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Broadband with bad credit: how to get a good deal regardless of your credit history

By Emma Lunn
Friday, December 21st 2018

Most people assume credit checks are just for mortgages, loans and credit cards. But they’re not. Most broadband companies also perform a credit check before they allow you to sign up. If you're looking for a way to avoid these checks altogether, we can show you how.

Don’t worry if your credit history isn’t perfect. Not every broadband provider will check your credit file and those that do might be more flexible than you’d think. We’ve taken a look at the credit check history policies of the major providers. Here’s what we found.

NOW Broadband requires no credit check at all

Sky subsidiary NOW TV started out by offering TV passes before it moved into the broadband market. But despite the expansion in services, its requirements when you sign up haven’t changed. When you set up a NOW TV account, it takes 10p out of your account to check your bank card is valid (don’t worry, it puts it straight back in). And that’s it – all done, no credit check.

Why is it so laid back? Well, you pay for services in advance with NOW TV and NOW Broadband so if you don’t pay, you won’t be able to watch your TV passes. As a result, it’s pretty low risk from NOW’s perspective. Once you’ve got a NOW TV account, it’s easy to add broadband and it won’t carry out any more checks after the 10p check.

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The big four providers are nicer than you think

TalkTalk, BT, and Virgin Media all credit-check new customers. Sky won’t reveal its credit-checking policy, but says it will always notify customers if it’s going to credit-check them.

However, having a poor credit history won’t necessarily exclude you from signing up with one of these big providers. The broadband market is very competitive and providers are generally keen to sign up as many customers as possible. This means it’s worth taking a punt on one of the big players even if you have a poor credit record.

TalkTalk, for example, says only a 'small number' of customers fail the credit check. For those that do, it will explore 'other options' with them.

Plusnet and Direct Save Telecom also don't do credit checks

Plusnet doesn’t do credit checks either, and says it offers its 'great-value broadband to everyone'. Its deals are pretty good, with a choice two fibre speeds on either 12 or 18-month contracts.

Direct Save Telecom is another provider that doesn’t credit-check customers. All it asks is that you pay your first invoice before you its service goes live. Your first invoice will consist of the line rental and call/broadband plan charges for the partial days in the month of activation, plus the next full month. It’s generally a bit more expensive than NOW TV or Plusnet though, so we’d suggest trying one of those first.

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You may be required to put down a deposit

When we asked BT and Virgin, both were a bit clearer about the options for customers with poor credit. Basically, those with unacceptable credit histories are often asked for a deposit for services.

This means you put down a sum of money (negotiated and agreed with the company) before you’re provided with a broadband service. In the event that you don’t pay your bill, the company can use this money instead. Basically, it lessens the risk for the broadband provider. Telecoms companies aren’t the only utility companies to ask for deposits from higher risk customers – energy firms do this too.

The deposit technically remains your money and you’ll get it back at some point providing you’ve paid all your bills, either when you leave the company or after a certain amount of time.

Mobile broadband is another option

If you don’t fancy putting down a deposit, mobile broadband is a useful alternative. Payment options fall into pay monthly contracts (to which poor credit history may still be a barrier) and the more flexible pay-as-you-go, which doesn’t require a credit check.

Mobile broadband options include dongles, tethering, mobile wi-fi and tablet data plans. Our guide on mobile broadband can help you assess your options.

Frequently asked questions

What’s a credit check?

Basically when you take out a contract, the company wants to be confident you’ll make payments on time. To get an idea about how you handle credit and financial commitments, it will check your credit history with one of the three UK credit reference agencies (CallCredit, Experian and Equifax).

What counts as bad credit?

Bad credit can be anything from missed utility payments to unpaid credit card bills, county court judgements (CCJs), individual voluntary arrangement (IVA), or bankruptcy.

There are different degrees of bad credit. If you’ve missed the odd payment here and there, your credit history won’t be perfect but it won’t be terrible either. However, if you systematically take out loans, credit deals and contracts and never pay what’s due, your credit history will look pretty dire.

Applying for a broadband deal isn’t like applying for a mortgage. You won’t need a perfect history to be accepted. So even if your credit file has a few blips here and there, you’ll probably be OK.

Why might I fail a credit check? 

It’s not just missed payments and unpaid bills that will result in a failed credit check. There may be inconsistencies in the address details on your file – companies like the address for your bank card to be the same as your delivery or installation address. Not being on the electoral roll can also mean being turned down for credit – so get yourself registered at your current address.

checking for bad credit

If you’ve previously taken out loans or financial agreements jointly with a partner and you’ve now split up, you need to issue a “notice of disassociation” to the three credit references. If you don’t, your ex’s financial behaviour will continue to affect your credit file (you always knew they were no good for you, didn’t you?)

How can I improve my chances of getting broadband?

Even if you have bad debts or are insolvent, you may still be able to get a standard broadband deal if you can demonstrate some stability – such as a long-term employment history, residence at the same address for a prolonged period of time (ideally owned) or a consistent track record with the same bank.

Providers generally like to see a fixed landline number rather than a mobile on application forms, and may look more favourably on existing or previous customers who have a good payment record with them. If you’ve always paid your BT phone bill on time for example, you shouldn’t have any problem taking out a BT broadband deal.

How do I check my credit file?

Before applying for a broadband product (or any other commitment that may trigger a credit check), it’s worth taking a look at your credit record to get a full picture of your financial history. In addition to your score, it will detail all of your past credit agreements and applications in the past six years, including outstanding balances and missed payments.

Credit reference agencies Equifax, Callcredit and Experian have to provide you with a copy of your statutory report for £2. They also offer options to pay for more detailed reports or sign up for credit monitoring services. If there are mistakes on your credit file, you can ask for them to be corrected.

Will I stand a better chance if I sign up for a 30-day rolling contract rather than a 12-month deal?

Probably, yes. A number of providers including Now Broadband, SSE, Direct Save Telecom and Virgin Media offer 30-day rolling contracts for broadband. These tend to come with higher set-up fees than 12, 18 or 24-month deals so, with you paying more cash upfront, your credit worthiness will be slightly less important than if you are applying for a longer contract.

Could I be on a credit blacklist?

No, there’s no such thing. Different companies will interpret your credit history in different ways and place differing importance on different aspects (for example, energy companies won’t be keen on you if you leave energy debts all over the place). There’s no blacklist, either for people or addresses.

How long do defaults remain on my credit record?

Defaults and missed payments stay on your credit record for six years. So, even if your credit history is terrible now, if you pay everything on time for the next six years you’ll then have a clean sheet again. Generally, companies are more concerned about your recent history than things that happened five-and-a-half years ago.

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