are applying for credit. Just to keep us on our toes the credit scores are not standardised so each one will score your credit differently.

Here is Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (the three CRA’s) score breakdown from very poor to excellent:

Agency ScoreRating
Experian 0-560
561-720
721-880
881-960
961-999
Very poor
Poor
Fair
Good
Excellent
Equifax 0-279
280-379
380-419
420-465
466-700
Very poor
Poor
Fair
Good
Excellent
TransUnion (formerly Callcredit) 0-550
561-565
566-603
604-627
628-710
Very poor
Poor
Fair
Good
Excellent

What is Included and Not Included in my Credit Score Rating?

Even though your credit score will be totally blank as a new resident of the UK it’s good to know the factors that you are measured on.

What’s included:

  • Name, address and date-of-birth.
  • Past credit applications.
  • Credit repayment history, including late or missed payments.
  • Your existing debt.
  • Your electoral register presence.
  • Any joint credit cards or loans.
  • If you’ve been declared bankrupt or have an IVA.
  • Any county court judgements (CCJs).
  • Current account turnover.

What’s not included:

  • Student loans.
  • Medical history.
  • Council tax arrears.
  • Criminal record.
  • Parking or driving fines.

Here are 9 Simple Steps You Can Do to Build Your Credit Score as a New UK Resident

1. Get a UK Address

As a new UK resident finding accommodation will be high on your list anyway as you need somewhere to live! Having a UK address is one of the few common denominators that is shared across your credit accounts. Therefore, you do need a permanent address in order to get credit as it forms part of the data shared with credit agencies.

What do credit agencies use your address for?

  • to confirm your identity
  • to match all your credit information to you

How Does Your Address Affect Your Credit Score?

Credit agencies use your address to determine how you have handled credit in the past. Clear Score state that things like what area you lived in and who live at your address before you shouldn’t have an impact on your score.

The one thing to be careful of is how much you move could indirectly affect your ability to get credit. Lenders look for stability in people’s credit score so moving can indicate that you have a number of issues.

At the end of the day you can’t avoid moving so don’t worry too much but be mindful if you move 3 or 4 times a year then lenders will cautious about lending money.

2. Open and manage a bank account

Opening a bank account can be challenging in the UK and a bit of a catch 22 as a new resident. You need proof of address to open a bank account but then you don’t have the proof and so on it goes.

To make things simpler before moving to the UK see if you can open a bank account for the UK in your home country, banks like Citibank and HSBC offer these services. Just be aware that this could cost you money to open an account internationally.

Allow at least one month before you leave to open one of these.

If this is not an option then there are online banks like Monzo, N26, Monese, Revolt and Transferwise. This will give you a bank account and debit card.

You still need to provide proof of your identity by taking a photo of your passport however they don’t currently ask for proof of address so no need to have bills etc in your name to apply. You just need an address which you can receive the debit card. Lots of expats swear by Monzo as their bank of choice and they do have FSCS protection.

To get an account with one of the big banks like Lloyds, Santander, Barclays, HSBC or NatWest you will need to do this in person and bring the following information:

  • Your passport (mandatory)
  • Biometric Residence Permit (mandatory if you are on a UK visa)
  • A letter of employment (bank-dependent), proof of address which can be a rental contract or bills in your name to a UK address (mandatory) and potentially a letter from your current bank advocating you as a customer (bank-dependent).

How Does Your Bank Account Affect Your Credit Score?

Bank accounts will affect your scores if you do things like switch banks too regularly or if you switch before you apply for a big loan, an overdraft or credit card when you don’t need it.

As a new resident, you may end up with a bank account that wasn’t exactly what you wanted to start off with. Once you’ve got yourself settled, shop around until you find the right bank or financial institution and then switch.

If you plan on switching bank account look for the seven-day switching service. This means that you are not stuck in limbo when switching bank accounts and if you forget to change a payment like your salary or direct debits and standing orders these will be transferred into your new account.

3. Show Proof of Employment

Getting a job is probably high on your to-do list when! The benefit of having a job is to show that you have a regular income and a salary to pay for things like debt.

How Does Your Employment Affect Your Credit Score?

When you first arrive, you may struggle get a mobile phone contract or a credit card. Once lenders see regular payments into your bank accounts this should make the process easier.

4. Get on the Electoral Roll

When you register to vote, your electoral details are recorded on your credit report. The confirmation of your name and address boosts up your credit rating after 30 days.

This is only applicable if your nationality allows you to be eligible to vote. For example; EEA citizen and Commonwealth countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

If your nationality isn’t one that allows you to vote for example, US citizens then you can request a Notice of Correction to your credit report. You will need to sign-up to a credit agency and get a report run first and then explain the reasons why you can’t register to vote.

You can register vote two way, either online or by post. The local council will send a letter to your household each year requesting you to confirm the voters at that address.

How Does Your Electoral Roll Affect Your Credit Score?

You could be missing out on additional points which will boost your overall credit score rating.

Voting isn’t mandatory in the UK so if this isn’t something that you don’t wish to do then it’s fine.

5. Manage Small Credit Accounts

Building credit through forms of credit such as a mobile phone contract or credit card will help build your score steadily. When you have no credit history the types of credit cards you can apply for will have higher interest rates and lower credit limits.

With mobile phone contract, you may find you can only apply for a SIM only contract while you build your credit score (I have a funny story about this which I will add to the end).

Showing lenders that you can manage a line of credit and pay those bills on time is key to level up to kick-a** adulting skills/ building your score. Once established you cab move on to the actual type of credit cards or phone contract you wish to have.

