Can your e-mail address cause a bump in auto insurance rates?
Your driving record and claims history play big roles in whether you’ll qualify for the lowest possible auto insurance rates. But one of the biggest forces influencing your rates is your credit score.
“Carriers look at a person’s credit score to help them assess how likely they are to file a claim,” says Deborah Becker, a State Farm agent in Eau Claire, Wis. “The lower the score, the greater the chances are a consumer will file a claim.”
And while you suspect things like your payment history or a bankruptcy to factor into your credit score, something seemingly insignificant — your e-mail address — also can affect those three all-important numbers in your credit score and ultimately your auto insurance premiums.
|Your e-mail address can tell an auto insurance company a lot about your potential risk and reliability.|
“Typically, carriers reserve their most competitive rates for drivers who demonstrate the most responsibility in their overall lives, not just behind the wheel,” says Jon Crabbe, a retired Farmers Insurance agent. That’s because drivers with lower credit scores file 40 percent more claims than drivers at the higher, more desirable end of the credit scale, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
So it’s smart to put your best e-mail foot forward when shopping for coverage or negotiating a policy renewal.
“You want to do all you can to be seen as a stable, low-risk customer,” Crabbe says.
Domain name downer
Clever wording before the @ sign in your e-mail address can tell the world that you’re a dog lover, mother of three or Red Sox fan.
But a report published by Credit Karma that studied the credit scores of 20,000 e-mail addresses says what follows the @ sign is far more revealing than a cute or clever user name (the letters and numbers in front of the @ in your e-mail address).
The report ranked e-mail domains by the average credit score of Credit Karma users and found that BellSouth and Comcast users have the highest credit ratings. The theory: These addresses come with a paid internet service versus ones like Gmail and Yahoo, which can be obtained for free.
Gmail ranked third, leading the pack of users of free e-mail services with an average credit score of 681 (with the top score being a perfect 850). The average Yahoo user’s score was 640, while Hotmail and AOL users both had average scores of 660.
What’s wrong with free e-mail?
“One possible reason for the lower scores among some free and low-cost e-mail providers is possibly due to the average age of these users,” says Mackey McNeill, a CPA who is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. Content on Yahoo generally appeals to younger consumers who might not have an extensive — or impressive — credit history.
“A free or cheap e-mail plan can leave an insurer with the impression that if you can’t afford to pay a token $9.95 a month, you might not be able to afford car insurance premiums,” says Julie Murphy Casserly, a certified financial planner who authored “The Emotion Behind Money.”
|What’s behind the @ symbol in your e-mail address can help an auto insurance company determine how healthy your finances are.|
And unlike Comcast, which was linked to some of the highest scores, e-mail providers like AOL and Google are free, so they don’t report payment histories to credit bureaus and those accounts be canceled at any time. “That could be perceived as being unstable or irresponsible,” Crabbe says.
Casserly says: “Comcast is a utility and, as such, can report a negative experience to a credit bureau. Their users may be better at budgeting, which could also account for the higher (credit) scores.”
Although Credit Karma points out that changing e-mail providers won’t increase or decrease your credit score, Crabbe says that switching boosts the chances you’ll be viewed as a less stable insurance customer. Insurance companies maintain that your e-mail address doesn’t play a role in setting rates, but some insurance agents insist that your e-mail address can affect your perceived level of risk and reliability.
“E-mail addresses are often provided to insurance carriers, and having an extension that’s associated with a higher credit score makes a carrier more comfortable with you. It tells them you’re less likely to file a claim, have a wreck or get a speeding ticket,” Crabbe says.
So if your auto insurance rates are skyrocketing, you may want to consider upgrading your e-mail account.
Raising the bar
Of course, raising your credit score helps, too.
“Even a few points can help because they could bump you into the next credit bracket and make you eligible for lower rates,” Crabbe says.
To ensure your potential auto insurance company sees the highest possible score, McNeill, the CPA, suggests being on the lookout for:
• Excessive credit inquiries. Requesting that inquiries from creditors be deleted can tack on 10 points or more to your credit score.
• Erroneous addresses. Incorrect mailing addresses, and even several outdated ones, can shave off 10 to 15 points from your score. Make sure that all three of the credit bureaus have your correct current address and that no more than the previous two addresses are listed.
• Misspellings. Typos in your name are red flags to credit bureaus and, depending on the credit bureau, those can cost you 10 to 20 points on your score. Request all misspellings and variations of your name be changed to the correct, legal spellings.
• Incorrect history. Verify that your employment history is accurate. File a dispute to request deletion of any inaccuracies.