Some Insurers Still Use Credit for Auto, Home Insurance Costs

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  • Every year, millions of Americans find that the cost of their auto or home insurance premiums increases slightly for reasons they may not always understand. Many experts caution that in at least some of these cases, an aspect of their financial lives unrelated to their liability or claims is to blame, and there may be some concern about the kinds of issues that arise from this reality. Consequently, it may be incumbent upon insurance agents to help their clients understand why these kinds of increases take place, and what they might be able to do to prevent those changes from impacting their households’ bottom lines.

    A number of major insurers take credit inquiries and other financial details into account above and beyond insurance dealings when setting premiums, and for some policyholders, that could end up costing them hundreds of dollars per year, according to a report from Grand Rapids, Michigan, television station WXMI. Sometimes, these rate increases can amount to a change of as much as 10 percent.

    “That has nothing to do with my homeowners claims or driving record,” Tami Clark, a homeowner who saw her insurance rates go up after she had to get some credit checks run, told the station. “I’ve never filed a claim in 30 years. I had to get credit checks for Lowe’s, to buy my truck, and get a new credit card, but I pay my bills on time. I have a good credit rating.”

    Growing opposition?
    Currently, only four states – California, Hawaii, Maryland, and Massachusetts – have laws which outlaw the ability of insurance companies to assess credit risk when setting premiums, the report said. However, as opposition among consumer advocacy groups to this practice grows, it’s likely that more states will take up the cause and at least consider prohibiting this practice in the future.

    The more insurance agents can do to help their clients understand why their rates may go up, as well as some other aspects of their liability that could be impacting their bottom lines, the better off both are likely to be. Consumers with a better understanding of their insurance situations might end up feeling better about their policies and providers overall, and that, in turn, could lead agents to boast higher rates for both customer satisfaction and client retention as a result.