PRBC Helps You Create A Credit Score From On-Time Rent, Bill Payments

Payment Reporting Builds Credit (PRBC) is an alternative credit reporting agency that will record your payment histories for things like rent and utilities bills. PRBC says you can then use this verified credit history to supplement your FICO score and credit history from the big three reporting companies. It’s meant in part as a way to help people who don’t have extensive standard credit histories, or who have always paid monthly expenses on time but have other blots (like medical bills) on their official credit histories.

One good thing about PRBC is that your credit file is yours to view and share, and it doesn’t cost you anything to access it.

The bad news: it’s not free. If you use one of their online bill pay partners—Account Now, Billeo, or CheckFree—you’ll have to pay PRBC $5 per month to have your payment information reported back to them. [Note: We incorrectly wrote that Billeo charges $5 a month for their services, when in fact Billeo is free to use for online bill payments, bill tracking, and reminders.] If you opt to pay your bills some other way or want to confirm past payments, the PRBC charges you $20 to verify up to 36 months of rent, and $15 for other types of accounts such as phone or cable.

Ultimately, we’re not convinced a PRBC alternate credit history will help you secure a loan or a lower interest rate, and it may all be moot anyway for the next few years as lending grows increasingly scarce. It might help you with something like an apartment lease, though. If you’re a young person with no real credit history, or someone who got financially slammed from a medical disaster, it may give you a way to prove you’re not a deadbeat.

Payment Reporting Builds Credit
“Finally, Credit For Paying the Bills” [Washington Post]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. ShortBus says:

    Sounds like another scam aimed at the “unbankable,” just like prepaid cell phones and payday lenders.

    If you need to build (or rebuild) credit, get a secured credit card.

    • Lucky225 says:

      @ShortBus:

      X2, Secured credit cards ARE the quickest and easiest way to build credit.

    • Crabby Cakes says:

      @ShortBus: A secured credit card saved me. It just switched to unsecured, and it helped my credit rating tremendously. HIGHLY recommended.

      • PinkBox says:

        @Crabby Cakes… (formerly Ali..): Same here. I didn’t have bad credit, just had never really gotten a credit card since I preferred to only spend money I actually had.

        I got older and realized you need credit established in this crazy world, and had no option except a secured card.

        My credit is rising every day now. If only I could get rid of two delinquent files that show up on my report that aren’t even mine. Believe me, I’ve tried.

        • Corporate_guy says:

          @Crabby Cakes… (formerly Ali..): With no credit history was it not possible to get a college/student credit card? The first credit card I got was through my bank and it was their student card which really didn’t mean anything. It was a normal credit card. 500 dollar limit. And if you live near a college, they sometimes have people going around offering t-shirts and food if you fill out a credit app. Those I know will not be denied for a lack of credit history.

  2. Lucky225 says:

    At least they UNDERSTAND how credit works. A lot of americans THOUGHT paying their utility bills and rent on time is HOW they build credit. IT *IS* NOT. Your rent and utility payments are NOT reported by your landlord or utility companies to the Credit Reporting Agency’s. The only time these parties report ANYTHING to credit bureaus is when you DEFAULT. There’s nothing that annoys me more then some ‘know-it-all’ kid @ cellphone kiosk trying to convince fresh-out-of-high school teens that signing a 2 year contract, tho may require a deposit now, well help build credit, when in fact, the ONLY thing it could possibly do is hurt your credit as they run a credit inquiry which will START your credit history ALREADY in the negative, and ONLY REPORT when you are late or default on your bill. This can only serve to hurt your credit, not build it. And as such, a 3rd party CRA that WILL report your payments to the big 3 is a great way for someone just starting out to ACTUALLY build credit.

    • ShortBus says:

      @Lucky225: Actually, DTE reports every month to either TransUnion or Equifax, I forget which. Though I don’t know if this is true of other FirstEnergy companies or electric companies in general.

