Is Reporting Rent to the Credit Bureaus Worth It?

Is rent reporting to the credit bureaus worth it

__By Lauren Bringle, AFC® __

Usually, renting an apartment doesn't show up on a tenant credit report unless they continuously miss payments and the landlord reports their debt to collections.
It’s sort of a Catch-22 situation – rent won’t help you build credit, but it could hurt your credit score if you don't pay or you become a delinquent tenant. So, should you report rent payments to credit bureau organizations? We are here to help you find out.

Some services promise to report monthly rental payments and rental history on your tenant credit report now, too - for a fee. They even promise that if you pay your rent on time each month, this reporting could improve your credit. The questions are whether these services live up to the hype and whether they're worth it.

The short answer? According to one credit expert, probably not. But before you completely write off rent payment reporting, here's what you need to know to make the right decision for yourself.

This guide covers:

The guide includes brief reviews of some rent reporting services:

Ultimately, we’ll get to the final question - is rent reporting really worth it?

But first ...

Why is building credit important?

Good credit plays a vital role in your financial life. For example, when you apply for a credit card or loan, the lender typically wants to see a credit reference. Why? The lender wants to know you’ll pay them back and that you’re not a delinquent tenant; they use your past payment behavior as a guide.

Credit is essential for getting access to:

  • Credit cards
  • Car loans and other loan types
  • Mortgages
  • Specific jobs, particularly ones needing security clearance or that handle sensitive financial information
  • The best insurance premiums in most states
  • The lowest interest rates on loans
While there are many ways to build credit, rent isn’t usually one of them.

The 3 major credit bureaus and why building at all 3 matters

There are three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. In a nutshell, these consumer reporting agencies:

  • Collect and research a person’s individual credit information
  • Publish individual credit reports
  • Partner with lenders and credit issuers to help them make loan decisions based on that information
Different lenders pull from (and report to) various bureaus, which means your credit report could look different at each bureau. (Learn how to read your credit report.) Suppose you don't have a history with the bureau your potential lender pulls from. In that case, you could be denied access to a credit card, loan, or other credit product by that financial institution.

For example, suppose you only have credit with Experian, but the lender you want to use pulls data only from TransUnion. In that case, you could be denied because the lender can't access your credit history.

Having a positive credit history at all three credit reporting agencies increases your likelihood of getting approved for credit products such as credit cards, loans, etc.

On credit scores and the FICO scoring model

As a refresher, your credit score is generated using information from your credit report. It boils down the information from your credit report into a number that ranks how much of a credit risk you pose to lenders.

Your score ranges from 300-850, and the higher the score, the better. Five factors that go into your credit score:

  1. Payment history
  2. Amounts owed
  3. Length of credit history
  4. New credit
  5. Types of credit
While there are a few different credit scoring models, the most common credit score model used by lenders is the FICO score. In fact, FICO reports that their model is used by 90 out of the top 100 largest lending institutions for risk assessment.

According to the FICO website:

“The FICO Score helps lenders make accurate, reliable and fast credit risk decisions across the customer lifecycle. The credit risk score rank-orders consumers by how likely they are to pay their credit obligations as agreed. The most widely used, broad-based risk score; the FICO Score plays a critical role in billions of decisions each year.”

There are different versions of the FICO scoring model, however. In other words, there isn't just one, FICO score. While it varies among lenders, the most common FICO model in use today is model 8, according to Barry Paperno, a credit scoring expert with decades of consumer credit industry experience at both FICO and Experian.

Typically though, it takes a long time for lenders to adopt the newer models.

“For example, it's only been within the last five years or so that the most widely used FICO model – FICO 8 ("8" as in 2008) – achieved that distinction. There have been older models, such as the FICO NextGen score, that have never gained a wide following,” Paperno said.

For many of these older models, rent payments – whether reported to the credit bureaus or not – are not factored into the equation.

Why aren’t rental histories included in traditional FICO scoring models?

