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The Scottish islands with the best credit score in the UK

Cyclists on Orkney

Amongst its many attractions, Orkney can list fascinating archaeology, spectacular wildlife and lyrical landscapes.

But now the islands have another, rather more unexpected, claim to fame.

The people who live there are the best at managing their money of anyone in Britain.

That is according to new data which shows that the inhabitants of the Orkney Islands have, on average, the highest credit score in the country.

They are savers rather than borrowers.

If they have to ask for money, they are likely to pay it back promptly, and in full.

In second place are the people of the Shetland Islands, a hundred miles further north.

So how do they do it, and why do credit ratings matter?

Image caption Residents of Orkney are reluctant to use credit cards, says one expert

'Save, save, save'

Across the Northern Isles, people are careful with money.

"If we don't have it, we don't spend it," says Andy Green, an independent financial adviser (IFA) who's lived in Orkney for over 40 years.

"People are reluctant to use credit cards. If we want to borrow, we go to family members first."

He also believes there are fewer spending temptations.

"We have a save, save, save mentality here," another long-term resident of the town tells the BBC.

"Most folk are pretty canny; even cannier than Scottish folk in general."

As a result the Orkney and Shetland islanders live in a financial virtuous circle: By having good credit scores, they can access cheaper mortgage and borrowing rates, enabling them to manage their money even more efficiently.

Extra interest

The map of area postcodes - compiled from an analysis of 10m credit scores by ClearScore - shows where people are most careful with their cash.

A more detailed map of individual postcodes is at the bottom of this page.

On the basis of area codes, London, Manchester and Liverpool have the poorest credit records.

South East London comes bottom of the table, for example, with an average score of 361.15. By contrast, people in the Orkneys have an average credit score of 453.68.

According to one of the credit reference agencies, Equifax, people living in areas like SE London represent, on average, "a significant risk to lenders".

As a result they will end up paying more to borrow. Even taking out a mobile phone contract could be more costly.

"Someone with a low credit score could face paying over £19,000 in extra credit card interest over a lifetime," says Justin Basini, the chief executive of ClearScore.

Top and bottom five credit scores in Britain
Rank Area/Postcode Average credit score
1. Orkney Islands (KW) 453.68
2. Shetland Islands (ZE) 453.25
3. Exeter (EX) 445.49
4. Bath (BA) 445.4
5. Dorchester (DT) 444.23
118. West Central London (WC) 372.76
119. North West London (NW) 371.87
120. Southall (U) 370.38
121. East London (E) 361.56
122. South East London (SE) 361.15
source: ClearScore

Facebook 'friends'

If you want to borrow money, lenders in the UK traditionally go to one of three credit reference agencies to check you out: Experian, Equifax or Callcredit.

These agencies know all about your money habits, and pass that information to the bank.

But several new companies believe that lenders could get more up-to-date information by analysing social media.

One of them, a UK company called Hello Soda, says that the number of friends someone has on Facebook could be a useful credit score indicator.

Someone with lots of friends is likely to be more trustworthy, the company claims, as their profile will probably be genuine.

Other clues can be gained from what people post about, and whether they plan spending in advance.

"From organising going for drinks in the pub, to booking a holiday months in advance, people who plan ahead tend to be better at managing their finances," says James Blake, the chief executive of Hello Soda.

"Regularly going out for lunch or coffee indicates higher income."

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Social media can also be used to assess your credit-worthiness

Another company, Fico, has said it might even count the number of times someone uses the word "wasted" on Facebook.

The companies say they only access data they have permission to use. Nevertheless, you have been warned.

'Clean up' your record

If you want to make sure you are getting the best lending rates, it is advisable to check your record.

Jasmine Birtles, a personal finance expert with Moneymagpie.com, advises people to look up their scores, even if they think they are a good risk.

One reason is that they could contain inaccurate information, possibly because of fraud.

"If you have moved house recently, say in the last two years, that's the time you get a lot of identity theft - because someone has got hold of your bank statements," she says.

The credit reference agencies all allow people to correct inaccurate records.

Justin Basini also recommends distancing yourself from ex-partners, or even flatmates who have a poorer credit record than you.

If your record is so poor that you can't get a normal credit card, you can always take out a card specifically designed for those with bad credit scores.

Such cards typically have very high interest rates, of around 35%.

"Use them to spend maybe £20 or £30 a month, but when the bill comes in, make sure you pay it off religiously every month," says Jasmine Birtles.

"Within six months that will start to clean up your record."


Credit scores by individual postcode

Image copyright ClearScore

To access the detailed map of 8,589 individual postcode districts, click here


As you can see from the map above, the research on credit scores also went down to a deeper level of individual postcodes.

On this measure, the B2 district of central Birmingham had the lowest credit score in the country, at 299.

By contrast, the people with the very best credit scores in Britain live in AB13, the Milltimber district of Aberdeen.

And that, if you believe the stereotypical joke about Aberdonian generosity, may not be a universal surprise.

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