IRMI Tip of the Month: Credit Rating and Insurance Underwriting

A big factor in determining the premium of a personal auto policy has nothing to do with a person’s driving record—it’s his or her credit record. According to Conning and Company, more than 90 percent of insurers use an applicant’s credit history—his or her insurance risk score—to slot him or her into a certain program.

When a person applies for auto insurance, the insurance company asks for permission to pull his or her credit information. The insurer then secures a credit report from one or more of the credit bureaus—TransUnion; Experian; or Equifax. For more information on credit reports or to secure a copy of your own report, go to http://www.credit.com.

Credit scores range from 300 to 850. If your score is below 650, you may have trouble getting insurance or you may have to pay a higher premium. In order to improve your credit score, keep in mind the following factors that influence the score.

● Payment history—The largest factor is credit and loan account payment history. A steady record of on-time payments going back several years shows responsibility.

● Debts owed—The number of accounts you currently have, including type and balance. Try to have just a few active accounts with low balances.

● Length of credit history—The longer your credit history, the better.

● New accounts—Every time you apply for a new account, a record of that application appears on your credit report and drops your score. Limit the number of applications you submit.

● Balance of accounts—It is best to have between two and six open credit cards and one or two loans.

● Negative records—Collections, judgments, and bankruptcy filings will drop your score.

Get more personal lines insurance and risk management tips and ideas from IRMI.

Copyright 2008, International Risk Management Institute, Inc.