Many of these tips are things you'd already expect, but there are one or two odd ones mixed in that most people wouldn't usually think of.
- Get on the electoral roll
This is one of the stranger tips, but if you're looking to borrow money from a serious lender, you're going to have a much rougher ride of it if you're not registered to vote in the UK. Since you're supposed to be on the "full" version of the register anyway by law, it's a smart move to make sure you're all signed up. If you're worried about your personal information being sold, you can still opt out of being listed on the "open" register, but credit reference agencies will be using the full version so you'll still show up when they look.
- Keep up with your existing credit payments
Your credit rating might be based on your past history, but it's really all about predicting your future actions. If your record's littered with late or skipped payments, you're going to look like an iffy prospect. Also, even if you never miss a deadline, you can still look riskier to a lender if all you ever do is pay back the absolute minimum amount. If you're worried you might have trouble making an upcoming payment, get in touch with your lender to see if you can arrange an easier schedule.
- Remember it's not all about you
Even if your own financial hands are perfectly clean, it's easy to muddy the waters of your credit score if you've got strong ties to a bad payer. If you've got financial links to another person, keep in mind that their credit history can affect yours. Sharing a joint loan, mortgage or other financial product with someone who's got a weak credit score might not be a great way to secure credit of your own.
- Try to keep your credit searches down
This is another thing that might not seem particularly important, but can still have an effect on your overall attractiveness to a lender. In general, you want to keep the number of searches being made on your credit history to a minimum. These "hard searches" leave fingerprints all over your file, and a lot of searches in a short time can look dodgy. For instance, if you get a rejection from one lender and immediately apply elsewhere, the new lender will probably work out you just got rejected by someone else. To avoid this, it's a good idea to use a free eligibility calculator that won't show its searches in your file. That way, you'll know the chances of your credit application succeeding before you make it.
Another fairly obvious one. Lenders like to see consistency when they search your credit history, so make it as easy as possible for them to approve your application by ensuring your details match. For example, seeing the same address on all your credit applications, even older ones, will give your lender a lot more confidence in you. While you're at it, check regularly that there are no mistakes or outdated details in your credit files. Keeping those records spotless is the key to proving you're a safe pair of hands for a lender's money.
One last weird one to finish the list. If you've got a low credit score or not much of a previous payment history, you can boost them by signing up for a credit card with low acceptance standards. You'll probably find yourself stuck on a painful interest rate (maybe 35% or so—lenders like higher rewards when they take higher risks), but if you use the card on a "little but regularly" basis and always pay it all off each month before the interest kicks in, you can build up your credit score without getting hit with heavy repayments. If you've already got a credit card, even following the same basic principle with that can help ramp up your score—and avoid another hard search on your file at the same time.