When you apply for a credit card or bank loan, or get a new mobile phone contract etc, you have to agree to a credit search. In the UK, at least, this is probably carried out by one of the two big agencies, Experian and Equifax.

For a couple of quid you can get a copy of your credit record. You may, like me, find this to be good value, as these companies are not very discriminating about who's personal information they put on your file. Mine included the details of other people's bank loans and mail-order catalogue accounts that I really shouldn't have had access to. Also visible is the payment history over the last year, and how late any payments were.

Of course, if you can see other people's private information who can see yours?

If you've been refused credit recently, then you may find out why. A card reported as lost showed on my record as paid off, and the replacement showed as a new card. Your record shows you have only had a card for a couple of months, why should anyone give you a new card?

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