Puzzled about what a good credit score? Join the club.

By Andy Webb

When Jay-Z said he had 99 problems,we doubt that understanding his credit score was one but trust us it isn't easy.

The main problem with credit scores is there isn’t just one! Fear not. Here we give you a breakdown of exactly what is a good credit score. In fact there are three different companies providing scores, and they don’t all use the same data about your finances.

Another problem with credit scores is they’re calculated in completely different ways. Say one gives you a score of 450, and the other 500, you might think the second one is better - but it could be the first is out of 700 and the second out of 1000. It’s a bit like comparing 100 runs at cricket and a mark on an essay. You can’t.

And, to complicate it even more, the companies you apply to often don’t pay attention to the scores. They access the data behind the scores from the credit reference agencies alongside information you provide - and look for different things depending what you’re applying for! So clearly it's not always so obvious what a good score is and know whether you’re going to be accepted for whatever credit youre applying for.

Here we’ve taken a look at how each of the three main credit reference agencies work out your scores to help you get an idea of what good looks like.

The three credit reference agencies

If you’ve a big application coming up, like for a mortgage or a loan, it would be a good idea to check all three to get an idea of where you stand. Even when you’re apply for a mobile phone contract, utility bill or even a place to rent, it’s still worth knowing some of your scores, what they mean and what effect any of the above will have on your score.


Experian is the biggest of the agencies. They score out of 999 and handily break down the different levels:

Excellent 961-999

Good 881-960

Fair 721-880

Poor 561-720

Very poor 0-560


Equifax scores rarely go above 600, with Equifax the average score in the UK is around 380. You can see this score for free through Clear Credit, as well as a timeline to show when your score goes up and down.

Excellent 467+ (green)

Good 420-466 (light green)

Fair 367-419 (yellow)

Poor 279-366 (orange)

Very poor 0-278 (red)

Call Credit

Call Credit, which you can access for free through Noddle, scores out of 710. They too have a range to indicate how good the score is, though they don’t share the breakdown.

What does a good credit score mean?

Across the agencies, a “good” credit score indicates you will usually be accepted for credit, with “excellent” suggesting it’s highly unlikely you’ll be rejected at all.

An “average” or “fair” score obviously means there is a higher chance you’ll get rejected - but using soft checks, particularly on credit card applications, should help you find who will accept you.
Less than this - “poor” or “very poor” - and it’s likely you’ll be seen as high risk to lend to therefore far less likely to be accepted when applying for credit. In which case please read our articles on improving your poor credit score.  There are a lot of myths, but make sure you know what really affects your credit score - click here to read the full article.

Your credit score is crucial when lenders consider whether to approve you for credit. It can help determine whether you get a good interest rate or not, to make sure you're clued up on this read this article on 'what is a credit score & why should I care about it?'.

Who uses each credit reference agency?

When you apply for credit, the lender will check at least one of the agencies credit files. If you have a poor score at one agency but a decent one at another, it’s possible - though not guaranteed - that you could have a better chance of being accepted, and at a better rate, if you apply to places which don’t check the agency with the lower score.

Money Saving Expert have compiled a list of who uses who, and how many agencies they check.http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/credit-reference

Top Takeaway

Credit scores can be a bit of a minefield. Especially considering the score you are looking at may not even be the same score prospective lenders are looking at. Rather than taking any numerical value, find out where that falls on that agencies scale and that will give a clearer idea of what your score means. Can a loan improve your score? A loan can help your credit score if repayments are in full and on time, but you don't necessarily need a loan at all. Here's the breakdown.



By Andy Webb

Andy is the money blogger behind Be Clever With Your Cash, as well as the editor of blogging network UK Money Bloggers. He's passionate about helping people get the most from their money, and a little bit addicted to yellow reduced stickers in supermarkets. You might also have seen Andy on TV talking about money matters as he's one of the money experts on BBC One's Right on the Money.

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