Bad credit history

The impact of a bad credit history or even bankruptcy is less clear-cut, but it can influence your premiums on your auto, home and life insurance policies. (See "Credit scores and insurance: If you don't succeed, try again" on

Life insurance premiums won't necessarily rise, but you could be turned down for a policy if the insurance company suspects that you cannot make the payments, Leydon says.

Reinig says that bad credit has less of an impact on auto insurance rates than having multiple accidents.

"In theory, your credit history is a proxy for your behavior," he says. "If your credit is bad, an insurance company thinks you are more likely to make a claim."

The amount of additional premium you could pay for auto insurance or home insurance varies widely according to the severity of your credit problems.

Unhealthy eating and poor exercise habits

It also pays to stay in shape.

"We look at your height and weight as well as other factors, but our definition of overweight may be different from a medical diagnosis. We also look at the potential for other risk factors that come with being overweight such as cardiovascular issues and Type 2 diabetes," says Leydon.

She says that a healthy 45-year-old would pay about $654 annually for a 20-year term life insurance policy. The rate increases in increments if a policyholder is overweight. Depending on how much he or she weighs, the rate jumps to $769, $989 or $1,359 -- more than double the premium paid by the healthiest policyholders.

Letting coverage lapse

Reinig says late payments and lapsed policies will affect both your auto insurance and your home insurance.

"On your auto insurance, if you are more than 30 days late, your premiums could go up 25% to 50%," he says. "If your policy lapses and you are driving uninsured, that's considered a big risk, and your premiums could go even higher."

For home insurance policies, the length of the lapse in coverage due to late payments will affect the increase in your rate.

"Generally, the longer the lapse, the more likely your policy will be considered new business, so your policy would require new underwriting," says Reinig. "You would lose any discounts for continued insurance coverage or for a lack of claims, so you risk your insurance premiums going up by as much as 20%."

Life insurance policies have a built-in grace period, says Leydon, so typically you can reinstate your policy by paying your back premiums.

"Depending on how long the insurance has lapsed, you may be asked some health questions just to make sure nothing has changed," she says. "Your premiums won't go up if your policy is reinstated."

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