There's more to a credit report than just a list of how much of money you owe and to whom.
In recent years the amount of information they include has expanded to give lenders a much bigger picture about exactly who you are and what type of borrower you are likely to be.
Here's what your credit report is really telling the banks and building societies:
If you're desperate for credit
Each time you apply for a financial product - be it a credit card, loan or contract mobile phone deal - a credit footprint is left on your report. These remain for up to a year and show potential lenders how often you've applied for new products. It's important to be aware of this and space your credit applications accordingly.
If you make numerous applications in a short period you'll seem less appealing to potential lenders - particularly if your applications have been declined. They'll be concerned that you're desperate for credit and may offer you a less competitive product or rate, or refuse you credit altogether.
To avoid this problem you should do your research and pick a financial product that is right for you before you apply. This will help you to maximise your chances of getting accepted first time.
Similarly, if you need to compare your options you should ask lenders for a cost illustration quote before completing a full application. While the latter will appear on your credit report, the former won't but it'll still give you a realistic idea of how much your borrowing will cost.
How much you owe and to whom
Your credit report includes information about each of your existing credit accounts, including credit cards, store cards, overdrafts, mortgages and personal loans.
It tells lenders what type of credit accounts you have with which financial institution, when the accounts were open, the outstanding balance on each and whether your payments are up to date or in arrears.
Potential lenders will use this information to decide whether you manage your finances well, and if your current debts are too big a commitment to allow further borrowing.
However savings accounts will not appear, meaning that lenders will not know if you hold large balances in savings just from your credit report.
Your credit report not only tells potential lenders if you pay up on time but gives them an insight into your repayment habits as well.
This information is of particular interest to banks and building societies as they can tell if you are likely to be reliable borrower, or more importantly to them, a potentially profitable customer!
If you always repay on time and in full to avoid paying interest you may be a low risk client, but you are also one that is less likely to make the lender lots of money.
So as ironic as it is this can occasionally work against you as you are likely to be less profitable, not that this is a good reason to get into debt!
Essentially the ideal borrower from a lenders' prospective is someone who always makes the payment on time but racks up expensive interest charges in the process.
Do you use cash advances on your credit cards? - If you do they'll know! In recent years lenders have begun sharing their customers spending habits as well as repayment habits in credit reports.
This means that a lender can see if you use expensive forms of borrowing such as cash advances on credit cards and if you are likely to be a profitable customer in the future - it doesn't however show them what you are spending your money on - merely providing an overview of how you spend.
Where you live
Your credit report will also contain information of where you currently live, how long you've been there and if you are registered on the electoral role.
This information is of interest to lenders as it allows them to build up a more detail profile before reviewing your application.
The longer you have lived in a property the better where your credit report is concerned, essentially this is because a lender will know where to find you if you miss your repayments.
Being registered on the electoral role is also good for your credit report as it gives lenders another way to verify your address when you apply for credit.
If you run away from your debts
If you have left an address without paying your bills it could come back to haunt you on your credit report.
Companies which have a claim for outstanding bills can place a mark on your credit report through the Gone Away Information Network for other lenders to see.
While these outstanding debts may be to utility companies and can be disputed, while the notice is on your report it can damage your chances of getting further borrowing elsewhere.
Your Financial Associations
If you hold any joint credit accounts the other parties will be mentioned on your credit report as financial associations - this includes joint current accounts and mortgages as well as credit cards and loans.
Lenders are likely to look at the credit report of anyone you're financially connected with before making a decision to give you credit.
Therefore being financially associated with someone who has a bad credit history or is in arrears can indirectly impact your appeal to lenders.
If you no longer have any links with someone shown on your credit report (an ex-partner or ex-house mate for example) you can issue a notice of disassociation which will appear on your report to inform lenders.
Watch this short video for top tips on how to make a financial association work from the beginning.
If you've been the victim of fraud it will appear on your credit report through the UK's Fraud Prevention Service CIFAS register .
While being the victim of fraud should not adversely impact your access to credit in the long term, it can cause problems until the matter is cleared up.
For this reason you should check your report to make sure all the information against your name is accurate.
Having a record of previous fraudulent activity against your name can help safeguard you in the future against similar attacks as lenders will be aware that your personal details may have been compromised in the past.
Court & public records
If you have struggled to repay your debts in the past and have faced court action this will appear on your credit report.
These court summons and CCJs will also state if they have been satisfied or whether you are still being chased for money through the courts.
Any previous CCJs or court summons can quickly scupper future applications as lenders will consider you a greater risk, if you have any CCJs or courts summons and they do decide to offer you credit it will be at a more expensive APR.
If you believe that a CCJ or court summons is incorrectly registered against your name you should contact the listed county court requesting a Certificate of Satisfaction or Cancellation.
Your credit report will also show if you have been declared bankrupt or had an IVA to help clear your debts. Bankruptcy is held on your report for 6 years from the date you are formally discharged and is likely to prevent you from access credit during that time.
If you are considering declaring yourself bankrupt and want more information on how it will impact on your credit report you should visit the Citizens Advice Bureau website or read our guide on Bankruptcy .
How to dispute your credit report
False entries or incomplete data can easily stop you from qualifying for financial products you would normally be accepted for - including credit cards, mortgage deals and even mobile phone contracts.
If you notice incorrect information on your credit report it is essential you get it amended. The first step to getting any errors corrected is to contact the company that supplied the inaccurate information.
The company should rectify the information the credit reference agency holds about you within 28 days of receiving your query so make sure you keep a note and check back.
If the financial company responsible for your disputed listing is unwilling to amend your report you can make a complaint to the credit reference agency themselves.
It is also important to correct other information, not just bank and payment history details, including:
Financial associations if not long applicable
Incorrect personal details (address etc)
Electoral role details
CIFAS fraud warnings
If things do not look right
If you spot applications for credit that you do not recognise on your credit report, this could be sign of identity fraud. In this video, Hannah Maundrell explains how your mobile phone contract could affect your credit score and how to look out for strange entries.