Credit Score

Will Bad Credit Stop You From Getting Cable?

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You know that your credit will be checked if you apply for a loan. But did you know a credit review may also be required to get cable, Internet or television service? In fact, a credit check is routine when you apply for these services and it’s just another example of why it’s so important to review your credit reports to make sure they are accurate.

What’s the logic behind this practice? It’s pretty simple, really. When you sign up for cable, Internet or TV service you typically get equipment that can be pretty pricey, such as a cable box and/or modem. In addition, you pay for the service after you’ve used it. You can often run up a “tab” of a few hundred dollars in services and equipment before you make your first payment. If you don’t pay, the company will have to try to collect, which can be costly. A credit check helps them identify which customers may have difficulty paying their monthly bills.

Here are the credit check policies of some of the major providers.


A credit check is required for all AT&T products, including U-verse TV and Internet service. All three major major consumer reporting agencies: Equifax (including the National Consumer Telecommunications Utility Exchange managed by Equifax), Experian and Transunion are used for these reviews.

If prospective customers have credit problems, an AT&T spokesperson says the company will work with customers in various ways to help them receive service, which can sometimes include upfront fees. Customers can check with an AT&T representative to determine their options.


Certain products or services may require a credit check, but Comcast says it will notify customers before requesting their credit. They use Experian and Equifax for screening, and it does generate a hard inquiry, which can result in a small, temporary drop in your credit score.

Cox Communications

The company did not respond to our requests for information, however, the front page of its website currently states, “A credit check and/or deposit may be required.”

Time Warner Cable

A company spokesperson says Time Warner Cable is in the process of migrating to a policy of requiring a credit check for all new customers, and is also in the process of migrating to a “soft inquiry” that won’t affect credit scores. Experian will be the provider of credit information. Credit information is used primarily help verify a customer’s identity and to determine what amount of deposit is appropriate (typically $50). Customers will not be turned down for service based on their credit.


A credit check is required for all new customers, and will create a hard inquiry on the credit report used. Verizon works with all three major credit reporting agencies, and according to a company spokesperson will check “sequentially stopping at the first with information.” Credit checks are not used to decline customers, but to determine the amount of the deposit, if required.

Of course, there’s another way these services can affect your credit: If you don’t pay your Internet or cable bill your account will be turned over to collections and that will definitely hurt your credit. However, by monitoring your credit, you can keep on top of how you’re doing, and you can be alerted to any problems before they become bigger problems. has a free tool that can help you do that, as it gives you two of your credit scores and an overview of your credit report, updated every month so you can track your progress.

More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:

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  • Loriac71

    I have a couple questions about how CRA ‘s and the information furnishers are supposed to report information on a credit report after a bankruptcy has been discharged. Two of the bureaus basically eliminated account histories for any that was included in bankruptcy and state “discharged in bankruptcy ” zero balance & accounts closed , with the filing date of bankruptcy. Which is fine, I guess however the third bureau , experian , has the accounts all reported differently . Three of them are reporting charge off, and all are showing a delinquent history from the month prior to the bankruptcy filing 11/13. I wasn’t delinquent until a month prior to filing . So they look like they are now 90 , 120 days late. Plus the bankruptcy remarks . I was discharged 3/6/14. I am wondering are there rules for whats reported and when ? I read online that all collections was supposed to stop at the filing. Any information is greatly appreciated. I feel like it is fair to report the bankruptcy but isn’t it double the penalty to continue to report this kind of information ?

    Thank you

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It is a little hard for me to tell exactly what’s going on, but if I understand your comment correctly it’s my understanding it can be reported that way not because you continue to fall behind but because that is the current status of the account.

    • Jonathan Ginsberg

      Loriac, the CRA should show a zero balance for the accounts discharged in bankruptcy. If the account is showing a balance due for a discharged debt then you would have a claim for damages against the creditor under the FDCPA or bankruptcy code. Next you raise the question of whether a zero balance but delinquency references (when there was no pre-filing delinquency) is a violation of either the bankruptcy stay or the FDCPA. My gut reaction is “no” if there is a zero balance being shown but I would defer to Jay or colleagues who have researched this issue.

  • Jay Fleischman

    Utilities can and often do check your credit before starting service. If you are a new utility customer with bad credit, the utility company may require you to pay a security deposit.

    I do not know of a federal or state law classifying cable or satellite television providers as public utilities; therefore, they are not required to open an account for you at all. If they check your credit and it’s bad, they have the right to deny you service assuming they are not classified as public utilities under the law.

  • Jonathan Ginsberg

    I agree with Jay Fleischman’s comment. I would add that in a bankruptcy case context, cable/TV/Internet providers are allowed to demand a security deposit, although I can see the day approaching where a bankruptcy judge might be receptive to the argument that TV, Internet and/or phones are necessary for an effective reorganization under Chapter 13. After all the bankruptcy means test allows these expenses as “necessary” expenses.

  • borogirl54

    I used to work for Verizon. If a customer had bad credit, they would be required to place a deposit on the account, which would be returned to them within one year if all payments had been made on time.

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