Can you use your cell phone bill to build credit?

3 min read
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Your credit score is calculated using several factors found in your credit report, including payment history, credit utilization and credit history.

Payment history alone makes up 35 percent of your FICO Score; credit card companies, mortgage lenders, auto lenders and more all report your payments to credit bureaus, building this record over time.

Typically, cell phone providers are not among those who report your payments to the bureaus. Unlike your mortgage or car payments, paying your cell phone bill regularly each month alone will not help increase your credit score.

But your cell phone bill can negatively impact your credit in ways you should be aware of, and new programs now offer options for consumers to incorporate timely cell phone payments into credit reports in a positive way.

Here’s what you need to know about how your cell phone bill may impact your credit:

Missing payments may hurt your score

Paying all of your bills consistently is key to a good credit score, and while paying your cell phone bill won’t have any automatic impact on your credit score, missing payments or making late payments can cause your credit score to drop if your cell phone account becomes delinquent.

If you miss several payments, your account could be reported as delinquent or sent to collections by your cell phone provider, which will show up on your credit report and hurt your credit score. Negative information remains on your report for seven years, though it may have less effect over time if you build up a more positive history. Delinquency can also happen if you end your contract with your carrier early without paying off the balance. Even when you no longer have access to your service, you are still responsible for paying off what you owe.

If you’re having trouble keeping up with your cell phone bill, it may be time to change your plan or your carrier. Doing so could help you save money on your cell phone bill, making it more manageable to pay.

Opening a new plan can affect your credit score

Your cell phone carrier may not regularly report your payments to the credit bureaus, but it will likely perform a credit check to determine your eligibility for financing and the terms of the plan.

This credit check can cause a temporary hit to your score, though hard inquiries only make up a small part of your score calculation and fall off completely after 24 months. Even though your cell phone provider’s financing plan acts like a loan, it is not reported to credit bureaus and cannot improve your credit score like other loans may.

Improve your credit score using your cell phone bill

Your cell phone payment isn’t automatically included in your credit report. However, there are ways you can add your positive payment history.

Self-reporting

You cannot directly self-report your financial activity to a credit bureau. Instead, third-party services report your payment activity to the three credit bureaus to be included in your credit report. These companies submit payment histories for your regular payments that aren’t generally included in credit reports, from cell phone bills to utility and rent payments, though they may charge fees for doing so.

Experian Boost

Experian Boost allows you to add your cell phone account (as well as other regular payments) to your credit report. Your on-time payments are then factored into your credit score and your late payments are not included (though if you default on payments and your account is sent to collections, you’ll still take a hit).

Experian Boost is especially beneficial for consumers with little credit history who are looking for alternative methods to build credit. At any point, you also have the ability to remove accounts from reporting if you feel they are not helping your score.

Pay your cell phone bill with a credit card

Your cell phone provider may not report payments to the credit bureaus, but you can achieve recognition for your timely cell phone payments in a more roundabout way by paying with a credit card.

Charging your cell phone bill to your credit card, then paying off your card balance in full and on time each month will help you build a solid payment history, benefiting from your cell phone. And depending on the card you use, you may also earn rewards for cell phone payments or benefit from cell phone protection insurance.

Bottom line

Your credit score is a representation of your creditworthiness, which lenders and creditors use to estimate whether you can responsibly handle debt. When you have a good credit score, it demonstrates that you are able to use and maintain borrowed funds without issue.

A good credit score can not only help you access funds to help you achieve your financial goals, but also open the door for lower interest rates and premium rewards cards. If you have a bad or limited credit history, consider taking advantage of programs that report your positive regular payments to the bureaus, then continue building good credit habits that can benefit you throughout your financial journey.