Your credit score is directly linked to your payment history. As a result, whether you pay your utility bills in a timely manner can affect your credit score. How these companies handle your accounts and report payments can also positively or negatively impact it.
Too many inquiries into your credit history can make creditors believe you have hidden debt or you're planning to take on new debt soon. When a utility company checks a potential or existing customer’s credit worthiness, that single inquiry adds to the total number of inquiries. Typically, individual inquiries only impact your credit score by a few points. However, if you have a short credit history, or you recently had a lot of inquiries, a credit check by a utility company can result in a lower score.
Utility companies can report late payments to TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Even if your utility company doesn’t report a late payment, you may still see a negative mark on your credit history if your utility account becomes severely delinquent. When this happens, the utility company may turn your account over to a collection agency who then makes the report. Any record of late payments or severe delinquency typically remains on your credit history for up to seven years, according to TransUnion.
Roommates often set up an account under multiple names so each roommate can equally discuss bills or account changes with the company. Utility companies consider any authorized account holder responsible for paying a bill. If you have roommates and share bill responsibilities, a late or unpaid utility bill can potentially lower your credit score. If a roommate pays late, or fails to pay, the delinquency can appear on each person’s credit history.
Solutions for Paying
You should always try to make timely payments. If you can’t pay a bill, call your utility company for assistance. Most utility companies offer budget or installment repayment plans. They also typically have information about state, federal and charity assistance programs that may be able to help you if you're experiencing a financial emergency.
Your utility company might still report you to the credit bureaus for account delinquency while you participate in a plan to repay a past due bill. Although paying your utilities on time prevents negative reporting and helps you to maintain a higher credit score, a short record clear of negative reports after a history of late payments or unpaid bills won’t immediately reverse a low credit score. Typically, you must make several on-time payments before your credit history reflects an overall improved financial status.
- Bankrate: How Credit Inquiries Affect Credit Score
- MyFico: Can Accounts That Aren’t On My Credit Report Affect My Score?
- ABC News: 3 Accounts That Could Hurt Your Credit Score
- Experian: Credit Report May Be Hurt By Joint Lease, Utilities With Roommates
- Federal Trade Commission: Consumer Information: Utility Services
- TransUnion: What Affects Your Credit Score?
Based in Southern Pennsylvania, Irene A. Blake has been writing on a wide range of topics for over a decade. Her work has appeared in projects by The National Network for Artist Placement, the-phone-book Limited and GateHouse Media. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University.