Credit search footprints left by comparison sites

Posted by Arron Dickens in Credit Reports on 16 February 2018 - Arron is a Product Manager at checkmyfile

If you’re one of the millions of people who use comparison websites to make sure you’re getting the most competitive insurance quotes, you might have noticed that every time you use a comparison site, you get an increased number of searches on your credit report.

But should you be worried by these credit searches or by the number of them that appear?

Do insurance quotes affect credit score?

Fortunately, you probably don’t have to worry about search footprints from comparison sites that have appeared on your credit report: in most cases, they are only ‘Enquiries’, and not full ‘Credit Searches’.

Generally there is no limit to the number of enquiries you may have, and their presence will not have any adverse effect on any of your credit applications.

In fact, if you haven’t got any other applications or searches on your credit file, a small number of these searches can be helpful if you do go to apply for credit because it shows that there is activity still happening on your file. Lenders can view lack of credit history just as unfavourably as a bad credit history, and these searches, though minor give them something to work with.

The difference between soft searches and hard searches

Enquiries on your credit file (also called soft searches) and Credit Searches (also called hard searches) serve different purposes. Soft searches are mainly used to verify you are who you say you are, which is why they’re the most popular type of search with comparison websites, as well as with prospective employers and landlords during tenant checks.

Hard searches are most regularly used to assess your actual credit history- more specifically, your track record of borrowing money and repaying it on time. Lenders commonly use this information to work out how much money they are prepared to lend you and how much interest you will be charged.

Find out more about credit searches and enquiries

Who uses which type?

When looking in particular at car insurance, there are four main players when it comes to comparison sites:

  • Gocompare
  • Moneysupermarket
  • Confused.com
  • Comparethemarket

Each insurance provider featured in your quotes will need to check your credit file, which is how you can rack up so many searches on your file in a short time if you use a few comparison sites to shop around for the best deal.

Almost all of the major UK insurance companies appear on these four websites – with the notable exceptions of Aviva and Direct Line. In spite of this, you might still find credit searches under Aviva’s name on your credit report after using one of the above comparison sites as they often use underwriters who will appear on these comparison sites.

Aviva’s search entries are of particular interest because unlike many other insurers they carry out a hard search on your credit file before providing you with a quote.

Why would an insurer need to do a full search of my credit file?

While most use your credit file for verification purposes, Aviva’s brokers assess your file for the purpose of making sure you will have no problems keeping up with the monthly insurance instalments. Many people (but not all) will pay their insurance products in monthly payments to spread the cost over the term of the cover. As a result, the instalment plan incurs interest and is a regulated credit agreement in itself.

Another point to note is that insurance companies gain the authority to check your credit report and other sources of information (such as CUE and the Motor Insurance Database) from the comparison websites themselves. Checking the ‘privacy policies’ of the various comparison websites, we can see that there is a standard term which effectively gives your consent to insurers to carry out checks on your credit report.

If you want to find out more about the types of search carried out by comparison sites, you will find this information disclosed in their Privacy Policies. Here’s how they define the type of searches carried out:

Moneysupermarket

"If providers do these checks, they will be quotation searches only, but will be visible to other organisations. Both public data (e.g. the electoral roll) and private data (e.g. your personal credit history) may be checked in this way."

Comparethemarket

"Some of our product and service providers will carry out checks with credit reference and fraud prevention agencies in order to verify your identity, assess your application for a quotation or credit and offer you the best terms. The checks may be against both public data (such as information from the electoral roll) and private data (such as your credit history)."

GoCompare

"Many insurance providers operate a credit scoring system and will carry out checks with credit reference agencies, fraud prevention agencies, and other public and privately available sources of information. These checks will include electoral roll and credit information. These insurance credit checks are registered as general insurance searches and may be viewed by other companies when you apply for credit or insurance. These searches should not harm your credit profile or adversely affect your credit profile."

Confused.com

"…This information may include a ‘soft’ credit check from a credit referencing agency. Soft credit checks allow you to get quotes without affecting your credit rating, and are visible on your credit report but do not show up in the same way as a 'hard' check (…) If you proceed in a full application for a loan, credit card or other form of credit, a ‘hard’ check will be recorded against your credit file and may affect your credit score so you may wish to keep full applications to a minimum to protect your credit rating."

All credit searches will be seen by potential lenders and therefore can impact your credit rating and chances of gaining credit. We generally recommend aiming for no more than around 10-12 applications in a 12 month period (spread out as evenly as possible), though as we have often reported, searches form only a relatively insignificant part of the credit score calculation and it is important to keep this in perspective.

Credit searches from automatic renewals

An important, yet seldom realised note is that once you have signed up to these sites, they may well send you updated quotes by email each year (to keep you coming back). Believe it or not, but this can cause annual credit searches on your file, without you even re-visiting the website.

If you do not wish for these credit searches to be undertaken each year, we recommend contacting the websites that you are signed up for, and asking them to cease running quotes with your details and making credit searches. It is unlikely you will be able to have any historic credit searches removed, even if you do not take up the products or if you pay the insurance in one lump sum.

Will my credit history affect my insurance quote?

In most cases, no. As most insurers only conduct a soft search of your file, they won’t even have access to the type of information that would help them work out your repayment history. In addition to this, only the monthly payment amount is affected, rather than the yearly premium.

That means if you prefer to pay your insurance costs in one chunk, rather than spread out over the year, then the information assessed on your credit report will not even impact your quoted monthly repayments.

Whether insurers carry out a soft or a hard search, making sure the information on your credit report is correct, up-to-date and accurate means you’ll stand the best chance of passing their validation checks and getting access to some of the cheapest policies.

If you’re not already signed up, you can try checkmyfile FREE for 30 days , then £14.99 a month afterwards, which you can cancel anytime. You’ll get complete access to the UK’s most detailed credit report and see what lenders (and insurance providers) see.

Updated 16/2/2018 by Jamie Mackenzie Smith

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