Credit Authorizers, Checkers, and Clerks
- Most jobs require only a high school diploma.
- Employment is expected to decline.
Nature of the Work
authorizers, checkers, and clerks review credit history and obtain the
information needed to determine the creditworthiness of individuals or businesses
applying for credit. They spend much of their day on the telephone or on the
Internet obtaining information from credit bureaus, employers, banks, credit
institutions, and other sources to determine applicants’ credit history and
ability to repay what they borrow or charge.
checkers, and clerks process and authorize applications for credit, including
applications for credit cards. Although the distinctions among the three job
titles are disappearing, some general differences remain. Credit clerks typically handle the processing of credit applications by verifying the
information on the application, calling applicants if additional data are
needed, contacting credit bureaus for a credit rating, and obtaining any other
information necessary to determine applicants’ creditworthiness. If clerks work
in a department store or other establishment that offers instant credit, they
enter the applicant’s information into a computer at the point of sale. A
credit rating is then transmitted from a central office within seconds to
indicate whether the application should be rejected or approved.
Credit checkers investigate the credit history and
current credit standing of a person or business prior to the issuance of a loan
or line of credit. Credit checkers also may contact credit departments of
businesses and service companies to obtain information about an applicant’s
credit standing. Credit reporting agencies and bureaus hire checkers to secure,
update, and verify information for credit reports. These workers often are
called credit investigators or credit reporters.
Credit authorizers approve charges against customers’
existing accounts. Most charges are approved automatically by computer.
However, when accounts are past due, overextended, or invalid, or when they
show a change of address, salespersons refer the associated transactions to
credit authorizers located in a central office. These authorizers evaluate the
customers’ computerized credit records and payment histories and quickly decide
whether to approve new charges.
authorizers, checkers, and clerks usually work a standard 40-hour week.
However, they may work overtime during particularly busy periods, such as
holiday shopping seasons and store sales. Most credit authorizers, checkers,
and clerks work in areas that are clean, well lit, and relatively quiet. These
workers sit for long periods of time in front of computer screens, which may
cause eyestrain and headaches. Part-time work is available, and temporary workers
are often hired during peak workloads.
Qualifications, and Advancement
school diploma or its equivalent is usually the minimum requirement for these
workers. Other requirements of the job include good telephone and organizational
skills and the ability to pay close attention to details and meet tight
deadlines. Computer skills also are important in order to enter and retrieve
Most new employees are
trained on the job, working under close supervision of more experienced
employees. Some firms offer formal training that may include courses in
telephone etiquette, computer use, and customer service skills. Some credit
authorizers, checkers, and clerks also take courses in credit offered by
banking and credit associations, public and private vocational schools, and
colleges and universities. These workers typically can advance to loan or
credit department supervisor or team leader of a small group of clerks.
authorizers, checkers, and clerks held about 67,000 jobs in 2004. Nearly half
of these workers were employed by finance and insurance industries, mainly
firms in credit intermediation and related activities, such as commercial and
savings banks; credit unions; and mortgage, finance, and loan companies. Credit
bureaus, collection agencies, and wholesale and retail trade establishments
also employ these clerks.
of credit authorizers, checkers, and clerks is expected to decline through
2014. Despite a projected increase in the number of credit applications,
technology will allow these applications to be processed, checked, and
authorized by fewer workers than were required in the past.
Credit scoring is a major
development that has improved the productivity of credit authorizers, checkers,
and clerks, thus limiting employment growth in the occupation. Companies and
credit bureaus now can purchase software that quickly analyzes an applicant’s
creditworthiness and summarizes it with a “score.” Credit issuers then can
easily decide whether to accept or reject an application on the basis of its
score, speeding up the authorization of loans or credit. Obtaining credit
ratings also has become much easier for credit checkers and authorizers because
businesses now have computer systems directly linked to credit bureaus that
provide immediate access to a person’s credit history.
The job outlook for credit
authorizers, checkers, and clerks is sensitive to overall economic activity. A
downturn in the economy or a rise in interest rates usually leads to a decline
in demand for credit. Even in slow economic times, however, job openings will
arise from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation for various
hourly earnings of credit authorizers, checkers, and clerks in May 2004 were
$13.97. The middle 50 percent earned between $11.27 and $17.56. The lowest 10
percent earned less than $9.19, and the highest 10 percent earned more than
$21.90. Median hourly earnings in nondepository credit intermediation were
$13.74 in 2004, while median earnings in depository credit intermediation were
authorizers, checkers, and clerks obtain and analyze credit histories. Other
workers who review account information include bill and account collectors,
loan officers, and insurance underwriters.
Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Once collectors find the
debtor, they inform him or her of the overdue account and solicit payment. If
necessary, they review the terms of the sale, service, or credit contract with
the customer. Collectors also may attempt to learn the cause of the delay in
payment. Where feasible, they offer the customer advice on how to pay off the debts,
such as by taking out a bill consolidation loan. However, the collector’s prime
objective is always to ensure that the customer pays the debt in question.
If a customer agrees to
pay, collectors record this commitment and check later to verify that the
payment was indeed made. Collectors may have authority to grant an extension of
time if customers ask for one. If a customer fails to respond, collectors
prepare a statement indicating the customer’s action for the credit department
of the establishment. In more extreme cases, collectors may initiate
repossession proceedings, disconnect the customer’s service, or hand the
account over to an attorney for legal action. Most collectors handle other
administrative functions for the accounts assigned to them, including recording
changes of addresses and purging the records of the deceased.
Collectors use computers
and a variety of automated systems to keep track of overdue accounts.
Typically, collectors work at video display terminals that are linked to computers.
In sophisticated predictive dialer systems, a computer dials the telephone
automatically, and the collector speaks only when a connection has been made.
Such systems eliminate time spent calling busy or nonanswering numbers. Many
collectors use regular telephones, but others wear headsets like those used by
bill and account collectors typically are employed in an office environment,
while those who work for third-party collection agencies may work in a
call-center environment. Workers spend most of their time on the phone tracking
down and contacting people with debts. The work can be stressful as some
customers can be confrontational when pressed about their debts, although some
appreciate assistance in resolving their outstanding debt. Collectors may also
feel pressured to meet targets for the amount of debt they are expected recover
in a certain period.
Bill and account collectors
often have to work evenings and weekends, when it usually is easier to reach
people. As a result, it is not uncommon for workers to work part time or on
flexible work schedules, though the majority work 40 hours per week.
Qualifications, and Advancement
bill and account collectors are required to have at least a high school
diploma. However, employers prefer workers who have completed some college or
who have experience in other occupations that involve contact with the public.
Workers should have good communication skills and be computer literate; experience
with advanced telecommunications equipment is also useful.
Once hired, workers usually
receive on-the-job training. Under the guidance of a supervisor or some other
senior worker, new employees learn company procedures. Some formal classroom
training also may be necessary, such as training in specific computer software.
Additional training topics usually include telephone techniques and negotiation
skills. Workers are also instructed in the laws governing the collection of
debt as mandated by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which
applies to all third party and some in-house collectors.
Workers usually advance by
taking on more duties in the same occupation for higher pay or by transferring
to a closely related occupation. Many companies fill supervisory positions by
promoting individuals from within the organization, and workers who acquire
additional skills, experience, and training improve their advancement
account collectors held about 456,000 jobs in 2004. About 1 in 5 collectors
works for a collection agency. Many others work in banks, retail stores,
government, physician’s offices, hospitals, and other institutions that lend
money and extend credit.
of bill and account collectors is expected to grow faster than the average for
all occupations through 2014. Cash flow is becoming increasingly important to
companies, which are now placing greater emphasis on collecting unpaid debts
sooner. Thus, the workload for collectors is expected to continue to increase
as they seek to collect not only debts that are relatively old, but ones that
are more recent. Also, as more companies in a wide range of industries get
involved in lending money and issuing their own credit cards, they will need to
hire collectors, because debt levels will likely continue to rise. In addition
to job openings from employment growth, a significant number of openings will
result from the high level of turnover in the occupation. As a result, job
opportunities should be favorable.
Hospitals and physicians’
offices are two of the fastest growing industries requiring collectors. With
insurance reimbursements not keeping up with cost increases, the health care
industry is seeking to recover more money from patients. Government agencies
also are making more use of collectors to collect on everything from parking
tickets to child-support payments and past-due taxes. Finally, the Internal
Revenue Service (IRS) is looking into outsourcing the collection of overdue
Federal taxes to third-party collection agencies. If the IRS does outsource,
more collectors will be required for this large job.
Despite the increasing
demand for bill collectors, employment growth may be limited due to an
increased use of third party debt collectors, who are generally more efficient
than in-house collectors. Also, some firms are beginning to use offshore
collection agencies, whose lower cost structures allow them to collect debts
that are too small for domestic collection agencies. Contrary to the pattern in
most occupations, employment of bill and account collectors tends to rise
during recessions, reflecting the difficulty that many people have in meeting
their financial obligations. However, collectors usually have more success at
getting people to repay their debts when the economy is good.
hourly earnings of bill and account collectors were $13.20 in May 2004. The
middle 50 percent earned between $10.87 and $16.28. The lowest 10 percent
earned less than $9.22, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $20.10. In
addition to a basic rate of pay, many bill and account collectors earn
commissions based on the amount of debt they recover.
and account collectors review and collect information on accounts. Other
occupations with similar responsibilities include credit authorizers, checkers,
and clerks; loan officers; and interviewers.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics