Improving your credit score is usually a long game. After all, it takes time to pay down debt and build a history of on-time payments. Experian Boost may accelerate the timeline to better credit by allowing you to add alternative data to your credit report, which often produces instant credit score improvements.

Ready to learn more? This guide will help you learn how Experian Boost works, its benefits and downsides, how it may improve your credit score and more.

What is Experian Boost?

Experian Boost is a free feature from the credit bureau Experian that aims to instantly “boost” your credit score. The service allows you to add your utility, telecom and streaming accounts to your credit report, which could potentially raise your credit score.

Most of the accounts on a traditional credit report are credit-related, such as credit cards, auto loans and mortgage loans. But how can you build credit if you don’t have one of these types of accounts, especially when it takes good credit to be approved for credit accounts in the first place?

Experian Boost solves this Catch-22 by letting you add alternative data to your credit report, including your utility and cellular phone payments. Experian requires you to have at least one active credit account, but it also lets you add the following service accounts to your credit reports:

  • Cable and satellite
  • Cell and landline phone
  • Gas, electric and solar
  • Internet
  • Streaming services, including Disney+, HBO, Hulu and Netflix
  • Trash and water

How does Experian Boost help your credit score?

Before the debut of Experian Boost in 2019, payments to utility companies and entertainment streaming services had no impact on your credit scores because they’re typically not reported to the major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. So even if you paid your bill on time every month, it didn’t have any impact on your credit score. They’re still not a factor in the most common scoring models for Equifax and TransUnion (or for Experian without Experian Boost).

With Experian Boost, punctual payments over time positively impact how Experian calculates your FICO score. The ability to add timely payments from alternative accounts to your credit report could positively impact your credit score, especially if your file is “thin” and lacking other accounts that typically help build your credit. But can Experian Boost hurt your credit? It’s important to note that Boost doesn’t include late payments or negative information in its scoring model, so you have nothing to lose by giving the service a try.

Improving your credit score is important because most lenders consider your score when deciding whether to extend you a loan and the interest rate and terms you’ll receive. Typically, the higher your credit score, the more favorable rates and terms you’ll be offered by lenders.

How does Experian Boost work?

Experian Boost pulls data from the past two years looking for positive payment data to add to its reports (any late payments within that time frame are not considered). Here are the steps to use Experian Boost and potentially increase your credit score:

  • Connect the bank account(s) you use to pay the bills you’re looking to add.
  • Select and confirm the positive payment history you wish to add to your Experian credit report.
  • Get your updated Experian FICO score.

When you sign up for a free Experian Boost account, you’ll also receive a free Experian credit report, your FICO credit score and credit monitoring results. And, your report and score refresh every 30 days when you log in to your account.

Of course, you can also obtain more comprehensive credit monitoring for a monthly fee. Experian CreditWorks Plus tracks activity on all three of your credit reports for $14.99 per month.

Pros and cons of Experian Boost

Before you sign up for Experian Boost, consider these potential benefits and downsides to help determine if the service is right for you:

Pros of Experian Boost

  • It’s free: Unlike credit repair companies, which can charge exorbitant fees, Experian Boost has the potential to improve your credit score without costing you a dime.
  • May improve your credit score: Boost allows you to add on-time bill payments from alternative data to your credit file, which could improve your credit. That’s because your payment history is the most important factor in your credit score, making up 35 percent of your total score.
  • Instant results: Once you connect your bank account and select the payments you wish to add to your credit profile, you’ll get a new score instantly.

Cons of Experian Boost

  • Only impacts Experian credit report: Experian only reports your Boost score on its Experian credit report. Experian also works with FICO 8, FICO 9, VantageScore 3 and VantageScore 4 credit scores. So unless a lender pulls one of these credit scores, they won’t be able to see the Experian credit boost data reflected in your credit score.
  • Minimal improvement for active credit users: If you already have a long history of using credit and making your payments on time, Boost may have minimal impact on your credit score. Likewise, you may not see a significant increase in your score if you already have “very good” or “excellent” credit.

Who can benefit from using Experian Boost?

If you’ve been making consistent on-time payments for your cell phone, utilities and streaming services bills, you may benefit from using Experian Boost, especially if your credit file is thin. Others who may benefit include:

Anyone seeking a better credit score

According to Experian, 75 percent of consumers with a FICO credit score below 680 improved their credit score using Experian Boost. People who experience the most significant credit improvements tend to be those with lower credit scores, who have the most room for improvement.

Anyone needing to build a thin credit file

Experian says 10 percent of individuals with “thin” credit files—credit reports with little or no credit history—become scoreable after using Experian Boost. If you’re just starting to build your credit, Boost can help you get started by adding your on-time utility, phone and streaming payments to your credit report.

Anyone needing a bump into a new credit score range

Others who can benefit from Experian Boost include those who just need a few points to jump into a higher credit scoring category. This may help you to get approved for a loan, receive a better loan interest rate and terms, or qualify for a top credit card.

Say you have a credit score of 667, which is at the high end of FICO’s fair credit range. By using Boost, you may be able to get three or more points added to your credit score. That minor improvement would move you up to good credit status (670 to 739).

Other ways to build credit

Experian Boost is an effective tool to improve your credit, especially for those with little scorable data in their credit file. In addition to Boost, you can employ other tactics to strengthen your credit, not just with Experian but with all three credit agencies:

  • Apply for a credit-builder loan: When you get a credit-builder loan, the lender deposits the loan funds into a bank account. You then make monthly payments to the lender, which are reported to the credit bureaus. Once the loan is paid off, the lender transfers the money from the account to you.
  • Get a secured credit card: With secured credit cards, you’ll deposit an amount that typically acts as your credit limit. You can make purchases on your card as long as you’ve funded the card with enough money to cover the transaction. Make a small purchase each month, so you’re not using up too much of your available credit. Then make payments on time each month, which get reported to the credit bureaus and may improve your credit score.
  • Become an authorized user: You can build your credit as an authorized user on a friend or family member’s credit card. When you become an authorized user, the account may be added to your credit report (the cardholder should check if their issuer reports activity for authorized users, as some don’t). That means payments made by the primary cardholder will help you build a strong credit history. The caveat here is that you should only be an authorized user if the primary cardholder is financially responsible and makes their payments on time.

Should you use Experian Boost?

In a word—yes. Unless you already have a very good credit score, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try to improve your score. And, even if Boost doesn’t improve your FICO score, the service doesn’t cost you anything and only takes a few minutes to set up.

And once you’re running with Boost, the platform will continue to track your payments and boost your credit score in the future if you keep making timely payments. If you ever change your mind, you can delete the additional payment history from your Experian credit file at any time.

The best practice to improve your credit score is to pay down and eliminate your debts by making credit payments on time every month. For many people, especially those with large debts, that process can take a long time. In the meantime, consider using Experian Boost, which could improve your credit score immediately.