Just to answer questions on expat forums like:

  • Can I get a credit card on a Youth Mobility Visa?
  • Can I get a credit card on a UK Ancestry Visa?

Yes, you can! Being a resident, you will be able to apply for a card, you just may need to start with a credit builder credit card as it’s likely you have no credit score.

At the moment I only have one credit card with American Express (limit way higher than I need it) and a phone contract which I will be changing to a SIM only contract. I did have an overdraft which I cancelled as I no longer need to after having a credit card. This was all while I was on my UK Ancestry visa.

Credit Builder Credit Cards

Here are a few options for cards to start off building your credit with are:

  • Capital One Balance Transfer Card
  • Chrome Credit Card
  • Tesco Bank Foundation Clubcard Credit Card
  • Chrome Credit Card
  • Aqua classic Credit Card

Find out more about Credit Builder Credit Cards at uSwitch or Money.

How Does Your Small Credit Accounts Affect Your Credit Score?

Several factors can affect your credit score when it comes to credit like payment history, length of credit history, types of credit and new credit lines. It all comes down to managing your credit lines, so:

  • Making sure your payments are on time and you don’t miss any.
  • Establishing longer-term credit line so getting accounts you actually want in the long run.
  • Type of credit you have has an impact so having a mortgage, student loans, credit card debt, medical bills or retail accounts will be factored in when applying for credit.
  • Opening too many new credit lines, this will increase your risk factor and flag to lenders.

6. Set Up Direct Debit Payments

Look at setting up direct debits for your loans, credit cards, phone bill, rent or household build as it allows you to pay your bills on time.

As each accommodation arrangement is different this will depend on how your bill arrangement is set-up, live in or private landlords may want to manage the household bills whereas renting or owning your own bills means you can manage it however you want. The more you establish yourself in the UK you can build on establishing direct debit payments.

How Does Direct Debits Affect Your Credit Score?

Late payments will damage your credit score, even one late payment can affect your credit score. Direct debits help ensure that you always pay your bills on time and don’t have to worry about remembering all those dates.

7. Don’t Apply for Credit too Often

Rejections are noted on your report so applying for credit you are not ready for will have an impact. It’s best to wait until you have built a credit score before applying for bigger credit lines.

Check with Experian, Equifax or TransUnion before applying to see if you will make the cut and be successful with that credit line. See if you can find any information about what the lenders are looking for as well.

How Does Applying for Credit too Often Affect Your Credit Score?

I’ve mentioned this just above it will be noted on your report so having 10 rejections on your report won’t make you look favourable to lenders.

When I was having issues getting a mobile phone I only tried twice over the year before I was successful the third time. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t have too many marks on my score.

8. Close Accounts You No Longer Use

Keeping nice and tidy accounts shows to financial companies your suitability with credit and how much credit you already have available to you.

How Does Having Too Many Account Affect Your Credit Score?

A bit of a balancing act needed as the length of the accounts also is factored into your credit score. Have a look at your report before closing accounts. Potentially you could see a dip in your credit score but nothing that should stop you getting credit.

9. Check Your Credit Report and See If There Are Any Errors

After you’ve been here a while and are established start looking at ordering a copy of your credit file. These can be ordered online for a small fee from the websites of the three main credit reference agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Alternatively, you can sign up to the websites to monitor your score (some do come with a monthly fee).

Check if you have any errors and ensure any notice of corrections are added to your file.

Why I Couldn’t Get A Mobile Phone and How It Was Resolved

A couple of years ago I tried to get a phone on a contract and I was rejected! I couldn’t understand why it was so I mentioned this to my boyfriend and he’s like have you checked your credit score? I had not even considered that I needed a credit score to get a phone! I look at my credit score and it was fair but not good or excellent.

I spoke to my boyfriend again, he’s like have you register to the Electoral Roll? Nope, I had not done and at the time had no idea it would affect my credit score so much. Off I go to apply to be on the Electoral Roll. Waited a couple of months for it to apply on the credit report (it takes around 30 days) but during this time I had been given a new work phone so I just switched over to that one for a while.

Year and a half later I try again! It fails yet again, no idea why! Since then I had applied for a credit card and I was enrolled to vote. I also had bills in my name for quite sometime, these were on direct debit and managing my credit lines well. I didn’t check my credit score because I was trying to save money by not paying the fee with Experian as I had already completed the free trial.

Fast forward a couple of months I was trying to pay my credit card and the payments were failing. My bank calls me and asks me to confirm my details, but they kept failing. I had no idea what was going on, I was getting my birthday right, after all, it’s my birthday.

After back and forth with the bank, I have to go into the bank to show my ID to prove who I am. Turns out that my birthday was out by 5 days! All this time my birthday had been incorrect, super strange.

When the whole birthday sager settles down I reapply for the phone and it was successful.

Huzzah I finally got there after a series of being rejected.

Not Being Approved for Contactless

My sister moved here a couple of years after I had been living here. She applies for a bank account and upon opening an account she was given a contactless card but I wasn’t. I ask my bank to switch me to contactless and they just tell me I’m not eligible for one with no explanation. As she didn’t have any credit score yet again I am confused why I can’t get contactless.

I ask a couple of times confused why I couldn’t get one and still no answer. I forget the whole issue for while, after all, it stops quick spending.

Then not long ago I lose my wallet (after the whole birthday incident) and ask for a replacement card. Open the mail a couple of days later and to my surprise, there was a contactless card. It seems that the birthday issue had been affecting my finances this whole time.

Do you have any tips building your credit score in the UK? Any disastrous stories that impacted your score? Let me know in the comments below.

More Living in the UK Articles

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close Menu