Credit crunch: Life just got harder for those who have to borrow to buy
First it was applicants for mortgages, now it's high-street and mail-order shoppers being put through strict new lending tests. By Esther Shaw
Sunday 11 November 2007
Consumers looking to sign up to mobile phone contracts, open a store card account or even buy from mail order catalogues could find they are knocked back as a result of the credit crunch.
Equifax, the credit reference agency, says the current turmoil in the money markets could affect anyone making a purchase that requires a credit check – not just those taking out a mortgage or personal loan.
"We have already heard how high street lenders are cutting credit limits and putting up interest rates, but this also applies to the smaller credit lenders," says Neil Munroe, spokesman for Equifax.
James Jones from Experian, another credit reference agency, says that companies selling anything from mortgages to mobiles are all now reviewing their lending policies.
"Credit providers use a 'credit scoring' system based on an individual's credit history to calculate risk and to decide whether to lend," says Mr Jones. "They are now only granting credit to those with the best scores."
Mr Munroe points out that companies requiring a credit check know that as people start to struggle to keep up their repayments, they will be hit first: "People will prioritise their payments, starting with their mortgage, while mobile phones, catalogues and store cards come lower down the pecking order."
Credit risk professionals at these smaller lenders, he adds, are on the look-out for the early signs of bad debt.
"The impact of the credit crunch is not only affecting the first line of finance but now also the second line, such as phone companies, store cards and mail order," says Tim Moss at the price comparison website Moneysupermarket.com. "We are seeing the belt-tightening by [major] lenders filtering through into other products."
For example, in the past, if you wanted to take out a mobile phone, you simply had to provide a utility bill as proof of address and would undergo a "light" credit check that would not leave a "footprint" on your credit record. But phone networks now go over credit histories more thoroughly, explains Mr Moss.
"Some people are taking these expensive goods and not paying their bills, and phone providers are no longer prepared to risk losing up to £600 upfront on a new handset," he says. "As a result, more and more people are struggling to get through the credit check."
The application process for store cards, he adds, is getting stricter too. "Previously, if you wanted to take out a store card, you could do it there and then at the counter, but you now have to undergo a more thorough credit check."
Even catalogue firms are toughening up: "This is still quite a niche area that tends to support the lower end of the demographic scale – those who struggle to get mainstream credit," says Mr Munroe.
However, he points out that as phone companies, store card providers and catalogue firms do not provide a "solely financial" product, they do have to strike a balance between tightening lending criteria so as not to take on bad debt, and maintaining marketing and sales so people will go on spending money.
"What we are seeing is lenders tweaking the margins," says Mr Munroe. "In the past, they might have overlooked the odd missed payment here and there, but we are now finding that slight misdemeanours on your credit file can matter a lot more."
How to boost a credit score
* Ensure you are on the electoral role. This makes it easier for the lender to verify that you live at the address you have given.
* Close cards and accounts you no longer use. Lenders look at all credit available to you when deciding if you are overstretched.
* Make loan repayments on time and by direct debit. A history of meeting repayments will give lenders greater confidence in you.
Interest-only mortgages return to give more flexibility to borrowers
Bargain Hunter: Exclusive discount on a SmartGlider - a self-balancing electric scooter
My Tinder date asked for a refund when I declined a second meet up
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
Be warned of the dirty tricks the bailiffs pull
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
iJobs Money & Business
£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...
£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...
£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...
Day In a Page
This five-bedroom home in Sutton Coldfield is arranged over three floors, with a detached garage to the rear and a driveway at the front of the property.
In an elevated position above the bay, this four-bedroom home offers sea and headland views. There is a decked balcony and sun terrace - plus coastal walks on the doorstep.
With four bedrooms, this spacious maisonette in a mid-terrace period-style house in Holland Road is well-maintained and offers high ceilings and period features.
The terraces of this two-bedroom penthouse apartment offer panoramic views that stretch over fifty miles from the cliffs of Beachy Head.
In the heart of the coastal village of Mumbles and moments from the pier, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is set over three floors and retains many original features.
In a sandbanks location, moments from the beach, this three-bedroom apartment has a large open-plan living area and a south-west facing balcony.
This four-bedroom home has an annexe accessed from the side of the house, with potential for improvement and conversion subject to the necessary permissions.
In the heart of the hamlet of Wardley, this five-bedroom period home offers countryside views and a stylish interior, with original features and open fireplaces.
Offering countryside views and landscaped gardens, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed lodge has a spacious conservatory and a large cellar that could serve as a workshop.
Set in approximately 1.5 acres, this four-bedroom home comes with a second, detached property that's currently used as an annexe.
In the hamlet of Newchurch, this former parish church is now a four-bedroom home complete with clock tower and eyrie.
Offering scenic views from a large balcony and sun terrace, this four-bedroom home has a wraparound garden and a heated swimming pool.
Offering views across the Humber and East Yorkshire Wolds from a glass panelled balcony, this four-bedroom barn-style home befits a life of leisure.
This four-bedroom home offers versatile accommodation with annexe potential; features include a hot tub, sauna and Norwegian BBQ hut.
Well-located for schools, colleges and the town centre, this contemporary thatched cottage offers flexible living space with six bedrooms.
Built in 1907, this four-bedroom Edwardian period home has been refurbished by the current owners, retaining many original period features.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this five-bedroom home offers living space across three floors.
This lovely country home in Burnham Market is currently run as a popular holiday cottage, with five en suite bedrooms and colourful gardens.
This three-bedroom 17th-century former village bakery is just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
Set on a landscaped plot, this light and airy four-bedroom home comes with a log burner in the lounge, a fitted kitchen and an open-plan ground-floor layout.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.