What is a good credit score – and how to improve yours

14 min Read Published: 20 Oct 2021

what is a good credit scoreWhen you check your credit report, it is helpful to know what constitutes a "good" score according to the main credit reference agencies. If you are applying for credit, for example, a credit card, mortgage or loan, the credit score you have will play a role in whether you are likely to be approved or not. In this article, we explain what a "good" credit score is with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, what that means in terms of applying for credit, and give suggestions on how to improve your score.

What is a credit score?

The first thing to say is that there is no one universal credit score. Instead, the three main credit reference agencies - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - use information gathered from lenders and other official sources that give insight into your credit history and overall credit worthiness. This information forms the basis of your credit report, which is then transformed into a credit score, based on each agency’s unique calculation. 

The score will range from 0-999 for Experian, 0-1000 for Equifax and 0-710 for TransUnion. This can make it challenging to draw direct comparisons between each one and to determine what qualifies as a “good” or “bad” score. 

How to check your credit score?

As each of the credit reference agencies holds different information and uses different metrics to calculate your overall credit score, it's important to check your credit report with each one. You can get your report and score directly from Experian and Equifax, by signing up to a free 30-day trial followed by a paid-for monthly subscription (Which can be cancelled at any time). For TransUnion, you can access the information through Credit Karma or TotallyMoney. There is also the option to access Experian through the MSE Credit Club and Equifax through ClearScore*.

Another option is to use checkmyfile, a service that includes full reports from Experian, Equifax, TransUnion and Crediva. Again, this has a 30-day trial, followed by a monthly subscription (Which can be cancelled at any time)

Which is the best way to check your credit score - and how much does it cost?

Credit score provider Credit reference agency used Cost MTTM review 
Experian Experian £14.99 per month (30-day free trial) Experian review 
Equifax Equifax £7.95 per month (30-day free trial) Equifax review 
ClearScore* Equifax Free ClearScore review 
Credit Karma TransUnion Free Credit Karma review 
TotallyMoney TransUnion Free TotallyMoney review 
checkmyfile  Experian, Equifax, TransUnion, Crediva £14.99 per month (30-day free trial) checkmyfile review 

Why does your credit score matter?

Your credit score is important when it comes to applying for credit as it is viewed by prospective lenders, alongside your credit report and other information you supply during the application process. It will impact whether you are likely to be approved for a credit product, including mortgages, credit cards, personal loans or mobile phone contracts. 

If you have a “good” credit rating, you are likely to be approved for most mainstream credit, while if you are lucky enough to have an “excellent” credit rating, you will likely secure the most competitive deals, with the lowest interest rates and highest credit limits. 

What is a good credit score with Experian?

Experian calculates its credit scoring system on a scale from 0-999. It attributes a credit rating across five categories, ranging from "very poor" to "excellent", as follows:

Experian credit score  Experian credit rating 
961-999 Excellent
881-960 Good
721-880 Fair
561-720 Poor
0-560 Very poor

If you score over 881, you are highly likely to be approved for most credit products and be offered a competitive interest rate and reasonable credit limit, as long as you meet the other lending criteria for that particular provider. Meanwhile, if you score over 961, even the most prime products should be within your reach, again, as long as you meet the criteria set out by the lender.

It is, however, still a good idea to use an eligibility checker, if there is one available, for credit cards and loans, to double-check that you are likely to be accepted. This means a soft search will be performed on your credit file, which does not affect your credit score and is not visible to other lenders. Similarly, using a good mortgage broker, such as Habito*, can also increase your chances of securing the best mortgage deal to match your credit rating and circumstances.

What is a good credit score with Equifax?

Equifax credit score  Equifax credit rating 
811-1000 Excellent
671-810 Very good
531-670 Good
439-530 Fair
0-438 Poor

What constitutes a "good" credit score with Equifax changed in April 2021, when it altered its scoring range from 0-700 to between 0-1000. In the new system, a score between 531-670 is deemed to be "good", while 671-810 is "very good" and over 811 is "excellent". There were also changes to the credit ratings, with "very poor" being replaced by "poor" and the extra category of "very good" slotted in between "good" and "excellent". This has had the effect of making the ratings sound more positive overall, with someone who was previously rated "very poor" now just "poor" and someone who was rated "fair" now deemed to be "good".