“The decision to include any piece of credit bureau information in the FICO scoring formula rests on whether the score development process finds such information (payment history, card balances, account age, for example) to be predictive of future risk once vast quantities of it have been studied,” Paperno said.

Basically, FICO needs to be certain that the information factored into its model can actually predict for lenders how much of a credit risk a potential borrower could be.

“If the information is present, but not predictive (age, gender, employment), or has simply not been available on a credit report (rental history, income), it's left out of the formula,” Paperno said.

Now that the rental data FICO has seen can help predict creditworthiness, the newer scoring models are starting to incorporate this data.

“While the FICO scoring models used by most lenders have traditionally ignored rent information even when reflected on a credit report, the latest FICO model – FICO 9, released in 2014 – incorporates rental data when added to the report being scored,” Paperno said.

The problem for consumers now, according to Paperno, is the slow pace with which new scoring models are adopted by lenders.

Preparing for the newer models - rent payment reporting options

Rent reporting may not help if you're applying for a new credit line this year. But as newer credit scoring models are adopted, having that longer credit history could benefit you in the future. For example, having a history of paying rent on time could indicate to future lenders that you'll be more likely to pay other credit accounts on time too. But, on the other hand, having a history of missed or late payments could indicate that you're a higher credit risk.

With financial matters, it’s usually better to plan ahead. If you decide to explore having your rent reported to the credit bureaus, here are some options.

Ask your landlord first

Before paying for a rent-reporting service, ask your landlord whether they are already reporting your rent payments. Some property management companies, particularly larger, national chains, already report your monthly rent payments to the credit bureaus, while others don't. The best way to find out is to ask.

If credit reporting is automatically included, there’s not really a con to taking advantage of a service that’s free for you to use or already included in the cost of your rent.

If your property managers do not report rent payments, you can pay companies to report your rent for you.

Individual rent reporting options

If you decide to pay for rent reporting (we explore whether it’s worth it below), try to choose an option that reports to all three credit bureaus to get the biggest bang for your buck. Just be aware of any fees or monthly charges before you sign up.

To make it easy for you as the renter, here are some rent reporting options, with a checkmark next to which credit bureaus they report to.

Screen Shot 2019-05-14 at 11.27.25 AM
** Rock the Score only reports to Equifax if your landlord is a property management company.

(See additional resources below for links to rent reporting options)

Rent reporting reviews

Many rent reporting services operate in much the same way…

You sign up and pay for membership. They verify your lease and payment history with your landlord or property management company.

If they report past rental history, they may charge extra fees to add that history to your credit report.

Let’s look at a brief rundown of each service.

Consider Using Experian Boost

Pros:
In addition to rent, it includes tax payments, utilities, and digital subscriptions to build credit.
Only reports positive payment information.
The service is free.

Cons:
Users must provide access to their online checking account.
It will help your Experian score and FICO Score 8, but not scores at the other 2 bureaus.
Must already have a credit file.

Rock the Score

Rock the Score rent reporting

Pros:

  • No long-term contracts or cancellation charges, so you can end your membership at any time.
  • Full refunds are available if your landlord won’t participate.
  • Can report up to 24 months of rental payment history when you enroll
Cons:

  • Only reports to TransUnion, unless your landlord is part of a property management company, in which case they’ll report to Equifax too.
  • Your landlord or property manager must be willing to verify your rent. If they don’t, you won’t be able to sign up.
Costs

As of April 2020, Rock the Score costs a one-time fee of $25 to enroll, then $8.95 per month after that.

Rent Reporters

Rent reporters

Pros:

  • They report to both Equifax and TransUnion
Cons:

  • If you cancel their service, they remove your rental history, meaning it no longer appears on your credit report. Leaving your score back where it was before you started.
  • Limited cancellation policy. You must cancel within 48 hours of the rental tradeline appearing on your credit report to get a full refund.
  • Higher cost than some other rent reporting services
  • Your landlord or property manager must be willing to verify your rent. If they don’t, you won’t be able to sign up.
Costs

As of April 2020, Rent Reporters charges a sign-up fee of $94.95 plus $9.95 per month after.

