Experian Boost™ Review: Can It Really Help Boost Your Credit Score?
Experian Boost™ adds a history of on-time utility payments to your Experian credit score. It’s ideal for credit newbies and people rebuilding a strong credit history.
- Credit novices
- Building credit
- Middling credit scores
When you first learn about the credit system, it can be extremely frustrating to find out that only certain payments are counted toward your score.
You spend hundreds on monthly bills, only to find out that those do not, in fact, count towards any part of your score. BUT, if you don’t pay those bills, those delinquent accounts do count towards your score – and not in a good way.
Enter Experian®, one of the world’s leading credit reporting companies. Their product, Experian Boost™, adds your utility and cell phone payments to your credit score.
For credit newbies or people with less-than-perfect scores, Experian Boost is designed to give the “boost” you need.
What is Experian Boost™?
Experian Boost is a free feature that searches users’ online banking data for timely utility payments. It adds these payments to your credit history, improving your overall score.
Utilities can include:
- Cell phones.
- Internet and cable.
- …or any other utilities in your name.
The company is joining the growing trend of alternative credit data—financial info like bank statements and bill payments that aren’t traditionally in a credit report.
How does Experian Boost work?
First, you’ll sign up for a free account on the Experian® website. Some of the basic info they request is your Social Security number and other personal information.
But don’t worry, Experian® takes measures to protect your data; the site uses 256-bit SSL encryption.
Here are the next 3 steps:
- Link a bank account — any account you use — to pay utilities. If you already use online banking, this step should be a snap.
- Choose which payments you want Experian Boost to search (for instance, if you only want the site to check for one type of utility, you can specify).To get the data it needs, Experian Boost requires at least three months of payment history, though they’ll look back through 24 months.
- Examine your new FICO® Score compared to your old score (if you have one). Experian Boost goes through data quickly, so you’ll have a fresh score within minutes.
From then on Experian Boost will check your account monthly which is the usual frequency of utility bill payments, and then update your score.
One final point to keep in mind: though Experian® believes most customers with credit scores under 680 will see a positive bump, they don’t guarantee results.
Experian Boost Disclosure: Results may vary. Some may not see improved scores or approval odds. Not all lenders use Experian credit files, and not all lenders use scores impacted by Experian Boost.
Pricing for Experian Boost
By itself, the Boost feature is free to use. It includes basic credit monitoring and a monthly score alert.
But Experian® offers an optional upgrade to CreditWorks Premium, which tacks on perks for extra security. The Premium version charges a low introductory $5 for the first month and $25 for each month afterward. You can cancel at any time.
For $25/month your bonuses include:
- Identity theft monitoring.
- CreditLock, which lets you “lock” and “unlock” your Experian® file and alerts you to any inquiries.
- Daily score alerts from Experian® and a monthly score alert from all three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The free version only tracks your Experian FICO® Score.
Experian Boost features
FICO® score 8 monitoring
With all the agencies tracking consumer credit,one person can have a few different scores based on the “score model” a lender uses. For example, an auto company may look at a different model than a mortgage lender does.
Experian Boost works with the FICO® Score 8 model. This is the most common FICO® Score version, and most, but not all lenders will use it, including auto loan companies and credit card issuers. Mortgage lenders generally rely on FICO scores 2, 4, and 5.
Boost also uses FICO® score 9, the newest FICO update as of this writing, as well as VantageScore 3 and VantageScore 4. If a lender pulls any of these versions they’ll see the new data applied to your credit.
Reporting your Netflix bill
In July 2020, Experian added a new feature to Boost that makes it even more helpful and valuable to the roughly 73 million Americans who subscribe to Netflix. That new feature is adding your Netflix bill to your credit report, which can boost your credit score like a utility or cell phone account under Experian Boost.
With this arrangement, an automatic monthly Netflix payment, which starts at $8.99 per month for U.S. subscribers, counts just like an on-time credit card payment. That can slowly help you improve your credit score, which can help you get approved and save you money on future loans.
Scanning your bill payment history doesn’t take long. If Experian Boost finds a collection of on-time utility payments, it recalculates your FICO® Score immediately.
Positive payment history only
Does your bank account show a late payment or two? Don’t sweat it. Experian Boost only pulls information that will help, not harm, your FICO® Score. Even if you miss a utility bill after using Experian Boost, they’ll skip right over this data.
And Boost won’t use any payment history you don’t want tracked.
Since most credit scores use both positive and negative financial info, this Experian Boost feature gives consumers more control than they’d have otherwise.
That said, if you’re regularly falling behind on utility bills, Experian Boost will be less helpful. It stops monitoring a payment history after three consecutive months of nonpayment, which can reverse any gains you’ve seen on your report.
Other Experian personal finance tools
Experian has a growing list of free personal finance tools that are very useful. Those include a free look at your credit report and credit score and insights into what you may be able to do to improve your credit.
Here’s a look at some features they offer:
- Easy disputes. If you disagree with something on your credit report, you can file a dispute right from the Experian consumer website or app.
- Personalized account suggestions. If you’re shopping for a new credit card or another loan, Experian will offer personalized suggestions based on your actual credit data.
