Experian Boost: Does it really Boost, or is it a Bust?
Ah, nothing quite like the sweet scent of excellent credit. That’s exactly what Experian is offering with Experian Boost – a little credit refreshment and hopefully a move into the next credit rating group. If you’re like me, you’ve heard of Experian Boost before (it’s been around since 2018), and you’ve had zero problems scrolling right on past those ads. Let me stop you right there, though. Experian Boost is not what you think it is. It is not a scam. It is not a trick. It IS a simple and free way to boost your credit score without putting in too much effort. Sounds too good to be true? I thought so too.
So, I did it.
Let’s break it down. What is Experian Boost? It is a service that allows consumers to include their utility accounts in their Experian credit report. This is AMAZING if you’re an on-time bill-payer. You see, most utility companies do not report payment history to the credit bureaus. Even if you do pay bills on time for years, payments won’t be included in your credit report or reflected in your credit score. Why, you ask? Drumroll, please: companies pay to report payments to the credit bureaus. Reporting companies also must accept regulations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Utility companies don’t want to bother, so they don’t report. If you miss payments, your score can be affected. The utility company won’t report the late payments, but if they send your account to a collection agency, the agency will report a collection account, and that will hammer your credit. Relentlessly.
Experian Boost does the opposite. It only considers positive payment history. That means if you missed your utility payment, rent, or cell phone payment, the late payments won’t bring down your credit score. They won’t report any missed payments, but they will place all your on-time payments on your Experian credit record. That can help you build a better credit record. Very rewarding to see your hard work pay off in real-time.
So how exactly does it help? Keep in mind that it is designed to help the 62 million Americans who have “thin credit files”. Who’s that? People who don’t have a strong credit mix, people building credit, or people REbuilding credit. Credit bureaus need information to establish your creditworthiness, and they need payment history to do that. Experian Boost gives Experian access to more payment history, which can boost your credit score. Credit hack: Experian Boost can also give you the last few points needed to jump to the next credit tier.
Here's the step-by-step breakdown of what happens in the Experian Boost process from start to finish:
- Enroll: Big FREE
- Grant Access: Boost learns how you pay your utility bills by looking for payments you have made to utility companies from your online checking account. You’ll have to give Boost access to your checking account by providing your login credentials. If your bank requires multi-factor authentication (like a one-time code texted to your phone), you’ll be prompted to enter this code to verify that you want to give Experian access to your checking account.
- Utility Accounts Added: Experian Boost will review your checking account looking for payments to utility companies. Eligible accounts include: cell phone, landline, internet, cable, satellite, power/electric, gas, water, waste, NETFLIX. Netflix, y’all. And right after this price bump. You go, Experian.
- Select Accounts to be Included: If Boost finds at least three payments made to a utility account, this account is eligible to be included in your credit report. Boost then presents all eligible accounts to you so you can pick which ones you want to have included in your Experian credit report. Boost only includes positive payment history in your credit report. It cannot detect any late payments you might have made, or payments you might have skipped. This is an advantage to the consumer, but a disadvantage to the lender who relies on complete and accurate information to make credit risk decisions. Some lenders may not recognize accounts added by Boost because they consider the information incomplete.
- Credit Score Recalculation: Credit scoring models are complicated and use a variety of information as part of the score calculation. Some credit scores do not use utility accounts in their calculations. Once your utility accounts are included in your Experian credit report, any credit scoring model that values utility accounts will reflect this information. VantageScore 3 values this information and is the second most popular score after FICO. All newer versions of these credit scoring models continue to value utility accounts. This means FICO Score 9 and VantageScore 4 value utility accounts. Experian Boost only affects your Experian credit report and credit scores generated by Experian.
- Regular Updates: Every month Experian Boost will review your checking account looking for new payment transactions for your utility accounts. It updates your credit report to reflect this information. If you’d like to keep a utility account from being reported, you can always delete the account from Boost, as well.
The Big Question: Does It Work?
Yes. Simply, frankly, beautifully, yes. It works. Keep in mind, its effect depends on your starting credit score. The average consumer saw their credit score go up 14 points. If your credit is lower (say 579 or less) you could see an even bigger increase. 86% of people in this range saw an average increase of 21 points.
Considering how easy it is, that’s a pretty impressive increase.