How can I build a credit history in the UK?

Dear James,

I hold an American passport but I am a resident of the UK. Please could you tell me how to improve my credit rating with Experian as I am not on the electoral roll? Many thanks

Tamara, Letchworth

Dear Tamara,

Because you’re not eligible to vote in UK and EU elections, you can’t register on the electoral roll here. This is a problem because in the UK credit reference agencies like Experian include electoral roll information on credit reports to help banks and lenders check your name and address when you apply for credit. As a result, if you’re not registered your credit rating may suffer and any credit applications you make may be delayed while the lenders confirm your details some other way. What you can do to help is to add a short note to your credit report explaining why you’re not registered to vote here. You could also offer other proof of name and address. The presence of a note will force any credit application you make to be referred out of the lender’s credit scoring system. Instead, an underwriter will assess your application, reading your note in the process. It will certainly help if you also have some credit history information on your credit report. Unfortunately, credit reports can’t be imported into the UK from the US, so any credit history you built up in the States won’t be visible to lenders here. This means that when you move here you essentially start with a blank slate, although you can of course bring a copy of your previous credit report with you and then offer a copy to prospective lenders. You may have some credit history built up in the UK already – a copy of your credit report will reveal this. Banks now register current account overdraft facilities on credit reports so this can be a very helpful stepping stone. A low-value credit product such as a store card might be relatively easy to secure and can also help you build up some positive credit history. You can use the Experian Credit Score to see how you’re doing, as this is a guide to how most lenders will rate your Experian credit history.  (October 2012)

James
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