Did you pay your gas bill last month? Missed an electricity payment or two? This won’t automatically be reported to the credit bureaus who determine which loans you can get, but that doesn’t mean you can relax completely.
Here, personal finance experts explain how not paying your gas or other utilities on time can impact your credit score.
Do Utility Bills Impact Your Credit Score?
The answer is yes, if there has been a default.
Consumer bills for gas and other utilities are “rarely reported” to credit bureaus despite being paid on time, said John Ulzheimer, a credit expert. Newsweek.
Thomas Nitzsche, personal finance expert and senior director of media and brand at Money Management International, also said Newsweek: “U.S. utility bills are not reported to major credit bureaus unless the consumer is in default.”
When the customer defaults, the utility company can send the overdue bill to a third-party collection agent, also known as a collection agency, Ulzheimer said.
“The collection agency will then report the collection account to the credit bureaus, which of course can result in lower scores,” he said.
The unpaid bill will appear on the credit report within 30 days of its placement with the collection agency, if the consumer does not make payment, Nitzsche said.
The Experian credit bureau says utility companies reporting such cases must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, regularly updating payment information and responding to disputes within legally mandated time frames.
What is the impact of non-payment of utility bills?
Once a utility account goes into collection status, it can do “significant damage” to your credit score, Nitzsche said. A single collection account can lower a credit score by up to 110 points.
“The higher your initial credit score, the more points you will lose due to a collection account” because “the credit score algorithm deducts for a collection account based on a percentage of the score of origin, and not a lump sum”, he explained. .
A person who already has a low credit score will lose fewer points, according to Nitzsche, but they should still be wary. “Keep in mind that 35% of the credit score is based on payment history, so maintaining a positive payment history and preventing collection accounts from being flagged is critical.”
According to Ulzheimer, “there is no single answer” to how much impact late utility payments have on your credit score. This will depend on the rest of the information in the credit report. “The impact could be significant, if the credit report is otherwise clean, or immaterial if the credit report is already polluted with other negative information.”
He said the collection can remain on the report for seven years from the date of the first offense. This is a “legal requirement that applies to all providers of information to credit bureaus”.
Can I rebuild my credit?
“There’s no one-size-fits-all answer” to how easy it might be to rebuild your credit or how long it might take, Ulzheimer said. “It depends on the remaining information on the credit report. It could take years, it could take less time.”
Nitzsche said: “It usually takes much longer to improve a credit score than to damage it. The older the credit defect, the less damage it will cause to the credit score, but it will show up on the credit report for seven years.”
He added that for people with “a ‘thin’ credit history (not many business lines), it’s important to create new lines of credit to report a positive payment history.”
Consumers with low credit scores might need to take out a “secured credit card” or “credit loan” from a local bank or credit union to build their score to a point where they can get traditional lines of credit, Nitzsche said.
Some credit bureaus allow consumers to improve their scores by reporting on-time utility bill payments, whether the bill is paid through a bank account or credit card, he added. Experian Boost, for example, will assess utility bills, phones, and even streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.