Whether you’re getting a car on finance, buying a house, applying for a loan, or taking out a phone contract—credit checks become almost inevitable in adult life.
But as much as we’re told that it’s important to know our credit scores, how many of us can truly say we know what a good credit score actually looks like?
In this guide, we’ll delve into the depths of credit scores, so you can understand the different rating systems we have in the UK and how to interpret them.
But before we get into that, let’s recap a few basic principles.
What is a credit score?
Your credit score is a number value, representing your “creditworthiness” and based on the information in your credit report, a record of your borrowing history.
In the UK, there is no single or official credit score. Instead, there are three separate credit bureaus that keep records of borrowing in credit reports, and a number of credit reference agencies that interpret this data.
This means that the term “credit score” itself could be referring to a number of things as a broad indication of borrowing history.
How are credit scores used by lenders?
Lenders use credit scores to evaluate borrowing applications, in order to understand whether the person applying is likely to be able to repay the debt on time.
To give an example, imagine a stranger is asking you to lend them some money. At face value, you don’t know anything about them and might feel uneasy parting with your cash. But imagine you could check their borrowing history and, in doing so, you saw that they have a proven record of borrowing and repaying on time, along with any interest. Reassured by what you’ve seen, you feel a lot more comfortable lending out the money and agree to the arrangement.
This is essentially why credit reports exist—to provide an unbiased record that lenders can use to make an unbiased judgement on any new borrowing applications.
So, now that we know lenders want to see a strong credit history, which is represented by a good credit score, we need to ask—what does a “good” credit score actually mean?
What is a good credit score?
A “good” credit score in the UK will depend on the rating system of the credit reference agency you are using. For example, a score of 531 or higher with Equifax would be classed as “good”, whereas for Experian this number would be rated “very poor”, and a score of 881 or higher would be considered “good” instead.
This is because they each have their own number system, which we’ll cover in more detail further on in this guide.
For now, the main thing to keep in mind is that a good credit score will typically be a sign to lenders that you have demonstrated some of the following things:
- Regular borrowing and on-time repayment—proving you can be trusted to repay
- Low credit utilisation—keeping debt within 30% of the available credit limit
- Using a variety of lines of credit—showing you’re comfortable with borrowing
How are credit scores calculated?
There are a number of credit reference agencies in the UK, each with their own methods for calculating credit scores.
Each of the credit reference agencies typically has five categories for credit scores:
- Very poor
Where it gets tricky is that each reference agency has their own rating system, and each of these rating categories will have a different number value within that system.
Sounds confusing? It can be, which is why we’ve compiled a reference table in the section below, to make sense of it all.
Credit score ranges – is my credit score good?
The table below provides a reference for three of the most common credit reference agencies in the UK, so that you can understand how they compare.
As you can see, the ranges and naming conventions for the five rating categories vary wildly between the reference agencies.
Credit score examples
To help make sense of the numbers, we’ll run through a few examples and explain what they would represent with each of the credit reference agencies outlined earlier.
Is 787 a good credit score?
A score of 787 would represent a “Fair” credit score with Experian, meaning it falls squarely in the middle of their rating categories.
With Equifax on the other hand, a credit score of 787 would be classed as “very good”, putting it in the second-highest of their rating categories.
TransUnion credit scores do not go as high as 787.
Is 522 a good credit score?
A credit score of 522 with either Experian or TransUnion would be rated as “very poor” in their respective systems. This would mean borrowing applications would be difficult to get approved, unless they were for low-credit options like credit builder cards.
With Equifax, a credit score of 522 would be considered “fair” and therefore slightly better comparatively.
Is 474 a good credit score?
A score of 474 would be considered “very poor” with both Experian and TransUnion.
With Equifax, it would be classed as “fair”.
Is 443 a good credit score?
A score of 443 with either Experian or TransUnion would be rated as “very poor”.
Once again, this would be considered “fair” with Equifax, demonstrating just how different the various score rating systems in the UK are.
Is 411 a good credit score?
A credit score of 411 would be rated as the lowest possible category of score with all three of the reference agencies cited in this guide.
This would be classed as “very poor” with both Experian and TransUnion, while for Equifax it would be rated “poor”, which is their lowest classification.
Is 395 a good credit score?
A credit score of 395 is considered to be “very poor”, or the equivalent “poor”, by all three of the credit reference agencies cited in this guide.
With a credit score of 395, it would be difficult to get approved for a loan or credit card unless it was from a lender that specialises in offering low-credit borrowing options.
Do perfect credit scores exist?
As a reminder, credit scores in the UK are more of a reference and an indication of your borrowing history, rather than an official metric.
That said, it is possible to achieve the “top” value from the ranges listed for each of the credit reference agencies cited earlier in this guide.
Just remember, it’s most important to aim for good borrowing habits and not obsess too much over the exact figure of your credit score.
How to improve your credit score
There’s no overnight solution to raise your credit score but, with a few good habits, it’s easier than you might think to gradually build it up.
Here are some ways you can help to boost your credit score over time:
- Keep on top of monthly repayments for any bills, debts, or other recurring finances
- Register on the electoral roll
- Use a credit card regularly and for small amounts, always repaying in full
- Keep your credit utilisation under 30% of your credit limit
For more tips, you can read our full guide on how to improve your credit score.
Start comparing borrowing options to suit your credit score
If you’re looking to borrow money right away, possibly with a personal loan or credit card, then we can help you to compare borrowing options to suit your credit history. Simply head over to our free eligibility checker, let us know a little about yourself and what you’re after, and we’ll help you to find a suitable lender for your needs.