As if we needed any additional barriers to people getting the life insurance coverage they need, your credit history has emerged as the latest factor that could skew your insurance premium higher.
What is the role of your credit score in setting life insurance rates?
Insurance trade industry organization LIMRA conducted a 2017 survey of insurance companies that found anywhere from 8% to 28% of insurers use credit factors of one type or another to help set your life insurance premiums.
On the low-end of that range, LIMRA found 8% of insurers said they use one of TransUnion’s credit-based scores for applicants.
More widespread among respondents, however, was the use of an applicant’s overall credit record in helping to set premiums. Some 18% of insurers admitted to this practice, which we can understand to mean they they’re either looking at your credit report, your credit score or some combination of both.
But wait, it gets worse. The most common thing life insurers do when factoring credit into your application is consult industry data heavyweight LexisNexis Risk Solutions. Nearly a third of insurers (28%) said they use LexisNexis for credit information about potential clients.
Now you may or may not know this, but LexisNexis already maintains extensive records on you and the claims you’ve already made with your home and auto insurer — so it’s only natural that they’d offer a product to the life insurance industry as well.
On the home and auto insurance front, the LexisNexis C.L.U.E. (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report contains a seven-year snapshot of info about you, including a list of any claims you’ve made on either policy. Fortunately, you can see what they’ve got on you for free. We’ve got full details on how to get your free C.L.U.E. report here.
Meanwhile, there’s another similar organization that keeps a broad credit report-style dossier on you that’s widely used in the life insurance industry. It’s called the MIB Group.
Before you go off into conspiracy-theory land, no, MIB doesn’t stand for ‘Men in Black!’ It’s an acronym for the only slightly less ominous sounding Medical Information Bureau, which was the organization’s former name before it became MIB.
The MIB Group tracks anyone who has applied for individually underwritten life, health or disability income insurance during the past seven years. Just as with the C.L.U.E. report, you can see what’s in your MIB report for free. Simply call 866-692-6901 to get started or fill out this form and mail it to the organization.
What’s Clark’s take on all this?
Money expert Clark Howard is outraged by the use of credit factors in setting life insurance premiums.
“This is ‘Clarkrageous,'” the consumer champ says. “It leads to distortion in the life insurance marketplace.”
One thing that follows from this new emphasis on credit factors among some life insurers is that you need to be sure there are no unnecessary or incorrect blemishes on your credit report. You are entitled to get a free credit report from all three of the major credit bureaus once every year through this website, so be sure you check!
Meanwhile, there are a number of ways to get your free credit score.
Finally, don’t overlook the importance of shopping around when you’re getting life insurance quotes.
“This additional wrinkle says to me that it’s more important than ever to shop and compare life insurance rates from more than one insurer. Whether you are high or low on the credit spectrum, you may find differences in what you’re charged from one insurer to another based on your credit history.”
As a reminder, Clark recommends term life insurance — where you pay one fixed monthly amount that never goes up — for coverage over a set number of years. Term life insurance only pays out in the event of your death; there’s no wacky investment or savings component like there is with permanent policies like universal life, variable universal life (VUL) and whole life.
Above all, having an understanding of how much life insurance you need and how to choose the right policy is critical to forming a solid backup plan for those that are financially dependent on you.