If you have a poor credit history and are worried how this may affect your chances of getting a broadband deal, don't worry. There are a number of providers that offer a range of great and cheap broadband deals without the need for a credit check.
We’ve spoken with some of the biggest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to confirm exactly which do and do not require a check, and if they do, whether it will be a soft or hard search.
We’ll also provide you with some alternatives to help you get connected regardless of your situation.
Why do ISPs conduct credit checks?
Generally speaking, companies will conduct a credit check (also known as a 'credit search') to confirm your identity.
When it comes to getting broadband, an ISP can use this check to assess whether customers are likely to pay their bills on time, or if there is a risk of non-payment based on their financial history.
A search will reveal to companies any information to do with missed payments, as well as any other potentially relevant information – such as Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs), County Court Judgements (CCJs), Debt Relief Orders (DROs), and bankruptcy filings.
How do broadband providers conduct a credit search?
Internet Service Providers that require a credit search will send the information you entered on sign up to an agency such as Equifax, Experian, or Transunion, who will then look through and assess your payment history.
Anything from this history, including your history of repayments and details which confirm your identity, will be scored against certain criteria. If you do not meet these criteria, you will fail the check.
It’s important to remember that whether applying for broadband or another service entirely, every lender or credit provider has a different set of criteria. So if you do fail a check, you should ask the lender why you were refused.
Can I still get broadband even if I have bad credit?
Absolutely. When applying for broadband, although most providers will conduct a credit check, they are usually not as strict as when applying for something like a mortgage or a loan. So, if you've found an internet deal that appeals to you but it's with a provider that performs a check, it's still worth applying.
If you get rejected, you can look at broadband deals with providers that don't conduct checks. The broadband market in the UK is extremely competitive, and providers are always keen to attract new customers.
Some providers, such as BT and Virgin Media, will also offer the option to pay a security deposit in lieu of having a high or good credit score.
The deposit amount (negotiated and agreed on between you and the provider) will be payable before the service is installed. Then, in the event a bill goes unpaid, the provider will take the deposit as payment instead. If you pay your bills in full and on time, the security deposit will be returned at the end of your contract.
Another major provider, TalkTalk, have also stated that should a potential customer fail their check for broadband, they are willing to explore "other options" with the customer.
Which providers offer broadband without a credit check?
We spoke with Sky who confirmed they do not conduct credit searches on new customers wishing to sign up for either their broadband or Sky Q set-top box deals. This is particularly good news for anyone wishing to avoid a credit check, but wanting to bundle their broadband with a TV subscription service.
However, a search will be required if you wish to sign up for either Sky Mobile or Sky Glass – the new smart TV from Sky.
Plusnet do not require a credit check for any of their broadband deals.
Regularly awarded for their excellent customer service and competitively priced packages, Plusnet broadband are a great option if you're concerned about your financial record.
Owned by Sky but known as a cheaper alternative, NOW offers a range of internet, TV, and home phone deals.
We spoke with NOW who confirmed they do not require a credit check for any of their broadband or bundle options.
Broadband with NOW is available on either a 12-month contract or 30-day rolling basis, with deals able to be bundled with a landline, as well as a range of flexible, monthly-pass TV subscription services.
Direct Save Telecom
No. Direct Save Telecom (DST) have confirmed they will not carry out a credit check on any of their broadband services.
Instead, once you’ve signed up, you will need to pay the remaining part of the month you joined, as well as the next full month’s bill in advance. Direct Save Telecom will also require you to have an active payment method on your account, either direct debit or a Continuous Payment Authority (CPA).
In addition to their 12 and 18-month contracts, Direct Save Telecom also offers short-term, monthly rolling options.
Which providers will only offer broadband if you pass a credit check?
We spoke to BT who confirmed that they will only perform a soft credit check for new broadband customers.
However, if you decide to bundle your broadband with a TV package, this credit check will be upped to a hard search on your file.
BT Home Essentials social tariff
If you are part of a low income household and receive certain benefits, you may be eligible for BT's ‘Home Essentials’ social tariff broadband, For £15.00 per month, you will get unlimited data with average download speeds of 36Mbps, as well as a free router.
