How at 44 I look like an 18-year old

First Direct sign and buildingMore than 20 years of an unblemished banking record with First Direct has resulted in me having no credit record, forcing Virgin Money to refuse me a charity credit card.

The credit reference firm Experian, which Virgin checked, says I "look like an 18-year old who has never had a bank account." While, at 44, it is nice to look like an 18-year old, I need to sort this out. My best banking behaviour has had calamitous credit consequences.
Virgin Money said: "Ultimately the reason your application was declined was the lack of established credit history showing on your credit file."

Too old

The nub of the problems is that in the days when I opened my First Direct bank account and took out their credit card, banks only shared information about bad risk customers - those who missed payments or ran up unauthorised debts. I have never been one of those.

But the world has changed and many customers shop around, switching bank accounts and credit cards as often as they change shirts. For that "here today, gone tomorrow" market place to function, everyone needs to share all data - both the good and the bad. And that has happened for all new customers.

Share and share alike

According to James Jones at Experian, Barclaycard was the first to share all data. Since 1993 anyone joining Barclaycard has signed permission for their data to be shared. First Direct says it has only been sharing since 2005.

Jones point out that, historically, people didn't tend to shop around so banks were worried that people trying to move or open new credit cards might have run up huge debts elsewhere and been refused. They shared any negative records to help each other out.

Experian estimates that 40 million UK accounts are still not shared. To put that in context, 450 million are shared, so that is just 8%.

Starting from scratch

I have now requested that First Direct share my data. That should add a bank account, an overdraft facility, a credit card and a mortgage to the only other information Experian held on me - that I was indeed registered to vote at my given address.

That will then appear on Experian in one of its monthly updates. In a couple of years' time I may appear to be a normal credit risk.

Part of me would like to remain 18.

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