Do you always pay your cell phone and utility bills on time? If so, you may be able to use that promptness to increase your credit score, thanks to Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus.
The Experian Boost program lets consumers add more creditors to the data Experian uses to calculate their credit scores, potentially raising those scores instantly.
In this article, I’m going to tell you how Experian Boost raised my credit score 14 points. I’ll share some pros and cons I’ve learned about the service, and I’ll tell you what credit expert Clark Howard thinks about Boost.
Experian Boost Review: How I Raised My Credit Score in Real-Time
I first tried Experian Boost when it was still in beta mode and again a year later when it started allowing consumers to include Netflix payments in credit score calculations.
Although I was comfortable with my score and didn’t really feel like I needed a boost, I gave it a try — and it worked. Here’s what you need to know about Experian Boost.
What Is Experian Boost and How Does it Work?
Experian Boost is a free service designed to help you raise your credit score by incorporating more of your monthly payments into your credit file.
Of the five factors that make up your credit profile, on-time payments account for the largest percentage (35%). That’s what Experian Boost uses to give your credit score an instant lift.
Here is how Experian Boost works:
1. Sign up for Experian Boost
It’s free to sign up for Experian Boost. When I did, it immediately produced a credit report, an updated FICO score and an overview of my financial profile. Here is what was included there:
- Credit rating
- Credit usage
- Payment history
I thought that was enough to start my “boost,” but I found out I needed to do a little more work. I had to scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Experian Boost button. That took me to a page that showed icons for electric, water and wireless bills.
2. Link Your Bank Account
Like Clark, I don’t normally suggest that you let third parties access your bank account, but if your creditworthiness depends on it, you may decide that it’s worth it.
Once you click the button, a pop-up screen opens. It asks permission to link to the bank account you use to pay your bills. It will then send a code to your phone for verification.
Once my account was linked, it took me to my FICO score and said “let’s see if we can boost it.”
3. Select Bills to Add
Next, it scanned my bank account. This took a couple of minutes, but soon I was shown two payments — my utility bill and a phone bill — that could be used to raise my score. All I had to do was confirm that I wanted those bills added to my credit file.
Once I hit the “Continue” button, the screen loaded for about a minute and then told me that Experian Boost added nine points to my FICO score.
When I used Experian Boost again, I submitted my Netflix payments and got another five-point boost.
That’s a total of 14 points!
As long as I continue to pay those linked bills on time (they’re all on autopay) my score could continue to go up. That was my experience, but you may be wondering if Experian Boost is right for you.
Can Experian Boost Raise Your Credit Score?
It’s possible that Experian Boost can raise your credit score, but there are no guarantees. On its website, the company says, “Not all lenders use credit information impacted by Experian Boost.”
If you’re worried about whether your lender will be able to use your newly boosted credit score, Experian says “…as long as your lender utilizes the most common versions of the FICO Score and VantageScore, they will see your boosted credit scores when they request your credit report from Experian.”
One thing to note is that Experian Boost applies only to your Experian credit score. The boost has no bearing on your scores with the two other big credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion.
Here are some of the pros and cons of the service.
Experian Boost: Pros and Cons
|The service works instantly||Works only with Experian, not TransUnion or Equifax|
|Boosts appear to be minimal (9 points once and 5 more a second time)||You have to link your bank account|
|You can easily add or remove account information||You need to have three months of payment history|
Clark’s Take: Experian Boost
Clark says Experian Boost could possibly do the most good for people trying to build their credit.
“There are so many people today, particularly those under 35, who have never had a credit card,” he says. “So the idea of Experian Boost is to use things outside the traditional methods of calculating risk.”
Clark says determining if using Experian Boost is helpful to you has a lot to do with whether lenders are using it.
“If I’m somebody who has a thin credit file, then being able to use Boost is potentially helpful to me,” Clark says. But he adds that you really won’t know how valuable Boost is to you unless a potential lender tells you that they used it in their calculations.
“If credit grantors aren’t using it as a method of calculating risk, then it doesn’t hurt you in any way and at the same time it can potentially help you,” Clark says.
After giving Experian Boost a try, I can say with certainty that if you want your credit score to be more attractive to lenders, this is a quick and relatively painless way to do it. The whole process took around five minutes.
Like Credit Karma, Experian Boost might show you numerous credit card offers, but it’s not intrusive.
The bottom line: If you’re trying to increase your credit score quickly to qualify for a loan or credit card, Experian Boost may be perfect for you, especially if you have a thin credit file or a low score.
On the other hand, if you’ve already got great credit, then Experian Boost’s benefits may not matter much.