If you’re a new customer, BT will conduct a soft credit check as part of your application. But even if you have a low credit rating, you will still be eligible if you agree to paying a security deposit.
If you’re an existing BT customer switching to the Home Essentials deal, you will not need to undergo a credit check.
Regardless of whether you sign up for a standalone broadband deal or bundled service, Virgin Media states they will carry out a credit check. In most cases, Virgin will only conduct a soft credit search, but there have been reports of potential customers being subject to a hard credit search.
If you fail a credit check with Virgin, you may still be able to sign up if you agree to pay a security deposit.
EE’s rules are similar to those of BT, their parent company: only a soft credit check will apply to new broadband customers, but if a mobile phone contract is taken out at the same time, you could face a hard search depending on the type of contract you take, and whether a new smartphone is included. If you opt for a SIM-only deal for example, it is unlikely you will undergo a hard search.
We spoke with Vodafone who explained that taking out any of their broadband deals as a new customer will only incur a soft credit search, but that if you select certain mobile products to bundle together with your broadband, this will require a hard search.
Although Vodafone did not specify what mobile products would need a hard search, we'd expect that a smartphone handset deal would require one.
What is a soft credit check?
A soft credit check provides companies with a snapshot of your financial background and is used to determine how successful your credit or loan application might be without the need to conduct a full examination of your credit history.
Importantly, a soft credit search will never affect your credit score. Any soft searches that are carried out can only be seen by you on your credit report, and it doesn’t matter how many there are.
What is a hard credit check?
A hard credit check is when a company carries out a full examination of your credit history. Each hard check you undergo will be recorded on your credit report, meaning any company searching your report will be able to see when and where you’ve previously applied for credit.
Although a hard credit check will usually “drop off” from your report after a year, if you have too many credit checks conducted over a short period of time, your credit score could be temporarily affected, reducing your ability to get approved for credit in the future.
Some broadband providers may conduct a hard credit check, depending on whether you bundle other services with your internet, such as a mobile phone contract or TV subscription.
What is the difference between a soft and hard credit check?
The main difference between a soft and hard credit check is that soft credit checks are not visible to companies, but a hard credit check is. This means that a soft check will not impact your credit score, no matter how many of them there are, while each hard credit check you do may lower your score.
Many broadband providers who conduct credit checks will not explicitly state whether they will do a soft or hard search. So if you’re worried, it’s always worth confirming with the provider before you complete the sign-up process.
Will I be more likely to get broadband if I opt for a 30-day rolling option over a contract?
If you have bad credit, a number of providers - including Cuckoo, Direct Save Telecom, Hyperoptic Broadband, SSE Broadband, and Virgin Media - offer monthly-rolling options for broadband.
Opting for a monthly-rolling contract can make for a good choice if you're uncertain about your living arrangements in the near future, or if you'd simply prefer not to be tied down with one provider for a year or more.
Be aware however, that this option usually costs more per month than the same deal on a 12, 18, or 24-month contract. There also tends to be higher set-up costs involved.
I've always paid my bills on time. Why else could I have failed a credit check?
A credit check can fail for more reasons than missed payments. You may fail a broadband credit check for small inconsistencies, for example, if the address you've used to sign up with does not match with the address associated with your bank card. You may also be flagged as having bad or low credit if you are not on the electoral register. And in some cases, something as simple misspelling your contact details can trigger a credit check to fail. For these reasons, it's important that you sign up using the correct address and to double-check the information you’ve entered before submitting your application.
If you've previously applied for credit with a partner or spouse and they are now your ex - you will need to contact all three Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs) - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion - to request a 'notice of disassociation' be added to your credit report. If you do not do this, your ex's financial activity and borrowing habits may negatively impact your credit rating.
How can I check my credit score?
Failing a credit check could damage your credit rating further, so before applying for a broadband deal, it's worth checking your report. This should help provide you with a fuller understanding of your financial history and current situation.
In addition to showing your credit score - a three digit number that shows how likely you are to be accepted as a customer - the report will also detail any past credit agreements and applications you've made over the last six years, as well as any outstanding balances or missed payments.
Can I check my credit report for free?
Yes. There are three credit agencies. A major credit reference agency like Experian will give you access to your credit report after signing up for a free account.
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