Experian introduced Experian Boost in early 2018. The service allows consumers to include their utility accounts in their Experian credit report. This review should help you understand how it works!!
Most utility companies do not report payment history to the credit bureaus. Even if you pay these bills on time for years, the payments won’t be included in your credit report or reflected in your credit score.
Companies pay to report payments to the credit bureaus. Reporting companies also have to accept regulation 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, that changes. The collection agency will report a collection account, and that will hammer your credit.
Experian Boost does the opposite. They won’t report any missed payments, but they will place all of your on-time payments on your Experian credit record. That can help you build a better credit record.
How Experian Boost Can Help
Experian Boost is designed to help the 62 million Americans who have “thin credit files”. 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.
Can Experian Boost Hurt Your Credit Score?
Late payments usually hurt your credit score, but that isn’t how Experian Boost™ works.
Experian 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.
How Boost Affected Me
I signed up for Experian Boost with the understanding it can only help your credit score, not hurt it. What I found was that may be true for your score but that may not be the case when applying for a loan.
Here’s how it shows up on my credit report.
So here’s what happened: I refinanced my mortgage, and my broker said the utilities I had reported on Boost showed up on my credit report as “self-reported debts.”
That created the impression that I had more monthly debt payments than I actually did. Luckily, the amount was too small to seriously affect my debt-to-income ratio. It is something you should be aware of if you’re going to be applying for a mortgage or any other loan where they look at your debt or debt-to-income ratio.
Using Experian Boost: 7 Easy Steps
Here’s how it works:
Go to Experian.com and click on the “Start for free” button. There is no fee for enrolling in Boost.
2. Give Boost Access to your Checking Account
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.
Banks are very particular about you sharing your log-in credentials. Be prepared to work through this process. Be careful not to enter wrong information so you don’t accidentally get locked out of your online bank account.
3. Experian Boost Finds Your Utility Accounts
Experian Boost will review your checking account looking for payments to utility companies. Eligible accounts include:
- Cell phone
- Land line
- Cable TV
- Satellite TV
Experian Boost will automatically detect payments made to these accounts.
4. Select the Accounts You Want Included in Your Credit Report
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.
5. Experian Boost Re-Calculates Your Credit Score.
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.
6. Experian Boost Updates Your Score Regularly
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.
7. You Can Delete Accounts
If for any reason you no longer want your utility account(s) reported to your credit report, you can delete the account from Boost. Boost will stop searching for the account you delete.
If you no longer want Experian Boost logging into your online bank account for any reason, you must delete the service from your Experian Profile altogether.
If you change your online bank account log-in credentials, don’t forget to change the same information in Experian Boost.
Pros & Cons
Experian Boost can be an effective way to help your credit. That doesn’t mean it’s the right move for everyone.
- It’s free.
- Adding more positive information to your Experian credit report can have a very positive impact if your credit report has very few accounts.
- Experian claims the average credit score improvement is 14 points. That could make a big difference for some people, especially if you cross over one of the major score thresholds from “poor” to “fair”, and from “fair” to “good”.
- If you have late payments, it won’t hurt your credit score since Experian doesn’t know about your late payments. Since they won’t be included in your credit report they can’t affect your credit score.
- You have to give Experian access to your online checking account. This is a non-starter for some people who are concerned about the security of their checking account.
- You have to pay all of your utility bills from your online checking account. This is the only way Experian Boost can scan your checking account to look to payments to utility companies. This means you can’t use a credit card to pay your bill and earn reward points.
- It only works for people who already have a credit file.
- Because Experian Boost only reports positive payments, some lenders may not use these accounts when they calculate your credit score.
- Experian Boost only helps your Experian score. It won’t help your scores at the two other major credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax.
Experian Boost works best for people with thin credit files. If you have 20 years of payment history, have owned multiple credit cards, and had a car loan and home loan, adding proof of utility payments will not have the impact that it would have for someone with a thin credit file.
Does It Work?
But how much does it really help?
It depends on your starting credit score. The average consumer saw their credit score go up 14 points. If your credit is 579 or less, you could see an even bigger increase. Eighty-six percent of people in this range saw an average increase of 21 points.
Considering how easy it is, that’s a significant increase.
Is Experian Boost Legal?
You might wonder if all of this is legal. Can Experian expect you to give them access to your bank history so they can see your payment records?
Rest assured that Boost is 100% legal. The service is optional. You do not have to participate. As for their access to your records, that’s Experian’s entire business model. They are a consumer reporting agency. Every time a credit card company or lender has sent Experian information about you, you have given them permission to do so (probably in the fine print when applying for a new credit card or loan, which few of us ever read).
Is It Safe?
Anytime you’re dealing with your finances, you want to take precautions. (Identity theft is real!)
Experian Boost is safe. The system uses use 256-bit SSL encryption, which is government-level security.
Experian will review your bank records to find qualifying payments made to utility and phone companies. You will have to give Experian access to your account.
They’re limited to read-only access. That means they don’t store your login information and can’t make any changes to your account.
Experian Boost Support
Experian Boost is easy to use. Visit Experian.com and click “Sign In” in the upper right corner to log in.
The service is free, but they ask you to upgrade each time. To access your account, just click the option that says “No, Keep My Current Membership.”
Navigating to Experian Boost is easy. Click the menu button and select “Experian Boost” under the “Reports & Scores” section. If you hit a snag, you can call customer support at 866-617-1894.
It helps to have your Member ID number when you call. You can find it by clicking the menu button and then going to your profile.
If you want to cancel your account, it’s easy to do with the automated phone system.
Other Ways to Add Payments to your Credit Report
There are several other systems that let you add regular payments to your credit report.
Experian RentBureau adds rent payments to your Experian credit report. It’s free and easy to use. Your landlord will have to be willing to participate.
eCredable Lift is a service similar to Experian Boost but run by TransUnion. Using both Experian Boost and eCredable Lift will place your utility payment records on two of your three credit reports.
These services have limitations. The change in your credit score won’t be dramatic, and it will only affect one credit report.
On the other hand, these services are free, easy to use, and pose little or no risk. What have you got to lose?