As it stands, someone with an Equifax credit rating of "good" should be approved for most credit products, but they could face limitations on the amount they are able to borrow or may have to pay a slightly higher interest rate. You really need to have a score that equates to "very good" or "excellent" to feel assured you will be able to access the most popular prime deals on the market. Again, using an eligibility checker or broker will help give you greater certainty, reducing the chances of you being turned down for credit, which, in itself, is detrimental to your credit score.

What is a good credit score with TransUnion?

TransUnion credit score  TransUnion credit rating 
628-710 Excellent
604-627 Good
566-603 Fair
551-565 Poor
0-550 Very poor

TransUnion has a smaller range in its credit scoring system than Experian or Equifax, with users given a score between 0-710. Indeed, there is a gap of only 111 points between someone being rated "fair" and achieving a perfect "excellent" score. To be deemed "good" you must achieve a score between 604-627, while anyone scoring 628 or higher will have their pick of the best credit products.

As with Experian and Equifax, those with a TransUnion rating of "good" or "excellent" can have confidence they are likely to be approved for most mainstream mortgages, loans and credit cards and secure optimum terms and conditions for the loan. However, it pays to frequently check your credit report with TransUnion and the other agencies to make sure your score stays high.

What is a good credit score for a mortgage?

While it is true to say that the higher your credit score, the more likely it is you will be approved for a mortgage, there isn't a score that guarantees you will secure a loan. Instead, a lender will look at your credit score and rating from one or more of the credit reference agencies alongside other factors, such as your income, day-to-day spending and the size of the available deposit. That said, if you have a credit score that equates to a "good" credit rating across all three agencies, you are more likely to be able to get a better deal with a more attractive rate than those with a lower score.

For those with a poorer credit rating overall, it should still be possible to get a mortgage, although it may require getting a deal with a specialist lender and this will typically involve paying a higher interest rate and, possibly, also having to contribute a larger deposit. In this situation, using a good whole-of-market mortgage broker, such as online broker Habito*, can make a huge difference as they will be familiar with the lending criteria for a wide range of lenders, giving you guidance on the best option for your circumstances. You may also find it helpful to read our article "How to get the best mortgage deal".

What is a good credit score for a credit card or loan?

As with a mortgage, there isn't a magic credit score that guarantees to unlock the best credit cards and loans. If you have a "good" or "excellent" credit score with one or more of the credit reference agencies, your application for most credit products are likely be approved, but there are no guarantees. There is a chance you may still be turned down if you don't meet other lending criteria, such as not earning a certain level of income or, in some cases, being self-employed.

A good place to start if you're looking for a new credit card is our article "How to choose the best credit card for you", which lists the most popular companies for different types of credit cards and includes links to their online eligibility checkers. For loans, it's also a good idea to seek out an eligibility checker before completing a full application, as this will reduce the risk of you being turned down.

How to improve your credit score

If you have checked your credit score with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion and are disappointed with the result, there are a number of ways you can try to increase your score. In the first instance, you should go through your credit reports with a fine-tooth comb checking for any mistakes or out-of-date information, including any listings that are more than 6 years old. If there are any errors, report them to the credit reference agency and ask to have the entry amended as this can immediately improve your credit score.

Other ways to increase your overall credit rating include making sure you are on the electoral roll, paying down existing debt so you aren't close to your credit limit and trying to stay out of your overdraft. There are more tips in our article "How to improve your credit score quickly".

Alternatively, you can use a service such as Experian Boost or LOQBOX*, which work in different ways, but both offer the opportunity to give your credit score an uplift, for free.

 

If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. But as you can clearly see this has in no way influenced this independent and balanced review of the product. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses - ClearScore, LOQBOX, Habito