Rental Kharma

Rental Kharma rent reporting

Pros:

  • Can report up to 24 months of rental payment history when you enroll
  • An option to add a roommate, spouse or partner you share rent with to your membership at a discounted rate.
  • Ability to split the first payment into 2 payments and pay back over 30 days.
Cons:

  • Only reports to 1 credit bureau
  • Your landlord or property manager must be willing to verify your rent. If they don’t, you won’t be able to sign up.
  • More complicated pricing and fees compared to other services. But some perks in there once you understand how their pricing works.
Costs

Rental Kharma charges a registration fee of $50 to join and record your current lease plus up to 6 months of past history. After that, it’s $8.95 per month, billed quarterly.

You can add a roommate, spouse or partner you share rent with to your membership for an extra sign-up fee of $25.

Rates for adding past rental history vary.

RentTrack

RentTrack rent reporting

Pros:

  • Reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • Pay no subscription fees, only payment processing fees, if you pay rent online through RentTrack
  • Month-to-month subscribers can cancel anytime
Cons:

  • Only available if your landlord or property manager uses RentTrack, or if the service is provided by a RentTrack partner or affiliate.
  • Does not currently report rental payment history like some other services. Though according to their website, they’re working on this.
Costs

The costs involved with using RentTrack to build credit varies based on whether or not you already pay your rent online through them.

If you pay rent to your landlord online through RentTrack, you don't pay a subscription fee to use the service. Instead, you pay a processing fee for each payment. The exact cost depends on your property manager.

You do have to opt-in though if you want your rent reported to the credit bureaus.

If you pay your landlord outside of RentTrack, you pay a $9.95 monthly subscription fee for credit reporting services.

Pay Your Rent

PayYourRent rent reporting

Pros:

  • Reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • No extra fees if you already pay your rent via the PayYourRent tool
  • Opt in or out of rent reporting any time
Cons:

  • Only available if your landlord or property manager uses PayYourRent

Is rent reporting really worth it?

The short answer, according to Paperno? Probably not yet.

“It's unlikely that timely rent payments will help obtain any of the major forms of credit – cards, mortgages, auto loans – without a lender willing to work with higher risk borrowers. Yet many landlords still look at the actual credit report along with the score. So, for prospective renters with some questionable 'established' credit and a favorable reported rental history, adding positive credit in this way could help their chances,” Paperno says.

If your future landlord reviews credit reports to determine whether you make payments on time and in full, then putting positive information on your credit report could benefit you.

“Unfortunately, however, other than in this specific example there really isn't much upside to paying for positive rental data,” Paperno concludes.

Use other tools to build your credit

If rent reporting isn’t the right option for you, there are plenty of other ways to get started building your credit.

For a detailed list, see our post on “How to Build Credit.” Or, download the Self app to start building your credit history.

Do you have a preferred credit-building or rent reporting tool? If so, tell us about it on social.

  • Instagram @SelfFinancial
  • Twitter @SelfCreditApp
  • Facebook @SelfFinancialInc

Sources

  1. Nerdwallet. "How to Report Your Rent to Credit Bureaus". https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/rent-reporting-services

  2. Forbes. "How To Get Rent Payments Added To Your Credit Report". https://www.forbes.com/advisor/credit-score/rent-reporting/

  3. Prosperity Now. "What You Need to Know About Rent Reporting". https://prosperitynow.org/blog/what-you-need-know-about-rent-reporting

  4. Finmasters. “Experian Boost Reviews: The Pros & Cons of Boost.”
    https://finmasters.com/experian-boost-review

About the author

Lauren Bringle is an Accredited Financial Counselor® and Content Marketing Manager with Self Financial – a financial technology company with a mission to help people build credit and savings. See Lauren on Linkedin and Twitter.

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Written on May 21, 2019
Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings. Comments? Questions? Send us a note at hello@self.inc.

Disclaimer: Self is not providing financial advice. The content presented does not reflect the view of the Issuing Banks and is presented for general education and informational purposes only. Please consult with a qualified professional for financial advice.

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