A costly inequality: Women pay nearly £17,000 more to borrow over a lifetime.
To be more precise, Credit Karma has discovered that the gender credit gap between men and women across their lifetimes is £16,913. That’s a decent chunk of money. You could use it toward a deposit on a home. You could buy a new car with it. You may even be able to buy three new Rolex watches with it — if that’s what makes you tick.
But disengagement with monetary matters, a fear of credit and a reliance on partners taking the financial lead are all making it more expensive for women to have a loan of their own.
- Encouraging women to have a more hands-on approach
- Why might women’s credit scores be weaker?
- Why do credit scores matter?
- 3 simple steps for women to become more appealing to lenders
Encouraging women to have a more hands-on approach
Credit Karma has researched the ability of women to borrow and benefit from preferential interest rates — to see how it compares to their male counterparts. Using Qualtrics Research (more on this at the end if you’re statistically inclined) — combined with data on male and female credit score distribution — we hope our new data-driven insight will encourage women to have a more hands-on approach to managing their money.
Credit scores that ‘need work‘
At the moment, women are more likely to fall into the “subprime” category for lenders. Put simply, this means they’re viewed as more risky by lenders. This makes accessing financial products — such as personal loans, credit cards and mortgages — harder or more expensive.
13% of women have a credit score below 500
According to our insight, the average credit score for men is 705, compared to 652 for women. What’s more, 13% have a credit score below 500, compared to only 6% of men. With Credit Karma, scores of below 565 fall into the “need work” category. Find out more about the different tiers of scores and what they mean for you.
Why might women’s credit scores be weaker?
Then there’s the all-important why behind the gender credit gap. Why are women’s credit scores, on average, coming out lower — making it more expensive for them to borrow? Our research reveals that one of the biggest reasons behind this is relationships. Nearly a third (31%) of women have some or all of their financial agreements in their partner’s name.
This is a hurdle because it limits credit exposure. And should their relationship end, it would leave them with little or no credit rating.
This is not the whole picture. Our research shows that women also appear to be more opposed to credit than men, with only 70% taking out credit cards, compared to 76% of men. There’s a similar gap when it comes to mortgages. And yet opening a new credit card account can add to your credit utilisation rate. If you keep your utilisation active and below 25% month-to-month, then this number should positively contribute to your score.
Why do credit scores matter?
Although you may not currently need a loan or a credit card, your situation may change in the future. So, improving your credit score now can stand you in good stead in years to come.
Many lenders choose not to lend to those whose credit scores are low, as they view them as less likely to be able to pay on time. If you’re in this situation and you do secure a loan, then you may be exposed to extra fees.
Just as actions you’ve taken — or inaction — in the past may have negatively affected your credit scores, small changes from now on can make big differences. Here’s how you could start making progress right now.
3 simple steps for women to become more appealing to lenders
- Have a mobile phone contract or a credit card in your name — not your partner’s. Lenders can’t assess your creditworthiness if you’ve never had credit.
- Pay your bills on time. Missing a payment can significantly impact your credit score — even if it’s only by a day or two. Paying bills off in full and on time shows that you are good at managing your money.
- Get on the electoral roll. This provides proof of address and that you have stable living arrangements.
In this way, women can become more engaged with their own finances, less fearful of the unknown and less reliant on their male partners and family members — and in doing so, take ownership of their own financial futures.
Credit Karma commissioned Qualtrics Research to interview 1,012 U.K. adults between 16 February and 5 March 2021. This was combined with analysis of macro data on male/female credit scores distribution.
Here is a snapshot of the findings, on which this article is based:
- The average credit score for men is 705, compared to 652 for women. Six percent of men have a credit score below 500, compared to 13% of women.
- Research completed by May 6, 2020, showed: Lifetime cost of lending (interest) across mortgages, unsecured loans, car finance and credit cards (aged 20-68): Prime (TransUnionCK credit score equivalent of 610+): £114,528; Near-prime (580-610): £150,133; Sub-prime (550 and below): £243,602. According to Credit Karma data, women have an average credit score of 652, while men have an average score of 705, pushing more into the lower scores and costs. Hence the difference in cost of average women’s credit scores vs. men’s was £16,931.
- According to research from Qualtrics, men were more likely to take out credit cards (76% vs 70%), personal loans (38% vs 29%) and mortgages (47% vs 40%), while women were more disposed to using buy-now, pay-later than men (25% vs 19%).