It is possible to use your utility bill payment history to help build credit. However, utility bills, like your gas, water, and power bills, aren’t automatically reported to the credit bureau agencies. To get them reported — and thus to have your utility bills affect your credit score — you’ll typically need to work through a third-party company that reports your utility bill payments so they show up on your credit report.
If you’re interested in making this happen, we’ll walk you through how to leverage paying utilities to build credit, and also explore other options to help establish your credit score.
How Do Utility Bill Payments Appear on My Credit Report?
Utility bill payments typically do not automatically appear on your consumer credit report. That’s because they’re not considered credit accounts. When you pay for utilities, you are paying for a service, rather than opening and maintaining a line of credit, or borrowing money that you then repay over time.
However, utility bill payments can appear on your credit report if you work with a third-party service that does the reporting on your behalf. These services typically charge a small monthly fee, but there are companies that offer this free of charge. If you’re paying utility bills on time, then getting that information reported to the credit bureaus could help to build credit.
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How Do Utility Bill Payments Affect Your Credit Score?
While utility bill payments don’t appear on your credit report, they still can ding your credit score if you fall behind on payments, and the balance you owe becomes delinquent and goes to collections. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, debt can linger on your credit report for up to seven years. Because your payment history makes up a lion’s share of your credit score, a debt that enters collections and then remains on your report can have a significant impact on your credit score.
On the flipside, utility bills also have the potential to build credit. As mentioned, this could occur if you sign up to have your utility payments reported to the three major credit bureau agencies, and you consistently make your payments on time. To ensure this happens, you might consider setting up automatic bill payments.
Utility bills could also help build your credit score if you opt to pay bills with a credit card. Staying on top of your credit card payments is a key determinant of your credit score though, so just make sure to pay off your statement balance on time and in full when it becomes due. That way, you’ll avoid late payment consequences and also dodge paying interest on the utility bill payments charged to your card.
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Can Late Utility Bill Payments Affect Credit?
Late utility bill payments can hurt your credit if you miss enough payments for your account to enter “delinquent” status, after which it would get sent to collections or get handled as a charge-off. If this happens, that information can stay on your credit report for up to seven years.
Similarly, if you sign up for a credit reporting service but then are late on making payments, that late payment activity could negatively impact your score. Often services will not report late payments for utility bills too.
Still, given the potential consequences of late payments, organizing your bills is a good idea to help ensure you pay on time and don’t lose track of due dates.
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What Other Bills Help You Build Credit?
Your payment of the following bills will generally show up on your credit report and as such will have an impact on your credit score:
• Car payments
• Credit card payments
• Student loan payments
• Mortgage payments
Similarly to your utility bills, some bills have the potential to impact your credit, but don’t automatically show up on your credit report. However, you may be able to sign up for a credit reporting service or pay them using your credit card to have them help build your score. These types of bills include your rent payments, insurance payments, and bills for services like internet and cable.
Other Ways to Build Credit
Beyond your utility bills, there are other ways you can establish credit. This includes:
• Opening a traditional credit card and then using it responsibly.
• Taking out an auto loan to pay for your next car.
• Getting a secured card, which is easier to qualify for than a traditional credit card because it requires a deposit.
• Taking out a personal loan and then staying on top of payments.
• Becoming an authorized user on the credit card account of someone with a solid credit history and responsible credit usage.
• Getting your timely rent payments reported to the credit bureaus.
• Taking out a credit-builder loan, which gives you the funds once you pay it off.
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While paying utilities doesn’t automatically establish credit, it can help your score if you work with a third-party service to have your payment activity reported. There are other ways you can build credit from scratch as well, such as taking out a personal loan or opening a credit card account, and then handling payments responsibly.
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What is the impact of paying your utility bills early on your credit score?
Historically, utility bills are not reported to the credit bureaus and in turn, don’t impact your credit score. However, if you work with a third-party service, you could have your utility bills reported. In this instance, paying your utility bills on-time could help build your score.
Are utility bill payments reported to a credit reporting service?
Utility bill payments can be reported to a credit reporting service if you sign up for an account and opt in to have your utility bills reported. You might need to pay a monthly fee for this service though.
Photo credit: iStock/tommaso79
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