It’s a question we’d all like to know the answer to if we’re looking to borrow money. And if your credit history is less than squeaky clean you might not want to risk denting it further by leaving a trail of applications on your credit file without knowing if you’re likely to succeed.

That Martin Lewis is a canny lad…

Luckily our friends at http://www.moneysavingexpert.com have a brilliant Loans Eligibility Calculator on their website that will give you a great idea of your chances of success without leaving a visible search with the credit reference agencies.

By entering your details and how much you want to borrow, this clever widget performs what’s called a “soft search” of your credit file. This means that you can see the search, but any banks or other prospective lenders you may approach afterwards won’t – and as some lenders don’t like seeing too many applications in too short a period this is a great way to see what your loan eligibility is likely to be without actually applying.

How does it know?

The company which helped MoneySavingExpert build the calculator is called HD Decisions, and they work with banks to find out the type of customers they normally accept for each loan. This is based on both the answers you give to the calculator, and the ‘soft search’ of your credit file.

HD Decisions has been around for a few years, and it regularly checks its predicted approval rates against the actual amount of people accepted when they apply. On the testing it’s done, these two match up well. The accuracy varies between providers and can be improved by more people using the tool – so the more of you that have a go, the better it gets!

Computer says “no”…

If things look promising that you can get a good rate loan from the high street, congratulations! It’s likely you’ll be able to borrow reasonably cheaply. But what if the calculator didn’t give you such good news?

Well first of all, don’t rush off to one of those payday lenders who advertise all over the internet, TV and the papers. Even though they’ve been forced to cap their interest rates, the average APR they offer is still over 1,700%! Unless you’re absolutely certain you can pay back the loan when it’s due, it’s likely to roll over and the cost to borrow will escalate.

If you’ve got short-term money issues and you could use a loan to help you through why not check out your local credit union? Unlike a payday lender they don’t operate to make a profit, and they charge fair loan rates for people with less than perfect credit histories. To see an example of the rates you could pay, check out our loan application out we offer soft search function so it won’t impact your credit score.