Bad Credit Means Higher Auto Insurance Rates
Insurance agencies know if you pay your credit card bills on time – and use that information to determine your auto insurance rate. Credit history is a proven predictor of the likelihood of an auto insurance claim, according to the credit-scoring formula of Fair Isaac Corporation. Nine of the nation’s top 10 auto insurers use credit history in their underwriting, according to the Insurance Journal. But that predictor in personal line insurance is not a trend in insuring commercial fleets of vehicles.However, overall credit has been a factor in commercial lines for decades to assess the financial stability of private companies. “Usually when you’re buying a commercial auto policy for a fleet of vehicles the financial stability of the business is one of the determining factors,” said Robert Hartwig, chief economist at the Insurance Information Institute. “A company’s financial statement is more important than the individually based credit scores of the drivers,” said Joe Annotti, VP Public Affairs Property Casualty Insurance Association of America. Though Annotti believes some companies may use individual driver’s credit scores to help determine premiums, he doesn’t see a trend.The issue had been a legislative and political hot button a few years ago when consumer advocates decried the fact that there was no logical correlation between a customer’s credit worthiness and driving record. However, insurance regulations say that as long as an underwriting criterion is actuarially sound and non-discriminatory it can be used as a factor to help determine credit score, said Kevin O’Reilly of Insurance Journal.Many states now have reasonable restrictions on credit as a determining factor. Customers can’t penalize someone who has no credit history or who may have had a credit problem due to a medical crisis, Annotti said. A recent Florida law prohibits insurers from denying insurance based solely on credit score. California prohibits using credit history altogether. Checking credit history lowers the payments the majority of motorists make to insurance companies, which is good news for consumers. The Insurance Information Institute recently cut its 2004 rate increase forecast from 6 percent to about 3.5 percent – the smallest increase in four years.