Who Looks at Credit Scores?

Employers, insurance companies and loan providers can use your credit score to learn about your habits.

Your credit score can tell a mortgage lender or credit card company whether you are a good credit risk. But there are a lot of other companies and institutions that can use your credit score to determine if you are a good risk as a tenant, a driver or even an employee. To increase your chances of getting the apartment, job or loan you want, first take steps to get the highest credit score possible.

Here’s an overview of some of the people who look at your credit score:

Landlords or Property Managers

When you apply rent an apartment or home, the landlord or property management company will check your credit score before they agree to sign a lease. They want to be sure that you have paid your bills on time in the past, as this is a good indication that, as a tenant, you will pay your rent on time. They might pull a complete credit report or use a tenant screening service to see your rental history and whether you have a large amount of debt relative to your income. If your credit score is below 620, a landlord will consider you a high risk and might not rent to you.

Mortgage Lenders

A mortgage lender will look at your credit score to determine the interest rate you might qualify for. A borrower with a higher credit score will get a lower interest rate, which means they will pay less for the exact same mortgage loan amount than someone with a lower credit score.

To get a mortgage that is backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, you might have difficulty getting a loan if your score is below 650. For an FHA mortgage, your credit score must be at least 580 to qualify for the low down payment advantage. If your score is higher, you will likely get a better interest rate.

Find Out: Why You Need a 740 Credit Score for Your Auto and Mortgage Loan Applications

Student Loans Providers

Most students take out some kind of loan to finance their college education. When you apply for a private student loan, the company will look at your credit score. The better your score, the better your interest rate and the lower your payment. Loan providers look at other factors as well, such as recent bankruptcies and your debt-to-income ratio. Borrowers with poor credits scores could face interest rates nearly double those of borrowers with the best scores.

Other Lenders

Banks, retail stores and other companies that offer credit cards will check your credit score before approving your application for a credit card. A good score will result in a high credit limit and likely a lower interest rate. If your credit score is poor, you can expect a higher interest rate and a low credit limit. Paying your bill on time and making more than the minimum payment each month will increase the likelihood that you will be approved for a credit line as lenders see proof of regular payments. If your credit score is 750 or higher, you can probably get any card you want. Below 600, you’re unlikely to get approved and you might have to apply for a secured credit card instead.

Insurance Companies

Insurance companies in most states use your credit score to estimate how likely they think it is that you will file a claim on your automobile insurance policy. Insurers in Massachusetts, California and Hawaii cannot factor your credit score into your rate, but insurance providers in all other states can — and do. Consumer Reports found that drivers with a good credit score paid an average of $214 more per year for their auto insurance than those with the best score.

Related: 6 Times Your Credit Score Matters Most

Employers

An employer can pull a report from a credit bureau, but it’s not the same report that lenders use — it doesn’t include your FICO credit score either. It’s called an employment screening, and when an employer requests one, it does not have any impact on your credit score. You will need to give written permission for your employer to conduct an employment screening.

Utility Companies

Utility companies can check your credit history before providing service to you. If you have poor credit — or no credit history at all — they might require a deposit, or a letter from someone who will pay your bill if you don’t, before connecting your utilities. Utility companies do not report your regular monthly payment history to the credit bureaus, but if they have to send your bill to a collection agency, that will typically show up on your credit report and negatively impact your credit score.

By maintaining the highest possible credit score, you can improve your ability to be approved for a loan or credit card and decrease the amount of interest you will pay for the money you borrow.

Up Next: How to Read a Credit Report