Credit Reference Agencies – what are they?

Tuesday 23rd Aug, 2022


Credit reference agencies (CRAs) are firms which are allowed to collect and keep information about consumers' borrowing and financial behaviour.

If you’re an adult living in the UK, it’s more than likely that your name and details are held in the files of the three main credit reference agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

When you apply for credit or a loan, you sign an application form which gives the lender permission to check the information the CRAs hold about you.  This will include:

  • public record information about you, such as electoral roll details, and any court judgments, such as County Court Judgments (CCJs) or records of bankruptcy against you;
  • credit account information – details of your current credit agreements (including whether you’re keeping up to date with your payments) as well as other credit agreements you have had in the past six years;
  • other credit checks.  Several applications for credit in a short space of time may indicate that someone is over-stretched, or possibly a victim of fraud.

Each CRA holds a file on you (called a credit report or credit file), but the information held by each might not be exactly the same.  That’s because they may have different information from different credit providers, although there is quite a lot of overlap between them.

It’s your legal right to see your credit file and to correct anything in it that you can prove is wrong.  By law, all CRAs have to provide you with a copy of your credit report for free.

It is a good idea to ask to see your credit report occasionally. Mistakes can happen, but you can put them right.  Don't worry that agencies hold ‘secret’ information about you. You can see the same information that the lenders can obtain in your name. And don't apply for several credit cards or loans at once. It may have a negative effect on your credit record.

You can check your credit report online as follows:

If you’d prefer a paper copy of your credit report, you can contact the CRAs direct:


This article is for general information only and does not constitute financial, legal, or any other form of advice.



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