What Is Experian Boost?

Definition & Examples of Experian Boost

Happy woman viewing electricity bill and smart phone
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Experian Boost is a service from the credit bureau Experian that allows certain payments that aren’t usually reported to the bureaus to be factored into your credit reports. That data will then be used to generate a new—and, generally, improved—credit score.

Learn how Experian Boost works to determine whether your credit score could benefit from the service.

What Is Experian Boost?

Experian Boost, an optional service first offered in 2019 by credit bureau Experian, lets you add "alternative" data to your credit report. By linking your bank account to the service, you can add three types of alternative payment data to your credit history: utilities, telecom, and video streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Disney+).

How Can Alternative Data Help Your Credit Score?

Historically, utility payments (electric bills and telecom payments like cellphone bills) and video streaming services have not had an impact on credit scores since they're usually not reported to credit bureaus. While that might seem like a relief if you tend to make late payments, it works against you if you make on-time payments. Punctual payments play a significant role in how your FICO score is calculated. So, adding timely payments is helpful, especially if you have a "thin" credit file or poor credit.

Boosting your FICO score is important because most lenders use your FICO score to determine whether to grant you a loan and at what interest rates and terms. In general, the higher the score, the more competitive loans you will qualify for, and the lower the interest rate and more favorable terms you will receive.

Experian claims that 61% of people using Experian Boost increased their credit score by an average of 13 points. In addition, 64% of the service's users were able to improve their FICO score from very poor (579 or below) to fair (580–669).

How Experian Boost Works

To take advantage of Boost, you'll have to formally sign up for and use the service as follows, which takes about five minutes:

  1. Create an account: Visit the Experian Boost website and click "Start your boost" to register for the free service. You’ll be prompted to enter all your basic data, such as name, birthday, and address.
  2. Link your bank account: Connect the bank account you use to pay your utility, telecom, or video streaming bills. To protect your security, the service will have read-only access to your bank statement data and won't store your bank credentials—only the history of on-time payments.
  3. Select payments: Choose and verify the payments you want to factor into your credit report.
  4. Get your updated score: Experian Boost will scan your linked bank account for the selected payment data, which Experian uses to calculate your updated credit score. You’ll instantly be shown your new FICO score.

If you choose to keep your bank account linked, the service will continue to scan for eligible on-time payments and add them to your credit file to allow for future score improvements.

Experian Boost doesn’t take into account utility or telecom payments that are late, which would cause your credit score to go down. However, Boost will factor in any accounts that are so late they've gone to collections.

Requirements for Experian Boost

To sign up for the service, you’ll need a bank account and have some utility or telecommunication bills in your name. Experian Boost takes into account your telecom bills for things such as your cellphone, home phone, internet, cable, and satellite services. Utilities might include gas, electric, water, solar power, and trash. However, it doesn't include rent. The only streaming services you can add are Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Disney+.

The service wouldn’t be right for someone living with family and not paying the above bills on their own, as they won't have accumulated the necessary payment history.

Pros and Cons of Experian Boost

Pros
  • No cost

  • Builds poor or limited credit using alternative data

  • Instant score improvement

Cons
  • Not all lenders accept the credit score

  • Potential for negligible credit score improvement or a score decrease

Pros Explained

  • No cost: The service is free, whereas credit-repair services can cost you up to thousands of dollars and only allow you to remove errors on your credit reports.
  • Builds poor or limited credit using alternative data: Experian Boost lets you improve your credit simply by paying utility and telecom bills on time. For those struggling with credit scores impacted by thin files or poor credit, this could be a much-needed step in the right direction.
  • Instant score improvement: If you're eligible for a score boost, you'll get your new score instantly after you select the relevant payments you want to add to your credit report.

Cons Explained

  • Not all lenders accept the credit score: Experian Boost doesn’t contribute to all FICO scores, just your FICO 8. Most top lenders look at the FICO 8 score when determining whether to approve an applicant for a personal or student loan or retail credit card, but FICO 8 isn't included in mortgage lending generally.
  • Potential for minor score improvement or a score decrease: The boost you get may be small if you lack a robust history of utility or telecom payments. Likewise, you could see a score decrease once you link your bank account; however, you can always disconnect the bank account to revert your score.

You can opt out of Experian Boost to stop sharing payment data.

Do I Need Experian Boost?

More than 1.3 million consumers have used this service to help improve their credit. The best candidates for the service fall into one of two categories:

  • Subprime scorers: Experian Boost is great for those with "subprime" credit scores, defined as those in the "fair" range between 580 and 669. Boosting your score can help you join the ranks of prime borrowers who have access to better interest rates and loan terms and a lower likelihood of loan default.
  • Thin-file consumers: “Thin-file consumers” (fewer than five credit accounts) can also benefit from Experian Boost to build or improve their credit. According to Experian, 87% of people in this category who used Experian Boost saw their scores increase by an average of 19 points.

For both groups, Experian Boost can help make credit access more attainable. Even if you match one of the above two credit profiles, keep in mind that the boost may be small, so engage in other best practices regarding credit to improve your credit score. For example, keep your credit utilization ratio low, make credit payments on time, and limit the opening of new credit cards.

Key Takeaways

  • Experian Boost is a free, optional service from Experian that lets you include alternative data such as utility, telecom, and video streaming service payments into their credit reports to boost their credit scores.
  • You need to register for the service and then link their bank accounts and select relevant payments to receive their boosted score instantly.
  • Netflix, HBO, Disney+ and Hulu payments are eligible for the service.
  • The service is a good option if you have limited or poor credit to build or improve credit, but it's doesn't guarantee score improvement and isn't a good fit if you have limited alternative payment histories.

Article Sources

  1. Experian. "Can Utility Bills Appear on Your Credit Report?" Accessed Oct. 23, 2020.

  2. Experian.com. "More Than 1 Million Americans Have Completed Experian Boost." Accessed Oct. 23, 2020.

  3. Experian. "Can Experian Boost Lower My Credit Score?" Accessed Oct. 23, 2020.

  4. Experian. "How Can Cell Phone Bills Help Build Credit?" Accessed Oct. 23, 2020.

  5. Experian. "Introducing Experian Boost, a New Way to Instantly Improve Your Credit Scores." Accessed Oct. 23, 2020.

  6. FICO. "FICO Scores Versions." Accessed Oct. 23, 2020.

  7. Experian. "What Does Subprime Mean?" Accessed Oct. 23, 2020.