With the vast amount of credit reporting services that are available on the market today, checking your credit score has never been easier. However, the sheer volume of websites and companies calling you to join them can be overwhelming, so how do you choose the best credit report for you?
One option is the free CreditWise service by Capital One. In this CreditWise review, we take a look at the pros and cons of its services and help you decide whether or not it’s the right product for you.
What is CreditWise?
CreditWise is an online tool offered by American bank holding company Capital One, specialising in providing its users with free access to their credit report, credit score and a wide range of resources to help improve their chances of being eligible for credit cards, loans and mortgages.
CreditWise retrieves its information about your credit history from Equifax, one of three major credit reference agencies in the UK, and is a reliable and secure way of viewing your financial history.
Why should you check your credit report?
Regardless of your situation – whether you’re a young adult curious about your credit score, preparing to buy a house, or looking to take out another credit card – understanding and keeping track of your credit report can be hugely beneficial.
Your credit report is essentially a file consisting of information from different organisations about how well you manage your debts and repayments. When you apply for the best credit cards, loans and mortgages, lenders will use credit reports to assess your eligibility to receive credit from them.
If you have a poor credit score, you’re likely to be rejected when you apply for credit, or you’ll at least be hit with higher interest rates.
By checking your credit report, you receive an insight into the perspective of lenders and get a sense of how they will view you when you apply for credit. You’ll therefore be able to use this information to make smarter financial decisions – for example, you may notice that you need to improve your credit before you apply for a mortgage, in order to avoid the troubles that come with being rejected.
Consequently, when you’re offered an opportunity to look at your credit report for free, it’s always worth considering.
You then click to ‘Register for CreditWise’, which takes you to the sign-up page, where you are required to enter some basic personal details.
After providing your personal details, you will need to answer some identity confirmation questions, which usually concerns your finances and information that only you would typically know. For example, they’ll ask you when you last took out a credit card, or when you opened your first current account. It’s important that the credit reporting company confirms your identity, in order to protect the sensitive data held within your report.
Although the identity checks remain thorough, the signing up process with CreditWise is far less tedious than some other competitors, aided by not having to provide your credit card details, as previously mentioned.
Once you’re all signed up and logged in to the CreditWise portal, you will receive your free credit score and will be able to see where you lie on the 0-700 scale (which is handily colour-coded, just to make things that much easier).
Your credit score is explained and compared with others around the UK, and will look something like this:
You can check your free CreditWise credit report as often as you like and it will not affect your score. It’s also worth doing so because your score is updated each month, and you’ll receive some tips to help you build upon your score in the future.
We were particularly impressed with CreditWise’s ability to send its users notifications when there had been a change to their credit score, and the useful timeline feature within the report that shows exactly how a person’s credit score has improved or declined over time.
Checking your progress online via the timeline is a good way of keeping track of your credit at a glance, allowing you to gauge an idea of how your financial behaviour has affected your score month-by-month.
As you may know, inaccurate data held on you by CRAs could wrongfully affect your credit score in a negative way, which is why CreditWise enables its users to check their details and ‘dispute’ any information that may be incorrect – including any financial associates, historic accounts and so on.
What is a good credit score in the UK?
A good credit score in the UK generally depends on which CRA you receive your report from, as they all use different scales and maximum scores. CreditWise uses data from Equifax, therefore in this instance your score is out of a maximum 700. However, if you were to receive a score from another website, using Experian or TransUnion (formerly CallCredit) data, the maximum score would be 999 or 710 respectively.
These CRAs also use different factors to calculate your credit score, which means that you are therefore very likely to have a varied figure with each one. This suggests that it may be worth taking more notice of the ratings (‘Very Poor’ to ‘Excellent’), rather than the actual numerical score.
According to Equifax, the CRA used by Capital One’s CreditWise, the average credit score in the UK is 380, and here’s how its scores range:
- Excellent: 466-700
- Good: 420-465
- Fair: 380-419
- Poor: 280-379
- Very Poor: 0-279
It’s important to remember that your credit score can change with every financial decision you make and is constantly updated, so be sure to check your score (at least) a few times each year.
What gives you a bad credit score?
If you’ve noticed that your CreditWise credit score is poor, you should initially compare it with your score on other websites, in order to gauge a more accurate idea of whether your credit really is below average.
If you find that a number of credit reporting websites have rated you poorly, you should then start to identify which financial activities are giving you a bad credit score. There are many factors that often lead to a poor credit score, including:
- Having bankruptcies
- Going over the agreed limit on credit cards or other accounts
- Missing payments or making late payments on loans
- Not being on the electoral roll
You should then determine how you can improve your credit score. Consumers in the UK can improve their credit score by disassociating themselves from a financial partner with poor credit, signing up to the electoral roll, closing unused credit cards, and many other methods.
Is CreditWise free?
CreditWise provides your credit score, report and rating for free, regardless of how many times you view your credit report or whether you’re a Capital One member or not.
Some paid services may be somewhat more in-depth than CreditWise, but considering it’s totally free, what the company offers is impressive.
There’s also a pretty handy (and free!) CreditWise app, which gives its users access to their credit score on-the-go on both iOS and Android devices.
The app itself is nicely formatted and presents users with their credit score in a clear and hassle-free way. It could do with a few more design features to make it easier on the eye, and it is slightly text-heavy, but it does what it’s intended to do – provide users with their credit report information in the palm of their hands.
Overall, CreditWise has succeeded in developing a functional, informative app, which is reiterated by impressive 4.8/5 and 3.7/5 average ratings from iTunes and Google Play.
Is CreditWise safe?
CreditWise is one of the most trusted products in the market today for checking your credit score, as it protects the sensitive data it obtains with firewall systems and intrusion detection software, preventing any risk of your information falling into the wrong hands.
CreditWise also encrypts its users’ data for added security, and the identity authentication questions during the sign-up stage ensures that only you can access your report.
Our CreditWise review summary
Overall, we were impressed with CreditWise as a free credit score provider, largely due to its practicality and ease of use. It offers services for free that would typically cost a monthly subscription of over £10 on other websites, and works exactly how you’d expect. You receive a valuable assessment of your credit, which allows you to determine whether or not you need to improve your credit score and how you can begin doing so.
We highly recommend that its users download the free app on their mobile phone or tablet, as it can be a useful asset to anyone that wants to check their report in the quickest way possible.
If you’re looking for a somewhat more detailed and extensive review of your credit report, you should take a look at our Experian CreditExpert review!