6 ways to improve your credit rating as an international doctor living in the UK

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

We understand that relocating to work in the UK as a doctor can be an exciting but sometimes daunting experience for you and your family. The key to a smooth transition is understanding how to feel at home in the UK. Whilst you can find temporary accommodation and buy a car outright with savings, having access to credit in the UK is important for longer-term investments and bigger purchases. If you intend to buy a home or apply for a loan or credit card the best course of action is to start building a credit score as soon as you can. This means that if, and when, the time comes for you to apply for credit, you are in the best position to have your application accepted.

A credit score is a 3-digit number that indicates how reliable you are at repaying any money that you borrow. The higher the score, the better access, and terms you will have on financial products and interest rates.  A common difficulty when moving to the UK is that you will have no credit history since you can’t transfer your credit history from your country of origin. Credit history allows you to borrow money to buy a home, car or get approved for a loan or credit card. Card issuers in the UK have no idea how you have handled credit in the past and it’s likely they will reject your applications without a UK credit rating.

As your score is calculated on a points-based system, it’s important to understand the factors which can help or harm your credit rating. This article will outline the basic factors which you should consider if you are an international doctor trying to build a credit score in the UK.

Factors that harm your score include:

  • Missed and late payments
  • Going over your credit limit
  • Holding joint account with someone who has a poor credit rating
  • Applying for credit too often
  • Withdrawing cash on a credit card
  • Bankruptcy
  • Not being on the electoral register
  • Inaccurate information

6 ways that you can try and improve your credit score as an international doctor living in the UK

Register to vote

In the UK, getting on the electoral register means you have proof of address which is important for your credit history. England, Scotland and Wales each have their own rules for EU and legally resident foreign nationals’ eligibility to vote. If you are unable to register to vote in the country you have moved to, you may be able to get in touch with the credit reference agency your lender uses and request them to take a note on file explaining why you are not able to vote in the UK.

For the latest guidance on who can vote in England, Scotland and Wales, please review here.

Open a bank account

Having a current account can improve your chance of getting approved as this gives you a banking history. For more information on how to open a bank account as an International Medical Graduate, please click here.

Have a job

Having a regular income shows that you have the means to pay back any credit you borrow. You are often asked to provide a minimum of 3-6 months of payslips from your employer when you are applying to borrow money. Working as a doctor in the NHS means you should receive regular payslips (usually digitally) which you can access and provide when needed.

Pay bills on time

Lenders want to know that you can make regular payments and a missed payment will negatively impact your credit score. Your payment history over the last 12 months will be most important to lenders. Paying your phone bills, utility bills, gas, electricity on time, shows that you are financially stable. Paying through a direct debit card gives the foundations for building a good credit profile.

Opt for soft credit checks

Too many applications can have a negative impact on your credit rating. If you want to compare rates and the options available, you should do a soft check rather than a hard check. This means you should try and do a “quotation search” instead of a “credit application search”. By doing this, the search will not appear on your credit profile.

Be careful of joint accounts

When you apply for joint credit with someone such as an overdraft, loan or mortgage – your credit history will become linked to theirs. If you are looking to improve your credit score, you will want to ask the person you are sharing credit with to do the same.

How long does it take to improve your credit score?

Improving your credit score will take some time. It can take several weeks for updated information to appear on your credit report and a few months before new accounts help to build your credit score. Any late, missed or defaulted payments will stay on your credit report for 6 years. They have a negative impact on your credit rating however the impact slightly reduces as the record ages. It is still in your best interest to avoid any factors that may harm your rating. You will not be able to improve this overnight but managing your money and making small improvements with have a big impact on your credit score and financial health. This means you will be in a stronger position if and when, you want to apply for credit.

The intention of this article is to give you a brief overview of credit ratings in the UK and the factors which can impact them. It and its contents should not be misconstrued or used as financial advice. We would encourage you to seek your own financial advice to support your decisions.   

We acknowledge that some religious beliefs prohibit interest on loans and as such this article will not be applicable to doctors of those faiths. We encourage independent research on the products available catering to specific religious requirements (Equality Act 2010)

Other A&E Agency articles you might be interested in:

How to apply for a National Insurance number

How to write a medical CV as a Doctor

UK Visa’s explained: Skilled Worker/Health and Care Worker (Previously Tier 2)

Primary medical qualifications for International Medical Graduates

Everything you need to know about PLAB