Credit reports play an important role in your life beyond the world of credit cards, mortgages and student loans. As you build a credit history, you’re developing a key component of your future that may affect your job, where you live and even the phone in your pocket.
Loan officers and credit card companies aren’t the only ones who use credit reports when making decisions, but many people don’t realize how influential credit reports are until they’ve been burned by their own.
“Credit reports are becoming important in almost every facet of our lives,” said John C. Heath, a credit expert and attorney with Lexington Law, a Credit.com partner.
Credit reports carry significant weight in the following scenarios, much to many consumers’ surprise.
1. Applying for a Job
A company or hiring manager will generally review your credit report for one of two reasons: reliability or security, said Rod Griffin, Experian’s director of public education. Some employers feel that a credit report can address both of those concerns.
Employer credit checks are a little different than others. First, the employer has to get your written consent to review your credit report (unlike other credit report requests) and an employer will never see your credit score, Griffin said.
Because credit reports contain so much data, they can be used to verify an applicant’s identity, like their name, address and previous employers. The financial insights provided by credit reports can also be valuable to employers filling positions that involve handling money or require security clearance.
“It can show signs of financial stress,” Griffin said of a poor credit report. “It makes you a greater security risk. You’re potentially more subject to bribes … That’s sort of the underlying thought process.”
2. Getting Insurance
In some states, insurance companies review an applicant’s credit history to assess the likelihood that they will file a claim or make timely payments on their premium, Heath said.
3. Setting up Utilities
Internet, heat, water and electricity are all necessities, but the companies that provide them want some assurance they’ll be paid. If you have a poor credit history, a utility company may require you to pay a deposit when you start your service to protect it from loss, Griffin said. You can often get that deposit back after making a certain number of on-time payments.
4. Buying a Phone
The majority of American adults have smartphones, but those devices aren’t cheap. Your payment options for a new device may depend on your credit standing, and as with utilities, starting cellphone service may require a deposit if you don’t meet a certain credit standard, Griffin said.
5. Becoming a Volunteer
Your credit probably isn’t top of mind when signing up for a volunteer gig. But Griffin said credit reports are a common component of background checks, so inaccurate credit report information can cause problems.
6. Looking for Housing
Just because you’re renting a home (as opposed to paying a mortgage) doesn’t mean your credit’s not important. Credit reports are a common part of the tenant-screening process, Griffin said, but it’s one people tend to overlook. As if it’s not challenging enough to try and find an affordable place to live, bad credit can seriously intensify the frustration of it all.
If past mistakes or tough financial times have damaged your credit, there are many things you can do to try and build a good credit history while you wait for negative items to age off your credit report.
Keep in mind, a low credit score can also be the result of inaccurate information, which is why it’s important to monitor your credit reports for errors or signs of identity theft. Even something seemingly insignificant like a misspelled name or wrong address can indicate bigger problems, so it’s helpful to regularly review your credit reports for accuracy. (You can get a free overview of your credit report every month on Credit.com.)
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