If you're moving to the UK, you’ll need a credit history to get things like phone contracts, credit cards, and loans. But if you’re new to the UK, you won’t have a history of borrowing in this country. So how does that work? Does your history of credit travel with you, and how can you build it up? Read on for Loqbox’s tips and advice about credit scores for immigrants in the UK.
Lenders in the UK check your credit report to see how you’ve managed money in the past. Your credit score is then calculated from your credit report by credit reference agencies (CRAs) to give you an idea of how lenders may view you.
The three main CRAs in the UK are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. They collect information about your borrowing to see how you managed repayments, and how responsible you have been with borrowing money before. Generally, the better your credit history, the higher your credit score will be.
Do immigrants have credit scores?
Yes, but it won’t be very good. As a new arrival to the UK, you won’t have a history of borrowing money in this country. And because you can’t bring your credit history from your native country with you, you’ll be starting from scratch. So if you’re wondering what the credit score of a new immigrant is, it will probably be low.
This means that even if your credit history in the country you are moving from is amazing, you’re likely to still be seen as ‘high risk’ by lenders in the UK. So if you plan to get a phone contract, take out a loan or a mortgage, or use a credit card, you’ll have to start working on your credit score. And the sooner you start the better. Read on for Loqbox’s guide on how to build your credit score if you’re an immigrant.
How to increase credit scores for new immigrants in the UK
Growing your credit score takes time, patience, and some effort. It can be quite scary to tackle, especially if you are starting as an immigrant to the UK. But the sooner you get started the better. And if you follow our guide, you should soon start to see an improvement.
Find a long-term UK address as soon as possible
Lenders like to see stability, and one of the best ways you can show that is to find yourself long-term accommodation in the UK and try not to move too often. Having one fixed address in the UK will improve your proof of identity and make you seem less risky to lenders.
Set up and pay your utility bills in your name
Once you’re in your long-term address, make sure you set up your utility bills in your name. Bills like council tax, water, gas, electricity, and landlines (remember those?!) can help to build your credit history. You do have to make sure that you pay them on time, of course. But if you can show you are responsible by paying bills, it could help your credit history. To help you pay your bills on time, get them set up as direct debits!
Something else to watch out for is “bills included” rental agreements. Landlords will sometimes offer rent that includes bills, so you just pay one amount each month. This can be tempting as you don’t have to think about it, but it won’t give you an extra chance to help your credit history.
Open a bank account
It’s not always easy to open a bank account when you first move to the UK, especially if you don’t yet have an address. If you’ve already followed the first step in this guide though, you should have that covered. Make sure your wages go straight into your bank account, and pay your bills by Direct Debit from it. This will help to show stability and responsible activity.
Take out a mobile phone contract
If you can, get a mobile phone contract. They are considered to be credit as you borrow the phone usage costs from your provider and pay them back with your monthly bills. So you can build your credit score with a phone contract, as long as you make sure to pay your bills on time every month.
Get a credit card
You may only be able to get a high-interest credit card to begin with, but if you’re very careful with it and make your repayments, it will really help to grow your credit score as an immigrant to the UK. Of course, there is a risk of damaging your credit score if you don’t use it properly, so make sure that you’re comfortable with your finances before you take this step.
It is also important that you don’t apply for lots of credit in a short space of time. If you apply for a credit card and you’re declined, repeatedly trying to get accepted for different cards will harm your credit score. You can find out more about how credit cards affect your credit score here.
Get on the electoral roll (if you can)
The electoral roll is a list of all the people in the UK who are registered to vote. Lenders check if you’re on the electoral roll as part of your proof of identity and to check your address. Being registered is one of the easiest ways to grow your credit score, although you may not be eligible to vote in the UK as an immigrant. But it is definitely worth checking.
If you aren’t eligible to vote in the UK, it is possible to add a notice of correction to your credit report by contacting the three main CRAs. A notice of correction is a note that’s put onto your report that informs lenders why something is or isn’t showing on your credit history. In this case, you could explain why you’re not on the electoral roll.
Get started with Loqbox!
One of the best ways to build your credit score as an immigrant to the UK is to get started with Loqbox. Grow your credit score while you make your membership payments on a 0% interest credit account with Loqbox Grow. Or make your rent for your shiny new UK address count towards your Experian credit history with Loqbox Rent.
Improvements to your credit score are not guaranteed
We contact the three main CRAs in the UK to report your responsible payments and money management, which should help to boost your credit score. By combining the above tips with a Loqbox membership, you’ll start to see your credit score going up in no time!
Check your credit score
You’re doing all this work to build your credit score, so make sure you check it regularly to see how it’s going! Seeing it increase can help your motivation, so it's worth it just for that. But there are other reasons to do it too. If there is a drop in your score, there could be a mistake that’s dragging your score down that just needs a simple fix.
The good news is that you can check your credit score with all three CRAs in UK for free, without affecting your scores, using these services:
*We receive a small commission if you sign up for ClearScore using this link.
Other things to know about your credit score as a new UK immigrant
What credit score do you start with as an immigrant in the UK?
Unfortunately, your credit score from your native country doesn’t travel with you when you’re an immigrant in the UK. Your credit score will be calculated as if you are starting fresh, but that doesn’t mean it will be zero. It isn’t possible to know what your credit score will be to begin with, but it is likely to be a low number.
It is possible to get a copy of your credit score in your native country so that you can send it to lenders when you make applications in the UK. It won’t guarantee that they will offer you credit, but it could help.
How long does it take for immigrants to build up a good credit score in the UK?
It can take a few weeks for changes to appear on your credit report, between 3-6 months for your credit score to start growing, and sometimes years for it to get really good. It’s hard to say exactly how long it takes, but the sooner you start the better. Bad things like defaults can stay on your report for six years so it’s super important to avoid missed payments.
Find out more about how missed payments affect your credit score here.
Do your debts travel with you abroad?
Yes. Seems unfair, right? Your good credit score can’t come with you as an immigrant, but debts from your native country can. But of course companies are going to want to get their money back! Make sure you leave a forwarding address and inform anywhere you owe money that you are moving abroad. Being responsible and paying off your debts will help your credit score.
What can you do before you move to the UK?
There isn’t a lot that you can do before you move to help your credit score, unfortunately. But you could open an account with an international bank (with UK branches) before you leave so you’re more connected. But this isn’t always as simple as it should be, and it’s easier to set up a bank account when you have a UK address, so you should make finding your accommodation your priority.