My Credit Affects My Auto Insurance Rate?

By Insurance.com Posted : 01/15/2009

You probably know that banks use information in your credit report to determine if they'll extend credit. But did you know that in most states, car insurance companies also consider your credit history? Good or bad, your credit history may affect which companies will sell you homeowners or auto insurance coverage and will often determine the price you'll pay. Since company's have different policies on who they sell to and at what price, it's in your best interest to compare auto insurance quotes from multiple companies.

Late credit card payments or not having a credit history at all will often affect your rates. Here are two examples:

  • Last year, you were unemployed for six months. Before you could find a new job, you fell behind on several credit card payments, but you've caught up. Now your auto insurance rates are going up, even though you've never filed a claim against your policy. What's the reason?
  • You've always paid your bills on time, but you pay by check or with cash instead of applying for credit—even for major purchases. Why would this be a problem?

What's the score here?
Insurance companies have always used various criteria to determine who to insure and at what rates. For example, auto insurance rates are based on your age, driving record, make and model of your car, and how many insurance claims you've filed in the past. In states where it is permitted by law, insurance companies also use credit information as an additional factor to help predict which drivers represent more risk. Insurers believe that the more stable your credit history, the less likely you are to have an accident or file a claim against your auto or homeowners insurance policy. And the more likely you are to pay your insurance premium payments.

If your credit history (along with other factors considered) suggests that you are likely to be a responsible driver, you may be offered a lower premium. But if your credit history is tarnished—or if you have little or no credit history—you may pay higher premiums for the coverage you're offered. You may even be denied coverage altogether.

How you can improve the score
If your rate changes or you are denied insurance coverage because of your credit history, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to order a free copy of your credit report from the bureau used by the auto insurance company. If you feel the information provided to the credit bureau is incorrect, you can dispute it. Every insurance company is required to disclose whether you rate was affected by your credit report, and other consumer reports, such as your motor vehicle report.

If you've been turned down for insurance, this may feel like too little, too late. But if your credit history is affecting your ability to get auto or homeowners insurance (or the premiums you're charged for it), here are a few things you can do:

  • Clean up your credit immediately. Pay at least the minimum amount due every month, consolidate high interest credit cards on a lower rate card, and don't spend beyond your means.
  • If you don't have any credit, get some. Your lack of history is what's hurting you; to the insurance companies, you're an unknown quantity. Although you don't want to run up excessive debt, you do want to show that you can use credit responsibly. Student or car loans, fitness club memberships, and store credit cards are usually easy to get and can help your credit report if paid regularly and used correctly.
  • Once a year, check your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. This site allows you to request a free credit file disclosure once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The information contained in one report may not be reflected by the others, so make sure all the information is correct and dispute any errors with both the creditor and the credit bureaus involved.

For now, the use of credit reports is an industry standard. Make your credit work for you by watching it closely. In most cases, you may be rewarded with lower premiums if you do so.

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