Why do Performance Bonds Require Credit Checks?


In the construction industry, performance surety bond, payment bond, and bid bond are vital financial tools that guarantees the completion of a construction project. In other words, it's a pledge made by the general contractors to the project owners that the job will be done according to terms of contracts. In the bonding process, there is a process called bond underwriting, which involves a credit analysis. A credit analysis is a thorough review of a person's or company's credit history and financial strength. This article will discuss the importance of performance bonds, how they operate, and why a credit check is required for getting a performance bond.

What is a Performance Surety Bond?

A performance bond is a type of surety bond issued by a surety bond company or an insurance company. Performance surety bonds provide performance guarantee of a project and financial guarantee of any losses due to default risk.

Performance bonds are crucial because they back up a contractor's commitment with financial assurance. If the contractor fails to meet the contract terms, the bond provides compensation to the project owner. This assurance is necessary to maintain a level of trust and accountability in business dealings.

Why a Performance Bond?

Construction bonds protect against the default risk of incomplete or unsatisfactory work. They're not only about ensuring the project completion, but also about protecting the project owner, the public, and general contractors themselves. 

Legal requirements

While all performance bonds serve the same basic purpose, there are differences depending on the projects’ scales and contract price. For example, federal performance bonds are required for public construction projects due to the Miller Act. Here, the federal government would help ensure performance guarantee and quality. 


If a contractor fails to meet the contract requirements, the project owner can file a claim against the surety. After investigation, the project owner can receive financial compensation from the surety. Then, the surety can request reimbursement from the contractor. To lower the risk of incompletion, surety providers would conduct a credit check.

What is a Credit Check?

A credit check, also known as a credit analysis, is a process in bond underwriting that evaluates the creditworthiness of the contractor. A credit check can help determine one’s bonding capacity, conduct risk assessment, and prevent credit issues. Surety bond companies usually review personal financial statements or business financial statements to determine the bond premiums and the bonding capacity of a contractor. Credit check includes:

  1. Credit Report: The surety company can obtain the contractor’s credit report from credit bureaus. A credit report includes payment history, outstanding debts, credit utilization, length of credit history, and any public records like bankruptcies or tax liens.
  2. Credit Scores: A record of the contractor’s personal credit, which helps determine the contractor’s credit. A bad credit rating would influence the premium rate of the bond.
  3. Financial History: The surety providers can examine the contractor’s financial behaviors, such as debt repayment history, financial stability, or on-time payment history. 
  4. Debt-to-Income Ratio: If debt exists, this ratio demonstrates the total monthly debt payment’s relation to the gross income. A lower ratio demonstrates a lower risk. 

What is a “Soft” Credit Check?

A soft credit check is a less invasive way to assess a company's or individual's credit without affecting their credit score. It's a background check on financial health that doesn't penalize the person being evaluated. This is often known as a soft pull. A soft pull typically gives the same information as a “hard” pull but doesn’t penalize the individual’s credit score. A known example of soft credit check is credit card pre-approval. Checks from surety companies are considered “soft” checks.

What is a “Hard” Credit Check?

A hard credit check, also known as a hard pull or hard inquiry, occurs when a lender reviews your credit report as part of the loan application process to make a lending decision. Unlike soft checks, hard credit checks can affect your credit score. A credit check is considered hard based on the nature of the request and the organization that requests them. Typically, credit inquiries from lenders or sent for the purposes of acquiring credit/loans are considered to be “hard” checks.

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Why Are Credit Checks a Prerequisite for Performance Bonds?

Surety companies face significant risk when they issue a performance bond. They need to know the contractor they're vouching for is financially stable and has a history of fulfilling financial commitments. A credit check is a way to mitigate risk.

Here’s an example scenario where something could go wrong. A construction company, BuildRight Constructors, wins a contract to build a community center but runs out of money and can't finish the job. The local government, which hired BuildRight, asks the surety company that provided a performance bond to step in. The surety company, AssureBond Inc., hires a new company to complete the building. AssureBond pays for the remaining work, ensuring that the community center is completed without extra costs to the government. AssureBond Inc. can chase the construction company for repayment, but given they are out of cash, it’s unlikely that AssureBond will be repaid. A credit check minimizes the risk of this happening to the surety by ensuring that they only bond individuals in good financial standing.

Furthermore, a strong financial background is a sign of someone that can manage their finances responsibly, which suggests they will manage the project responsibly as well. The step also ensures compliance with industry and legal standards.

It’s important to note that the single most important factor used from the soft credit pull is credit score. An individual’s credit score is critical in determining whether a contractor can be bonded and at what cost. A higher credit score often means a lower risk for the surety company, which can result in low premium rate for the contractor.

Performance Bonds and Credit Checks: Won’t Affect Your Credit

Performance bonds serve as a form of financial insurance in the construction industry, creating a more trustworthy and reliable environment for both project owners and contractors. Credit checks play an indispensable role in this process, ensuring that the entities involved are capable of meeting their obligations. For contractors, there’s no need to worry about credit checks for performance bonds as they’re soft pulls that won’t impact your credit score. 


Credit analysis is a necessary and important step in the underwriting process for the surety company, the project owner, and the contractor. The process filters and protects constructions against low credit scores, which suggest instability. Credit analysis serves as a qualitative and quantitative measure to help surety brokers determine performance bond cost and term. Since the credit checks for surety bonds are soft, it’s the preferred method for pre-qualifications, background checks, and credit monitoring.