What Is a Salary Key?

by Valerie Fox; Updated September 26, 2017
number keyboard of computer closeup

Salary keys are six-digit codes that allow consumers to grant authorization to employers, lenders and government agencies to review their income and employment information. The information is used to help these entities determine the creditworthiness of future customers or employees.

Why Are Salary Keys Needed?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act places stringent guidelines on who can access or use a consumer’s financial information. Salary keys are meant to prevent fraud by giving consumers the power over who views their financial information, including their tax returns and income amounts.

In addition to letting people have control over who can access their financial information, salary keys allow a certain level of protection for businesses. This is especially true of companies that use the authorization as a way to verify the information provided by people they are considering hiring.

What Entities Request Salary Keys?

Companies that may ask for a salary key are commonly referred to as verifiers. They include auto lenders, credit card companies and mortgage companies and others that make loans. In addition, they include some businesses that use the data to make hiring decisions as part of the pre-employment process.

Governments who have social services that offer assistance, such as grants, will likely ask you for a salary key. These services include child support, food stamps, housing, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and work-force development plans. These government agencies include the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Social Services Administration.

What Information Is Accessible

When a company has your salary key authorization, there is much it can learn. That includes your pay rate and gross income over the past two years. Information is also available on other income, such as bonuses, commission and overtime.

How to Receive a Salary Key

One of the most popular ways to receive a salary key is to go through the Work Number, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Equifax. It touts being able to offer more than 190 million employment records instantly.

You can visit its website using your full name, Social Security number and the name of the company requesting the salary key.

There are precautions to keep in mind when you create your salary key. First, only you can create it; not your verifier. Second, you can create one key per verification. So if you are having your key verified by several companies, you will need a key for each of them.

About the Author

Valerie Fox is a business reporter and editor specializing in consumer affairs and debt management. She has been a writer since 1994, also covering politics, housing and the stock and bond markets. Fox has written for Cox, Gannett and Knight-Ridder newspapers. She holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from the University of Florida.

Photo Credits

  • clark_fang/iStock/Getty Images