Does your credit history partly determine the cost of your life insurance? It may. The potential for such a relationship may surprise you – and the relationship is not without controversy.
Insurers think a good credit history implies several things. It signals a consumer who routinely lives up to financial responsibilities. It telegraphs maturity in a young adult. It may also be characteristic of good health and a long life.1
That last sentence may have you scratching your head. Weird as it may seem, some life insurance providers see an excellent borrowing history as a predictor of continuing healthiness and longevity. Following this train of thought a little further, a poor credit history may be judged to reflect either inattention to, or ignorance of, personal financial responsibility. The root causes of that inattention or ignorance might cause those consumers to die earlier than others.1
Last year, LIMRA (a noted life insurance industry research firm) examined what kind of data insurance companies were reviewing as they considered life insurance applications. Twenty-eight percent stated that they used a predictive model encompassing consumer credit histories – one created by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, an analytics firm. Eighteen percent simply looked at consumer credit records directly. Eight percent relied on a TransUnion score for life insurance applicants.1
In some states, credit history also influences auto and homeowners insurance rates. The better the behavior, the thinking goes, the less inclined that consumer will be to file a claim. (It is illegal to use credit history as a factor in setting auto insurance premiums in California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts.)1
Other types of data may also be evaluated. In addition to credit history, insurance companies may also look at a consumer’s driving record, criminal history, use of prescription medicines, and applications for life insurance coverage submitted in past years. All this may affect life insurance coverage and premiums.1
Why are life insurance providers interested in all this information? They want to make their business models more efficient.
Life insurance underwriting usually takes weeks or months and includes a medical exam. In this digital age, the whole process looks very analog. By streamlining it around predictive models and abandoning or softening the exam requirement, insurers remove a psychological hurdle that stands in the way of some policy sales. Data-based underwriting can take as little as 48 hours.2