If you're one of 44 million households—or one-third of folks—who rent in the U.S., you know that rent can gobble up a large chunk of your take-home pay. In fact, on average a renter pays 30% of their income on rent.
As rent is likely your largest expense—one that you can't really skip, ignore or fall behind on—besides putting a roof over your head, what if it could also help you financially?
Here, we'll walk you through what rent reporting is, and how it can help build your credit.
You're probably familiar with the fact that a homeowner's mortgage payments are reported to the credit bureaus. In turn, mortgage payments can impact one's credit scores. What if, as a tenant, your rental payments could also be reported to the credit bureaus, and help increase your credit score?
In a nutshell, rent reporting is the monthly reporting of your rent payments to at least one of the three major consumer credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. If you stay on top of your rent payments, this can help improve your score.
You can't report your rent payments directly to the credit bureaus. Instead, there are two ways you can have your rent reported:
Maybe you don't have any credit cards, a car loan or personal loan getting reported to the credit bureaus. Rent reporting matters because it can help your credit score if you don't have many—or any—accounts that are regularly reported to the credit bureaus.
Rent reporting can also help you if you've had trouble getting approved for loans or lines of credit. Maybe your credit is not-so-stellar, or you're new-to-country or have a thin credit file—or no credit file whatsoever. If so, you know how hard it can be to get credit if you don't have credit to begin with—or need to rebuild your score.
By having your rent payments automatically reported to the credit bureaus, it could open the door—and opportunities—to a solid credit score. That's right, without having to open credit cards or take out a loan.
When you or your property manager sign up for a rent reporting service, they will report to at least one of the three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Depending on the company, they might report to two bureaus, or all three.
An easy way to get started is signing up directly for Self's new free rent reporting service. Self will only report positive rent payments. You securely link your bank accounts. Then, Self can verify your rent payment and report it each month to Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There's no credit history required and no hard pull.
Plus, you don't need to go through your landlord. It's super convenient, as Self's rent reporting service identifies debit card payments, automatic bank transfers, and payment platforms like Venmo, CashApp and Zelle paid directly from your bank account.
You can also add utility and cell phone payments by upgrading your subscription for $6.95 a month. Included in your upgrade are free credit monitoring and up to $1 million in identity theft protection
In addition, with Self’s Lookback, you can report up to 2 years of past rent, cell phone and utility payments for a one-time fee of $49.95.
In turn, rent reporting could help you gain access to those lines of credit and loans, with lower interest rates and better terms in the future. It's an important first step to your credit building journey.
Disclosure: Individual results vary. You may not receive an improved credit score. Other factors, including activity with other creditors, may impact results. Not all lenders, including auto and mortgage lenders, use scores impacted by rent, cell and utility payments. Not all bill payments may be eligible.
A personal finance writer for over 8 years, Jackie Lam covers money management, lending, insurance, investing, and banking, and personal stories. An AFC® accredited financial coach, she is passionate about helping freelance creatives design money systems on irregular income, gain greater awareness of their money narratives, and overcome mental and emotional blocks.
Her work has appeared in publications such as Bankrate, Time's NextAdvisor, CNET, Forbes, Salon.com, and BuzzFeed. She is the 2022 recipient of Money Management International's Financial Literacy and Education in Communities (FLEC) Award, and a two-time Plutus Awards nominee for Best Freelancer in Personal Finance Media. She lives in Los Angeles where she spends her free time swimming, drumming, and daydreaming about stickers.
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