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?

Historically, utility payments such as electric bills and telecom payments like cellphone bills have not had an impact on credit scores since they're not reported to credit bureaus generally.

Experian Boost, an optional service offered by the credit bureau Experian, lets consumers add "alternative" data including positive payment history on utilities and telecom bills to their credit report, thereby boosting their FICO credit score instantly.

Most lenders use the 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.

Of those using Experian Boost, 61% 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

While the traditional lack of impact of utility and telecom payments on credit might seem like a relief to those prone to making late payments, it prevents those who make on-time payments on these bills from getting credit for them in order to increase their credit score and bolster their chances of getting a loan or other new credit.

Experian unveiled Experian Boost in 2019 in order to help more people get approved for credit, particularly those with "thin" credit files or poor credit. But consumers won't automatically see alternative data added to their credit reports. Rather, you'll have to formally sign up for and use the service as follows, which takes about five minutes in total:

  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 or telecom 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 will be used to calculate your updated credit score. You’ll instantly be shown your new FICO score.

Experian Boost doesn’t take into account utility or telecom payments that are late, which would cause your credit score to go down.

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 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

The benefits of Experian Boost include:

  • 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

Experian Boost has its drawbacks:

  • Not all lenders accept the credit score: Experian Boost doesn’t contribute to all FICO scores (only 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 negligible credit score improvement or a score decrease: The boost you get may be small if you lack a robust history of utility or telecom payments. However, if you 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. 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.

Opt in or out of Experian Boost as needed 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” with 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 consumers include alternative data such as utility and telecom payments into their credit reports to boost their credit scores.
  • Consumers need to register for the service and then link their bank accounts and select relevant payments to receive their boosted score instantly.
  • The service is a good option for those with limited or poor credit to build or improve credit, but it's doesn't guarantee score improvement and isn't right for those with limited alternative payment histories.

Article Sources

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

  2. Experian.com. "More Than 1 Million Americans Have Completed Experian Boost." Accessed June 29, 2020.

  3. Experian. "Can Experian Boost Lower My Credit Score?" Accessed June 29, 2020.

  4. Experian. "How Can Cell Phone Bills Help Build Credit?" Accessed June 29, 2020.

  5. Experian. "Introducing Experian Boost, a New Way to Instantly Improve Your Credit Scores," Accessed June 29, 2020.

  6. FICO. "FICO Scores Versions," Accessed June 29, 2020.

  7. Experian. "What Does Subprime Mean?" Accessed June 29, 2020.