Does Paying Utility Bills Help Build Credit?
Harrison Pierce is a writer and a digital nomad, specializing in personal finance with a focus on credit cards. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a major in sociology and is currently traveling the world.Read full bio
At a Glance
Paying utility bills can help develop and maintain good credit. When lenders look at a consumer’s credit report, they assess the risk associated with providing a loan or other form of credit. Payment history is an essential factor that lenders consider when evaluating potential borrowers. If utility payments are consistently made on time and in full, this can bolster an individual’s credit score and demonstrate financial stability.
Read on to learn about:
What is a credit report?
A credit report is a document that outlines a person’s credit history and includes information about the individual’s current financial obligations, previous payment activity, openness to new lines of credit, and other factors. It also contains information on bankruptcies or foreclosures. The three major nationwide consumer reporting agencies compile this data: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Credit reports are used by creditors when evaluating applications for loans or other forms of financing. Landlords can also use them when assessing potential tenants for rental housing or employers who want to check an applicant’s financial responsibility.
A credit report is not the same as a credit score; however, it does play an essential role in calculating the individual’s score. When reviewing your report, it is crucial to look for any inaccuracies since errors can impact one’s ability to qualify for loans or get favorable rates from lenders.
Are utility bills included in your credit report?
No, utility bills are not typically included in your credit report. Although some lenders may use information from utilities to assess your payment history when making lending decisions, this information is not stored by the three major credit bureaus. This means that it does not appear on your credit report.
However, always paying your utility bills on time is essential, as late payments can harm your overall financial wellbeing. It’s also important to note that certain types of utilities, such as phone or cable bills, are considered hard inquiries, which will temporarily lower an individual’s score for about one year. These inquiries are rarely used in evaluating applications for loans or other forms of financing.
How can utility bills help build credit?
Though utility bills are not included in your credit report, they can still help you build better credit. An essential part of improving your credit score is showing lenders that you make timely payments on all your obligations, including utility bills. To ensure potential lenders see this positive payment history, always pay your bills on time and in full each month. Paying more than the minimum amount due or paying down existing balances will also reduce the total debt reported to the credit bureaus, which may help improve an individual’s overall score.
Additionally, even if utility payments are not reported to the major credit reporting agencies directly, certain services offer a way for individuals to share their rental payment histories with these companies. This provides a complete picture of financial responsibility when applying for new forms of financing. Finally, it’s essential to keep an eye out for any errors or inconsistencies on one’s report since these can significantly impact the ability to get loans or favorable rates from lenders. So, it is best to contact the reporting agency immediately if suspicious activity exists.
Can utility bills hurt my credit score?
Yes, utility bills can hurt your credit score if not paid on time. Late payments are reported to the credit bureaus and will stay on your credit report for up to seven years. This can result in a lower credit score or cause lenders to deny an application for a loan or other forms of financing. To avoid adverse effects on your credit report, paying all utility bills promptly and accurately each month is essential. It’s also advisable to review your credit reports periodically so that any errors due to incorrect billing data can be identified and corrected immediately by the reporting agency before they impact one’s score. Finally, keeping total debt low relative to available borrowing capacity can help boost one’s overall score over time. High balances may indicate excessive use of available resources indicating higher risk status during evaluation by potential creditors.
Utility companies do not typically report past-due balances to the major credit bureaus as there is no direct benefit to them. However, some utility companies have begun offering programs that allow customers to pay their monthly bills using third-party services that report to the credit bureaus. This can benefit consumers looking to build their credit as responsible payment behavior is reported directly to the three major reporting agencies.
When do utility bills affect my credit?
Utility bills can affect your credit both directly and indirectly. Utility bills are frequently missed, ignored or neglected, but they can have a dramatic effect on your credit score. Failing to make payments in full and on time can result in late fees, collection agencies contacting you, and even having your service cut off altogether if bills remain unpaid for extended periods of time. All of these scenarios can reflect poorly on your credit score and stay with you for years, making it more difficult to access insurance, loans or other amenities.
On the other hand, proving to lenders that you are financially responsible can positively impact your credit.
1. When bills become unaffordable
Unaffordable utility bills can impact an individual’s credit score. Late payments will remain in a person’s report for up to seven years, resulting in lower scores or lenders denying loan/financing applications. Certain types of utilities, such as phone bills, count as hard inquiries, which will temporarily lower an individual’s score for about one year. These inquiries are not usually used when evaluating loans/financing.
Suppose the total debt becomes too high relative to available borrowing capacity. In that case, this may indicate excessive use of available resources indicating higher risk status during evaluation by potential creditors, thus lowering the overall score over time.
2. When utility bills are sent to collections
When utility bills are sent to collections, they will remain on an individual’s credit report for up to seven years, resulting in a lower score and potential denials from lenders. It is vital to stay ahead of payment deadlines or seek assistance from local non-profits or federal programs like LIHEAP to avoid having utilities sent to collections and lessen their negative effect on one’s credit score.
Credit cards, student loans, car loans, and mortgages are typically reported to the credit bureaus and can help build credit if paid on time. Even paying utility bills on time can help improve or maintain a good credit score if they are not sent to collections. It is important to review your monthly statement regularly and be proactive with payment deadlines to prevent utility bills from being sent to collections and negatively affecting your credit report. In some cases, spending responsibly on recurring expenses like rent or cellphone payments may also be factored into an individual’s score, depending upon the reporting agency used by the lender.
To add utility bills to your credit score, you must establish an account with a credit reporting agency. Then, contact the utility companies and ask them to report your monthly payment history. Once they do this, it will be included in your credit report. Although these accounts may not help you build a credit score like other forms of revolving debt, such as student loans or car loans, prompt utility payments can still influence lenders’ decision-making when applying for new lines of credit or loans.
When a utility bill goes into collection, it is marked as delinquent or past due in the individual’s credit report and remains there for up to seven years. This will significantly reduce their credit score as collections are considered one of the most damaging items in a person’s credit report. Remember that credit scores measure an individual’s likelihood to repay a loan, so if they have debt that gets sent to collections, they are considered very risky borrowers by potential creditors.
Additionally, unpaid utility bills can result in service interruption and possibly even legal action if left unresolved for too long. It can also lead to additional collection charges, like late fees or penalties, which will add to the amount that must be paid back to keep the account current. Therefore, it’s vital to stay ahead of payment deadlines or seek assistance from local non-profits or federal programs like LIHEAP to avoid having utilities sent to collections and lessen their negative effect on your credit score.