Experian Boost Review: Raise Your Credit Score
Experian Boost is a free service offered by Experian — one of the three major credit bureaus. With Experian Boost, your on-time phone, telecom, and utility bill payments get added to your credit file, which may help improve or "boost" your credit score.
What is Experian Boost?
Launched in early 2019, Experian Boost lets consumers get the positive payment history for phone and utility bills added to their credit report. The types of bills reported with Boost include utility, phone, cable, internet, and streaming service bills.
These types of accounts don't normally appear on your credit report, which means you miss out on potentially positive payment history. Experian Boost makes it possible to add them to your report, letting you benefit from additional positive payment history that can raise your credit score.
Payment history is one of the five factors that determine your credit score. It also accounts for 35 percent of your score, making it the most important factor when it comes to building good credit.
Experian Boost is completely free to use, but you have to link your bank account to the service. Once your account is connected, you can tell Experian which phone and utility accounts you want reported on your credit report.
One of the advantages of Experian Boost is that it only reports positive payment history. Experian states that over 1.3 million people have used Boost, with 840,000 seeing an increase in their FICO score.
How does Experian Boost work?
If you want to use Experian Boost, you have to connect Boost to the bank account you use to pay your phone, telecom, and utility bills. Each month, Experian Boost will scan your account for any on-time payments you make for phone or utility bills and then post them to your credit report.
Signing up for Experian Boost is free, and you don't need a credit card. You can get enrolled in four steps:
- Sign up for Experian Boost.
- Connect Experian Boost to your bank account.
- Choose which accounts you want Experian Boost to report.
- Get your updated FICO score instantly.
One of the main draws of Experian Boost is that it never reports negative payment history. For example, if you pay your cell phone bill late one month, this won't show up on your credit report.
Experian Boost calculates your credit score based on the FICO 8 scoring model. While more than 90 percent of lenders use the FICO score, some might use an older version, which means they might not see a score that includes the extra data from Experian Boost.
When you sign up for Boost, you also receive free access to your FICO score and Experian credit report. You also get Experian credit monitoring and alerts.
Who is Experian Boost suited for?
Experian Boost bills itself as a service best-suited for people with a "thin" credit file, which Experian describes as someone with fewer than five credit accounts. The service might also help people who have never taken out a loan or used a credit card.
This is because Experian Boost lets you tap the positive payment history of bills that don't typically end up on your credit report. For example, if you've never had a credit card but you pay for a mobile phone, internet service, and Netflix each month, Experian Boost lets you get credit for those three accounts.
Experian Boost is also good for people who are on the edge of moving up to a better credit score range and need a little bump to get there. According to Experian, the average Experian Boost user sees a 13-point increase in their credit score.
Pros vs. Cons of Experian Boost
Experian Boost has its pros and cons. Here is a quick rundown of what you need to know before you sign up.
Experian Boost offers several benefits. The pros of the service include:
- Free - Experian Boost is totally free to use. This is a contrast to credit repair companies, which average around $100 a month.
- Build credit - Experian Boost adds telecom and utility accounts to your credit file, which typically don't get reported. This positive payment history can help improve your credit score and "thicken" a thin credit file.
- Lengthen credit history - Experian Boost will report utility and telecom accounts as far back as 24 months. This can add valuable credit history to your credit file, improving your credit score.
- Improve your credit score instantly - Once you sign up for Experian Boost, your new accounts are linked right away, letting you see your improved credit score instantly.
Experian Boost can be a great tool for some consumers, but it has a few potential drawbacks.
- Limited to FICO 8 credit score - Experian Boost only affects your FICO 8 credit score. If a bank or other lender uses a different scoring model, Experian Boost won't make a difference in your score.
- Only affects Experian score - The service only applies to your Experian credit report. Experian Boost has no impact on your Equifax or TransUnion credit reports.
- Must link to your bank account - To use Experian Boost, you have to give the service access to the bank account you use to pay your bills. According to Experian, it uses 256-bit SSL encryption, but some consumers may not be comfortable linking the service to their account.
How to sign up for and use Experian Boost
Signing up for Experian Boost is quick and easy. You should be able to get signed up in just four steps.
1. Create an Experian Boost account
First, create a free Experian Boost account by clicking the "start your boost" button on the Experian Boost homepage. This will take you to a registration form that asks for some basic information, such as your name, address, and date of birth.
