When you sign up for an annual contract with a mobile phone company, a cable TV company, or an internet service provider, the company is trusting you to pay your bills on time and to take care of expensive equipment like a Wi-Fi router or modem. Your trustworthiness as a reliable customer is best recorded in your credit history, so ISPs like to pull your credit to make sure you qualify for a longer-term service.
Of course, some customers don’t like getting a credit check for internet service, especially if the internet service provider does a “hard credit pull,” which could lower your credit score. In those cases, you might want to choose an internet service provider that doesn’t require a credit check or one that does only a soft pull.
If you don’t have a strong credit score, or if you have limited credit history, the internet service provider might ask you to pay a security deposit as part of signing up for an account.
The internet plans that do not ask for a credit check (or a deposit) tend to be “prepaid” internet plans, which do not require an annual contract. Because the company gets its money from you upfront each month, they don’t have the financial risk that you won’t pay your bill. Some prepaid internet plans might also ask you to pay for equipment (like a modem or router) upfront.
There are two types of credit check: hard and soft. A hard credit check happens when you apply for a new credit account, such as a credit card, car loan, or home mortgage. It’s a more detailed, involved type of credit check that appears on your credit report history, and it might decrease your credit score because lenders consider too many hard credit checks happening too often to be a sign of bad credit or financial trouble.
However, many ISPs do only a soft credit check, which doesn’t appear on your credit report and doesn’t affect your credit score. A soft credit check lets ISPs (or other creditors) look at your credit report, but without you actually applying for credit. For example, AT&T does a soft credit check for its internet plans and other services.
We suggest asking your internet service provider before signing up or applying for a new internet service: “will you do a hard or soft credit check?” If it’s a soft credit check, you don’t need to worry about damage to your credit score.
Unless the cable company has a special prepaid internet plan or subsidiary that offers internet, like Comcast’s Xfinity prepaid internet service, most cable companies will need to check your credit if you are signing up for cable internet service.
There are a few internet service plans that do not check credit, such as Xfinity prepaid and Metro by T-Mobile. Most mobile phone internet service providers will typically require a credit check, even if it is a soft credit check.