What does a bad credit score really look like?

Is there one single credit score that we all have, and if the score’s low, is it then added to one central credit blacklist somewhere in the UK, for lenders everywhere to access? The simple answer is no. So, if you’re ever asked if you’ve got good or bad credit, you could answer: “It depends on who’s keeping score!”

counting the numbers

When asked about our credit score, few of us can instantly respond with a precise figure, can we? We’re more likely to simply have a feeling as to whether it’s “good” or “bad”. And who’s to judge that?

Different lenders use different scoring models

When I tried to buy a new car through a dealership last year,” explains Ashley in Hertfordshire, “they ran a credit check. It came back with a low score, meaning that my application was turned down. I tried a couple of other places but then gave up on getting a car until my credit rating improved, which turned out to be a mistake.

Ashley was without a car for a year, until finally being told about a good lender who would be happy to review his application properly and not simply turn it down because of his credit history.

“I didn’t realise back then that if you’re turned down by one or two lenders, due to having poor credit, you should really keep trying all the other car finance companies. Whilst very few of them can genuinely guarantee you application approval, there may be a broker out there who can secure you a leasing agreement. It all depends upon which lender they use. Many don’t just work with one lender, anyway, but a panel of them.”

Ashley’s story is similar to that of so many other people who turn to Albion Car Finance for help. They weren’t aware that each lender has their own tailored system – a rating structure that’s specific to their business and their preferred way of doing things.

An acceptable level of risk

Calculating an individual’s credit score can be approached in different ways. Usually, after gathering and reviewing data, credit score devisers seek to arrive at a score that falls somewhere between a lower and higher figure on the particular numerical scale that they use.

Credit scoring – a mechanism for objectivity

For example, a FICO score of 300 would put an applicant at the very lowest place in the 300-850 scale range. Most lenders use these credit scores to assess your credit risk and you typically have three of these FICO scores from the three credit bureaus. Each of these scores is based on the information they keep on file about you.  It would be highly unusual for an applicant to hit the 850 score mark, however, as very few of us have credit as good as that! Once the credit referencing agency has come to a figure (notice how it’s a number, not a statement of “good” or “bad”), they then convey this information to the lender, who makes the final decision on whether approval for a loan should be given. The lender may also enter into a discussion with an insurance company they use, by the way, when seeking to determine if the application should be approved.


With all this, it’s clear that few applicants can expect to sail through the approval process. It’s not meant to be punitive, the scoring part of the assessment is meant to help with speed and objectivity. Most people (with bad credit) must hope that their application is ultimately approved based on them having “an acceptable level of risk”.