      • Lucky225 says:

        @ShortBus:

        Don’t know about DTE, but in General most Utility companies DO *NOT* REPORT PAYMENT HISTORY. I know TXU Electrict in Texas doesn’t, SC Edison in Cali doesn’t, nor does some small town electric company in Arkansas I once had. If DTE does report such payments tho, I commend them on that, but most utility companies don’t.

        • ShortBus says:

          @Lucky225: DTE is weird about it. They report an updated balance every month, but only mark the account as being past due if you hit 90 or 120 days (or so I’m told). I’ve been 30 days late twice over the years just due to a slip of the memory, and I have a perfect payment history with them.

          But yeah, I would agree with you that’s a sleazy move by cell phone sales dorks.

          • Lucky225 says:

            @ShortBus:

            They probably just don’t report “late” payments and only default after your 90 days past due (as defaults can only be reported after 90 days per the FCRA). As per your dad he sounds like a reasonable guy, but the one thing that upsets me about landlords relying on credit reports is a lot of them seem to think SSNs are REQUIRED to obtain a report, which they are not — name, dob, and current/previous address will pull a report on any of the big 3. I’m a huge privacy advocate and I don’t provide my SSN to anyone except my employer, and only if the employer doesn’t require a background check that includes a credit report, as that would add my SSN to the report. I got into it with a leasing office in California when I was trying to find a place to live, I had outstanding credit at the time and certified copies of my sealed, unopen credit report. I finally got the company they ran credit reports through to admit an SSN wasn’t required, and to run it themselves, and fax it to the manager, with a suggested MINIMUM deposit. Since then I’ve lived in the midwest where landlords don’t care about your credit as long as you have references from other landlords.

          • mac-phisto says:

            @ShortBus: northeast utilities is starting to do the same thing. essentially, they are just “fast tracking” their ability to collect on a default account (if necessary). no need to charge-off to a collection division if you are a reporting member. this is a huge advantage compared to (for example) cell companies. a person can jump from cell co. to cell co. when their phone gets shut off – what utility is going to establish power/gas/oil delivery if you’re already late on a utility account?

            they don’t really report payment history (as you already stated) – you’re considered current as long as you keep the power on. that’s really all they care about – making sure you don’t skip off without paying for your usage.

    • Lucky225 says:

      @Lucky225:

      After reading the FAQ on their site, it does not appear that they share this payment history with the other BIG 3 CRA’s, so the likelihood of it helping you in the real world is probably close to zilch, as you would have to find a creditor who would CONSIDER PRBC, which probably only amounts to local businesses or city utilities in small towns, which would probably accept photo copies of previous bills anyways.

      • Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

        @Lucky225: After reading the FAQ on their site, it does not appear that they share this payment history with the other BIG 3 CRA’s, so the likelihood of it helping you in the real world is probably close to zilch

  3. ShortBus says:

    My father has owned/managed/maintained a couple of apartment buildings for about 20 years now. One of them is a 13 unit place and the other is 7 units. Even the small time guy he is, he pulls an Equifax on every application. I believe each report also includes the person’s FICO, but he doesn’t really care about it. He also doesn’t care about medical bills and other crap like that. His only concern is that the person is likely able to pay the rent and not destroy the place.

    So as long as you have a decent job and no major issues on the credit report, you can have yourself an apartment. There are other landlords that are even less selective than he is.

    I *highly* doubt he’d use this product since he can very easily verify rental history himself the same way this company does: by making a phone call. Plus I’m sure it would raise an eyebrow when the potential renter is the one providing the report–about as useful as listing your friends as references on the app.

