Wouldn’t it be great if you could wave a magic wand and lift your credit score out of the basement? If rebuilding your credit after a financial setback or building credit for the first time didn’t require months or years of painstaking work?
Unfortunately, there’s no quick and easy route out of a credit hole. Like much else worth waiting for, excellent credit takes time to develop, with plenty of potential pitfalls along the way.
But the path to better credit isn’t uniformly treacherous. If you know where to look, you can find helping hands when you need them most.
Experian Boost: Helping You Build Credit History Without a Credit Card
Experian Boost is one such helping hand. Backed by one of the United States’ three major consumer credit reporting bureaus, it’s a free service that can provide a small but meaningful boost to your credit score.
Once you get started, Experian Boost goes to work right away, ensuring you get credit for your phone and utility bills, providing access to a free credit report and score, and unlocking new scores immediately. Experian Boost users who saw a credit score increase, improved their FICO® Score^ calculated with Experian data by 13 points on average, according to Experian. But Experian doesn’t guarantee results, and not all users see credit score increases or higher chances of credit approval.
So Experian Boost is no magic wand, especially if you have late payments on records that it captures. But using it to potentially boost your credit is better than doing nothing and hoping your score improves over time, especially when it costs nothing out of pocket to do so.
If your interest is piqued, make sure you understand these key Experian Boost features and benefits before signing up.
Key Features: How Experian Boost Works
Experian Boost is a pretty straightforward product. Its core feature is instant credit for the phone and utility bill payments of your choice — credit that could (but isn’t guaranteed to) increase your FICO 8 credit score calculated with data from Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus for consumers.
Experian Boost users also get complimentary access to their Experian credit scores and credit files, plus the freedom to remove Boost if they don’t like the results.
Credit for Phone & Utility Bill Payments
Experian Boost’s signature feature is its ability to instantly incorporate phone and utility bill payments into your credit file. If you have a relatively long record of timely bill payments, that positive payment history can boost your credit score. Eligible bill payments can (but don’t exclusively) include your:
- Personal mobile phone (cell phone) plan
- Home phone, cable, and Internet plan
- Streaming subscriptions like Netflix and Hulu
- Trash and recycling service
- Home utility payments, such as electricity service, natural gas or heating oil service, and water and sewer service
Experian doesn’t guarantee your credit score will go up after adding bill payments to your credit file and warns that doing so could actually decrease your score. An Experian analysis found that users whose FICO® Score^ increased with Experian Boost saw an average 13-point boost. And because Boost doesn’t impact your TransUnion or Equifax credit files, it doesn’t affect the FICO Scores calculated with either.
To add phone and utility bill payments to your Experian credit file, do the following:
- Use Experian Boost’s secure portal to add bank account information for any account you use to make eligible bill payments. Provide your online username and password to complete this step.
- Add only those accounts you’d like Experian to factor into your credit file. Adding newer accounts could have little effect on your score or even prove counterproductive.
- Verify the bills you want to factor into your credit file.
Shortly after you complete these steps, your credit score updates to reflect the new information.
Complimentary Experian Credit Score & File Access
As long as your Experian account remains active, you have complimentary access to your Experian-generated FICO Score and your Experian credit file, which contains credit history information collected by Experian. You retain access whether you’ve activated Boost or not.
Option to Remove Experian Boost
If Experian Boost does not improve your Experian-generated FICO Score or appears to reduce it, you can remove Boost right away and undo its effect. You can add (and remove) Boost again at any time.
Experian Boost is ultimately a no-risk way to try to improve your credit score. It can do that thanks to its many pro-consumer features.
- Free to Sign Up and Use. It’s free to create an account with Experian and use Experian Boost. You won’t pay a dime out of pocket for this service as long as your account remains open — period.
- Complimentary Access to Your Experian Credit Report and FICO Score. Experian Boost users get complimentary access to their Experian credit files — the raw information used to compile their FICO Scores — and their FICO scores themselves. Credit Karma, the top U.S. provider of free credit monitoring services, doesn’t offer direct access to Experian files or scores, leaving its users in the dark as to what lenders see when they pull their Experian credit reports.
- Get Credit for the Bill Payments of Your Choice. Experian Boost gives you credit for the phone and utility bill payments of your choice. If you make these payments on time and in full, and you’ve been doing so for many months or years, there’s a good chance your Experian-generated FICO Score will rise once Experian incorporates them into your credit score.
- You Can Remove Boost if You Don’t Like the Results. Experian Boost isn’t guaranteed to raise your credit score and could potentially do the opposite. However, because you can remove Boost at any time if you don’t like its results, it should never have a permanent negative impact on your credit score. You can reapply to Boost at any time without cost or penalty.
- The Average User Sees a Notable Credit Score Boost. According to Experian, Experian Boost users who saw their credit scores increase with Experian Boost experienced a 13-point increase on average. While results aren’t guaranteed and many creditors don’t use Experian-generated scores, this is nevertheless a useful benchmark for consumers considering Experian Boost.
While the following disadvantages are notable, the lack of risk means it’s still worth a shot.
- Good Credit Results Aren’t Guaranteed. Experian doesn’t guarantee Boost can increase your credit score. In fact, in some cases, Boost lowers credit scores once it’s applied. While the ability to remove Boost at any time ensures the damage isn’t permanent, no net change in score is not an ideal outcome.
- Doesn’t Affect FICO Scores Generated With TransUnion or Equifax Data. Experian Boost doesn’t impact FICO Scores generated with TransUnion or Equifax data. Since many lenders use TransUnion- or Equifax-generated scores, Boost is far from guaranteed to raise users’ chances of credit approval.
- No Access to Other Bureaus’ Credit Files. Because it has no access to other bureaus’ credit files, Boost doesn’t provide a complete picture of users’ credit. That requires a more comprehensive credit-monitoring solution or, at minimum, staggered ordering of the two other free credit reports the law entitles you to each year — one each from Equifax and TransUnion.
Experian Boost is a useful little product that can meaningfully raise your Experian-generated FICO 8 score, potentially increasing your chances of credit approval (or more favorable rates and terms) on your next loan or credit line application. Timely phone payments and on-time utility payments from your checking account or savings account can increase your credit score with no secured credit card required.
Better yet, Boost is free and secure, and you can remove it at any time if you don’t like what it does to your credit score. With so little to lose, what’s the downside in taking Boost for a spin?
*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.
^Credit score calculated based on FICO® Score 8 model. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO® Score than FICO® Score 8, or another type of credit score altogether. Learn more.