2. Link your bank account
After you have created your Experian Boost account, you'll be prompted to link it to your bank account. According to Experian, it has read-only access to your banking details and doesn't store your bank login credentials.
3. Choose which accounts to report
Next, you must select which telecom and utility accounts you want Experian Boost to report. You can select and deselect accounts anytime you choose.
4. Receive your updated credit score
Once Experian Boost is linked to your bank account and reporting new accounts, the system will automatically recalculate your score. According to Experian, many users see an instant improvement.
Experian Boost vs. UltraFICO
UltraFICO is another Experian service that's free to use. Unlike Experian Boost, however, it allows consumers to take advantage of positive banking data to get a better credit score.
Your UltraFICO score won't appear on your credit report, but some lenders might consider it when making a lending decision. The service is geared toward people who have a limited credit history or a low credit score and could benefit from including positive banking history in their credit file.
Some of the factors included in an UltraFICO score include how much money you have in your bank account, how often you use your bank account, and how long you've maintained the same account.
Alternative ways to rebuild your credit
While Experian Boost may improve your credit score, it is limited to your Experian credit report. Also, Experian is quick to acknowledge that the majority of people who use Boost don't see a huge jump in their score.
If your credit score needs a lot of work, there are other things you can do to improve it. You can combine these strategies with Experian Boost to raise your score as much as possible.
- Become an authorized user - One way to improve your credit is to borrow someone else's by having them add you to their account as an authorized user. If you do this, just make sure the creditor reports authorized user payment activity to the credit bureaus.
- Get a secured credit card - If a low credit score is making it hard for you to qualify for a credit card, consider a secured card instead. This requires you to put down a security deposit, but your on-time payment history is reported to the credit bureaus, which can improve your credit score.
- Take out a credit builder loan - A credit builder loan works the opposite way of a traditional personal loan. Instead of receiving the loan amount up front, you make monthly payments into a type of savings account. Once the loan term is up, you receive the money you paid into the account plus any interest. Because the lender reports your payment history to the credit bureaus, you get credit for all your on-time payments.
- Sign up for rent reporting - Few landlords report rent payments to the credit bureaus, which means tenants' positive payment history doesn't go toward improving their credit. However, rent reporting services make sure your payments get reported, which can help your credit score.
Experian Boost FAQs
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers regarding Experian Boost.
Is Experian Boost safe to use?
According to Experian, it uses 256-bit SSL encryption, which is the same level of encryption used by banks and other financial institutions. Experian also says its access to consumers' banking info and bank statements is read-only.
How much does Experian Boost raise your credit score?
Experian says it has helped people add a collective 29 million points to their credit scores and that the average Boost user sees a 13-point increase in their score.
On an individual level, however, your results could vary depending on how many telecom or utility accounts you have, as well as how long you've had them.
Does Experian Boost report to all three credit bureaus?
No, Experian Boost only reports to your Experian credit report. This means any boost you receive won't be reflected on your Equifax or TransUnion reports.
Will lenders use my Experian Boost score?
Experian Boost only affects your FICO 8 score. While 90 percent of lenders use the FICO scoring model, not every lender uses FICO 8.
For example, if a lender uses an older FICO scoring model, the Experian Boost score won't appear in their analysis of your financial data.
What is the catch to Experian Boost?
The main downside to Experian Boost is the requirement of linking the service to your bank account. While Experian uses bank-level encryption, some consumers might be hesitant about sharing banking info with a third party.
Can Experian Boost hurt my credit score?
Experian Boost only reports positive payment history — never negative. This means you don't have to worry about the service lowering your score.
Is Experian Boost worth it?
Most consumers take the approach that Experian Boost might not help but it certainly can't hurt. While it might not make your score jump significantly, even a small boost is better than nothing.
Ultimately, the service is free, so you won't be out any money if it ends up being a bust for you personally. In addition, you can unlink your bank account whenever you wish.
While there is no guarantee that Experian Boost will improve your credit score, the service is free and probably worth giving a try. You'll also receive free Experian alerts and credit monitoring, which can help you keep track of your score as you rebuild.
About the Author
Mike is a recognized credit expert and founder of Credit Takeoff. His credit advice has been featured in CNBC, Investopedia, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Huffpost, The Simple Dollar, Reader's Digest, LendingTree, and Quickbooks. Read more.