  4. Cyco says:

    When I was a store manager at EZMoney we were told to push PRBC. In fact, each store was graded by monthly percentage on how many people they got to sign up. Every person that came in to get a loan was to be asked to sign up for it and if they denied, we were to ask every time they came back in to make their payments. I asked a couple of times why the company pushed PRBCs so hard. I figured it was because the company was getting paid for every person that signed up. I was told the company was paying them (for why I don’t know). The truth is, when we pushed PRBC, we pushed it as an alternative credit reporting agency that was seperate from the big 3. The customers could add any bill they pay that wasn’t normally reflected on their credit, including payday loans, to help boost their credit. We told them that it is easy to sign up (I was told many times it wasn’t) and that you could print your payment history out and take it when you go to get a loan and that they would have to consider it just like they would reports from the big 3 (they don’t have to). In the end, EZMoney pushed PRBC so hard because they wanted customers that signed up to believe that if they didn’t come in to make their payments, it would hurt their credit and would get a negative mark on their PRBC report (only one of those is true).

    Before anyone says anything, working there was a low point in my life and I am so glad I moved on.

  5. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Paying utilities and rent on time might not be a way of building credit, but learning to do things on time certainly is a way of avoiding poor credit.

  6. I like the concept of using your utility bills and such to build credit, although I don’t think this service would be widely accepted.

    My husband always paid cash for things through out the years before we met, never wanted to be in debt. He had one car loan that he paid off 6 years ago, with no credit since. Although it was good credit, wasn’t ENOUGH credit. I opened a military card in his name, and that was pretty much the deciding factor in his credit score 2 years later. We still had to provide 12 months of receipts/cancelled checks to show we paid our rent on time, but just his 1 car loan and the credit card put his FICO score about 700.

    It would be nice if at least 1 credit bureau offered this kind of service for a fee, for the people who already know having a credit card = bad.

    • johnva says:

      @verucalise: Having utility bills and rent, etc report to the credit reporting agencies would be a double-edged sword for people. On the one hand, it might help some people build a credit history more easily. On the other hand, it might help other people destroy theirs more quickly. Generally, we’ve given people a bit more leeway on things like electricity and water partly because they’re not really very optional.

      Also, it’s just not true that “having a credit card = bad”. Spending beyond your means is bad, but credit cards are just a tool that you can use wisely or unwisely.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I used to work at AccountNow. I can tell you some stories. STAY AWAY.

    The CSRs knew that the PRBC didn’t actually help, but it was always pushed as one of the benefits of the card.

  8. thebluepill says:

    The Last thing we need is ANOTHER Credit reporting agency to screw up your Credit History.

  9. Amy Alkon000 says:

    As an identity theft victim, I am not liking this at all. I have my credit bureau accounts frozen — what safeguards are there on this thing?

  10. Osi says:

    There are some companies here in town that does rental units, and require a credit report. Most of those units are empty all year around as well.. Do you know why? Each time the corrupt company pulls a credit report, it hurts your score.

    Thanks but no thanks, I prefer honest companies/landlords over corrupt (pull credit scores) ones any day.

    • johnva says:

      @Jinx: It’s not “corrupt” to pull a credit score for a rental. It’s actually pretty smart on the landlord’s part, because it can be so hard to evict non-paying tenants. Virtually all the larger landlords around here do that, and they get business perfectly fine. Just don’t apply for numerous apartments at the same time, and you’ll be fine. Usually, if you ask, they’ll be considerate and not pull your report until they’ve already decided to approve you to sign a lease pending an acceptable credit history.

  11. Sidecutter says:

    As sad as it is that almost none of a person’s normal bills count towards their credit scores, it ought to be required for those things to be reported. The things you pay every month, like utilities, cell phone, internet, cable, rent…those things are bills you owe on as well, and the fact that you keep up on them properly should be working in your favor. Doing those things properly certainly would indicate to me that someone is a better risk for credit than I might think otherwise.

    And on another note, just what is one supposed to do to build credit, if one cannot get a traditional credit card due to a very minimal credit history (intentionally not borrowing money you don’t have), and pays all their bills on time in full, but cannot afford to just toss hundreds of dollars into limbo for an unknown amount of time?