- Money tracking tools. Experian has tools built in to help you track your income and spending every month. This can help you better manage your budget and stay on track for credit and other personal finance goals.
Who is Experian Boost ideal for?
People with limited credit history
Experian Boost is designed for “thin-file” customers — those with little or no credit history. A record of timely phone bill payments can give you a jump start at building a good score.
People who need a small credit boost
Utility payments might only raise your score by a few points. Sometimes, though, those few points are all you need to fall into a more favorable bracket for a lender. You might get loan approval or better loan terms with a small change.
People working to improve their credit
The company claims consumers with Experian® scores in the 500s or 600s — scores with plenty of room to climb towards a perfect 800-plus — stand to gain the most. Even those with lower scores might see a nudge in the right direction.
Who isn’t Experian Boost good for?
People without a history of on-time utility payments
If your housing situation doesn’t require you to pay utility bills, or if you have trouble staying on top of them (we recommend automatic payments!), the feature won’t have much data to work with.
People who pay utilities with credit cards
This may seem strange, but when Boost pulls your payment history, it’s monitoring checking and savings accounts, not credit card bills.
People applying for home loans
Most mortgage lenders use a version of the FICO® score that isn’t affected by Experian Boost. So if you want to up your credit specifically to get a home loan Boost isn’t the best choice.
Pros & cons
- You control the input — Right now Experian Boost is one of the few services letting customers add info to their own credit reports. It’s a small but significant "boost" of financial empowerment.
- Ongoing FICO® score tracking — Experian Boost’s free service includes a monthly FICO® score report, which can alert you to any unusual changes and give you peace of mind.
- Immediate changes to your credit — You don’t have to wait too long since your score is updated in real time.
- No guarantees — Like most financial services Experian Boost can’t promise you results, though it notes most users will see an improvement.
- Sharing banking information with a third party — Experian Boost works hard to keep your data secure, but there’s always a risk with information transmission, and you may simply be uncomfortable handing over your bank account info.
- Only affects your Experian® score — Your score with the other major bureaus—Equifax and TransUnion—won’t see a change.
Experian Boost vs. UltraFICO®
|Product||Data Used||Credit scores affected||Cost||Requirements||Real-time credit updating|
|Experian Boost||Utility payment history||FICO 8, FICO 9, VantageScore 3, VantageScore 4||Free (basic)||Three consecutive months of timely bill payments||Yes|
|UltraFICO||Bank account history, balances, and transactions||FICO 8, FICO 9||Free||Average $400 balance in savings and no overdrafts for three consecutive months||No|
Experian® is partnering with data analytics company FICO® to roll out a similar—but not exactly the same!—alternative data feature called UltraFICO.
The goal is the same as Experian Boost: to improve your credit. But UltraFICO® considers your average bank balance and uses this info to recalculate your score.
UltraFICO® will look at how long your bank accounts have been open, your history of overdrafts (or lack of them) in a checking account, and positive balances in both checking and savings. It also keeps an eye on your transactions. Though UltraFICO doesn’t focus on utilities it will note any regular, timely bill payments.
Significantly, UltraFICO® doesn’t add info directly to your credit report as Experian Boost does. Instead, your lender can allow you to “opt-in” to UltraFICO if your current FICO score is too low for a loan or a credit card.
My experience using Experian Boost
I did see an improvement in my credit score
At the end of the day, I found Experian Boost pretty easy to use. I only saw a minor improvement to my FICO® Score, but it will surely be useful in the future for my next credit check. Every point matters, and so it was interesting to see Experian Boost in action do what it says it does.
It’s great that Experian® only includes your positive payment history
I think my absolute favorite feature of Experian Boost is that they only consider positive payment history. Everyone slips up now and then – so it’s nice to know small mistakes don’t cancel out the positive benefits of Experian Boost.
I wasn’t a fan of the linked bank account requirement
The biggest drawback for me when using Experian Boost was the need to link bank information. In the interest of data security, I prefer giving my banking info to as few third parties as possible. Luckily, the risk isn’t huge with Experian Boost and they are a well reputable company with security measures in place.
Are there other easy ways to build or rebuild your credit?
Experian Boost is obviously just one option to build up your credit score, but there are other fairly easy action items you can take. The way I see it, you can have more than one action plan in place when working to improve your credit score!
Here are a few options I recommend:
- Get a secured credit card – Secured credit cards require a refundable cash deposit to make sure you’re not a credit risk. But your odds of acceptance are higher than with traditional credit cards. Check out a list of the best-secured credit cards here.
- Apply for a credit builder loan – Credit builder loans are designed to improve the borrower’s credit. They’re usually under $1,000 and a lot of banks and credit unions offer them.
- Become an authorized user on someone else’s card – A parent, a spouse, or someone else who’s willing can add you as a card user, giving you an automatic positive payment history — as long as they’re financially responsible.
For those who need a quick credit bump or want to establish a credit history, Experian Boost is something definitely worth checking out. I definitely am impressed. Remember though – your most important move is to keep up a positive history of on-time payments.