By now, you’ve probably heard about Experian Boost, a program through the credit bureau, Experian, that promises to quickly boost your credit for free. If so, you might be wondering how exactly Experian Boost works and whether you should give it a try. Who doesn’t want to instantly raise their credit score without much extra effort?
I certainly did. In July 2019, I signed up for the program. Since then, I used it three times.
Are you growing your credit and have a question for Ana? Drop her a line at the Ask Bankrate Experts page!
My first Experian Boost
In July 2019, I was frustrated with how stagnant my credit was. Weighed down by the credit mistakes I’d made in my early 20s, my FICO score didn’t move, stuck somewhere in the 640s. At the time, I was working for Experian. And the bureau was abuzz with talk of Experian Boost, so naturally I was curious to try it out.
The concept sounded pretty amazing: Your utility and telecom data gets added to your credit file and raises your score. Essentially, you’d get rewarded for paying your bills. And if you forgot to pay your bill, it wouldn’t harm your credit, because only positive payment history gets reported.
I had to sign up. I started by creating an account with Experian, which only took a few minutes and came with useful perks, like a free Experian credit report and FICO score refreshed once a month (my favorite credit score tracker to this day). Then, to boost my score, I connected my bank account, which was also easy: You just use your online banking login info, and Experian does the rest of the work.
Experian found my utility bill, and my FICO score went from 640 to 654. I was ecstatic.
Unfortunately, my joy didn’t last long. Six months later my 14-point boost fell off. I’d moved, and my new landlord paid the utilities and the Internet. That was to be expected, since Experian only uses fresh data (90 days old or less) to boost your score. Still, that made me sad. Back to the 640s it was.
My second Experian Boost
Fast forward to June 2020, and I’d moved again. My Experian app sent me a notification that it was time for me to check my updated score. I did—it went from 645 to 648. I was about to close the app and try to be excited about my 3-point gain, when I noticed that Experian was asking whether I wanted to confirm new utility payments it found on my bank account eligible for Boost. Of course I did!
I had been paying my utilities for over three months now, so they could count toward my FICO score with Boost. I confirmed the payments and raised my score by 9 extra points to 657.
That felt wonderful. Gradually, my FICO score was climbing higher and higher. And one credit limit increase, one credit card upgrade and one new credit card later (thanks, CardMatch!), I got to 667 this January.
I was getting so close to good credit.
My third Experian Boost
I’m not a Boost addict, I swear. This time, I’ve done it for you, dear reader. Before I started writing this article, I decided to boost again because I had some data to add. I was paying for the Internet with a card I hadn’t connected yet. Plus Experian now lets you report your Netflix payments.
Boosting my FICO score while binging Bridgerton? Yes, please.
So I’ve boosted again. This time, I’ve added all of my credit card accounts, just to be sure every eligible payment will count toward my score. I didn’t expect much, but I wanted to get the most out of the service.
My score has increased by 13 points, taking my score to the next credit tier—from “fair” to “good”.
Now my FICO score is at 680, and in total, Experian Boost has raised my score by 22 points. It’s less of a boost than other users report. But without it, it could take me another year to reach good credit. Now that years of fair credit are officially behind me, I may qualify for some of the most exciting credit cards (I’m looking at you, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card), and I’m considering refinancing my car loan.
Should you use Experian Boost?
There’s no harm in trying Experian Boost. It’s completely free, Experian will keep your data safe and you may get a nice credit score increase.
That said, I do think boosting makes sense to some users more than to others. If your credit is already in a great shape, it might not make that much of a difference. Also, remember that lenders look into more than your credit score. For instance, if you’re applying for a mortgage, the lender will scrutinize every little thing on your credit report and might not care that much if you pay your Netflix subscription on time.
On the other hand, there are a few situations where I’d highly recommend boosting, including:
- When you’re new to credit. Building credit from scratch requires time and effort. Using Experian Boost can help you get your foot in that credit door, so that you’re off to a good start.
- When your credit is poor or fair. Rebuilding credit can be even harder than starting from scratch and will probably test your patience. Boosting can be very helpful here. According to Experian, consumers with very poor to fair credit score tend to get the best results.
- When you’re close to the next credit tier. If you’re just a few points away from the next credit tier, Experian Boost can help you get over the ledge. In such cases, these few points can make an amazing difference, qualifying you for better credit card products, lower interest rates and better loan terms.
Note, however, that Experian Boost only impacts your FICO 8 Score based on Experian data. If that’s not the score your lender uses, you’ll be out of luck. For example, if you’re applying for a loan, and your lender checks your VantageScore 3 based on TransUnion data, it won’t see your shiny boosted score. I know this can sound a bit confusing, but that’s how it is with multiple credit models and three credit bureaus.
Still, 90 percent of top lenders use FICO scores, and while you likely won’t know which credit bureau’s data your lender will pull, it doesn’t hurt to improve your chances by boosting your score with Experian.
Experian Boost is an easy way to increase your FICO Score with Experian. It may benefit some users more than others, but it never hurts to try—the service is free and won’t use any negative payment information.