This is a sponsored post in partnership with Portify
I never really thought a lot about my credit score until I became a single parent and started being turned down for credit. I’d never had any major financial problems, but a few late credit card payments here and there, a missed mortgage payment during the heat of separation, and ten years of irregular freelance wages was enough to seriously dent my credit score.
After my divorce, I was flat broke and struggling to work part-time with a baby. We’d sold our house and I found it so hard to get approved for a new mortgage. I even got turned down for a mobile phone contract. I wanted to cry when my mortgage advisor wrote the words “SUB PRIME” on my little folder.
In time, I got back on my feet, but my credit score took a while to catch up. Being a single parent can make it hard to get a good credit score. We’re more likely to work in part-time or flexible jobs that fit around childcare. That can mean we earn irregular wages, and if maintenance isn’t paid regularly, that just makes things worse.
I also realised that, as a single parent, I found it harder to pass affordability checks. As a single adult, I pay the same for a car, utilities, insurance and rent/mortgage as a married couple, but I have to pay that out of a single income. Compared to a married person earning the same wage as me, I have far less disposable income.
So, what can you do to improve your credit score as a single parent? The good news is that if you start today, there’s a lot you can do that could boost your credit score within a year.
Single Parents – 5 ways you could improve your credit score:
Use a credit building app
I wish that apps like Portify were available back when I got divorced. Portify is an app that’s designed for people who have a slightly dented credit record, people who work freelance with irregular wages, or anyone who wants to build a healthy credit score. The app could help to boost your credit score in three ways:
- Portify analyses your spending and identifies recurring payments. The app will alert you if a payment is coming up and you don’t have funds to cover it. Reducing the number of declined payments on your account reduces fees AND could help protect your credit score.
- If you join Portify as a paid member, your monthly subscription payments or positive payment behaviour (depending on the membership) will be reported to credit reference agencies. This helps show credit agencies that you’re making regular credit payments on time, and positive payment history makes up 35% of your credit score! It costs £5 per month to report payments to Experian, and £9 a month to report to Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
- Portify Plus members are offered a line of credit (subject to eligibility) that tops up your bank account to meet recurring expenses, so they’ll be paid on time. Perfect if you’re a freelancer who has ever begged an accounts person to please pay you so that a direct debit won’t bounce (and been ignored)
Portify can take a few months to work, and obviously results can’t be guaranteed. If you don’t make payments on time, or have a CCJ in the last 12 months or similar financial issues, this type of app might not be for you. For full details check out the website or download the app.
Check your credit file
If you want to improve your credit score as a single parent, you need to know your starting point. I know from experience this can seem scary (I really, really didn’t want to know my score, because I knew it would upset me). But checking your credit means you can spot anything that isn’t correct, or that can be fixed. For example, you might have a lingering default on your account from a phone bill you know was paid, or something that relates to someone else you shared a house with back in the day.
Don’t make minimum payments
One of the things my mortgage advisor told me was to always pay more than the minimum payment if you have a credit card. Even if it’s just £1 more than the minimum, your overall credit score will benefit because the lender will report that you’ve paid more than necessary. But unless there’s a compelling reason, don’t clear your balance completely every month.
Separate (financially) from your ex
My ex had significant debts and multiple defaults on his credit file, and I didn’t want this to affect my mortgage application for a new house. I tried to de-link us financially but quickly found out that you can’t do this until your ex has been removed from any joint financial products. This meant removing his name from utility bills, and also closing our joint account. Once that was done, I was able to write to the credit agencies and ask for a notice of disassociation.
Don’t apply for too much credit
Whenever you apply for credit, lenders will perform a credit check – too many checks in too short a time period suggest you’re in financial trouble and increase the odds of you being rejected. Not great news if you’re a single parent and want to protect your credit score. In reality, you’re probably just shopping around! If that’s the case, use calculators like those available on Money Saving Expert to see if you’re likely to be accepted for a particular card and only complete an application if you have a good idea you’ll be accepted.