Is Experian Boost worth it?
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Experian Boost is a credit-building tool that can instantly raise your FICO score by giving you credit for bills you already pay. You can also use Experian’s free credit monitoring service to see your credit score for free, then benefit from credit monitoring and alerts that help you stay on top of your credit and your progress. While Experian Boost can be used in conjunction with the Experian mobile app, you can also use the tool on a desktop.
So is Experian Boost worth it? Considering there’s no charge to use it, credit expert John Ulzheimer says certain types of consumers can benefit.
“To the extent you’re comfortable sharing your accounts and banking information, I’m not entirely sure there is any downside to it,” says Ulzheimer, who previously worked at FICO and Equifax.
How does Experian Boost work?
Experian Boost allows users to add positive payment history to their credit reports using utility bills, phone bills and even payments to streaming services like Disney+ and Hulu. Consumers who use Boost need to connect their bank account and other accounts they pay bills from to confirm these transactions, at which point Boost can instantly raise Experian scores using that information.
Experian can access up to 24 months of data from your accounts to add to your credit profile, so you have the potential to add two years of positive payment history in one fell swoop. However, you need a minimum of three months of payments within a six-month time period for Boost to do its job.
Experian also uses world-class encryption to keep your data secure, and the tool does not store consumer credentials. Michelle Felice-Steele, vice president of product management for Experian, says Experian is also working with financial institutions to tokenize the data.
“We take consumer security very seriously and we have top-level security for consumer accounts,” Felice-Steele notes.
Advantages of Experian Boost
Experian Boost is free and it gives consumers the chance to build credit with bills that don’t typically get reported to credit reports. Felice-Steele points out that the most common bills added to Boost include those for mobile and landline phones, internet, cable and satellite service, utilities, water, power, trash and streaming services like Netflix.
“These payments have never been used to help consumers improve their credit health, and that’s one of the main pain points we hear from consumers,” she says. “They understand credit can impact their lives and their financial future, but they don’t know how to take more control over it.”
Kevin Everhart, vice president of marketing at Experian, notes that Experian Boost has also made some major innovations of late, including the ability to add streaming services.
You can also add bills you pay with a credit card to Boost, then use those monthly payments to add depth to your credit report. This improvement is a big benefit to consumers who might have their streaming services or utility bills set up on autopay with a credit card for any number of reasons.
“There are a lot of consumers who pay those bills with credit to get rewards points, so we enhanced Experian Boost to cover those different accounts,” Felice-Steele says.
Does Experian Boost have any downsides?
There have been some reports of consumer scores going down after using Experian Boost, yet these accounts don’t seem to be associated with the tool itself. Everhart and Felice-Steele confirmed that Experian Boost only reports positive payments to credit reports, so the addition of new bills will ultimately improve one’s credit score or be neutral.
Ulzheimer says that if someone uses Experian Boost and their credit score drops, it’s due to other credit factors. For example, they may have closed a credit card in the same timeframe, resulting in a sudden increase in their credit utilization ratio.
He points out that users also have the power to instantly add and remove bills through Experian Boost, so you can “shut it off and have the tradelines removed any time you want.”
However, Ulzheimer notes that there’s an intermediary company involved with Experian Boost called Finicity. Finicity goes into your bank account and grabs all the information that is converted to a tradeline for Boost.
“That is what goes on your credit report,” Ulzheimer says. Ultimately, this means you have to be comfortable letting Finicity get into your bank accounts and see all your information.
Users should also know that, while incredibly useful in some cases, Experian Boost has some serious limitations.
Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate, notes that Boost won’t help your TransUnion or Equifax credit scores. And because the tool only works with newer versions of the FICO algorithm (specifically FICO Score 8), it won’t help you get a home loan, as mortgage lenders typically rely on older FICO score models.
How to use Experian Boost
To get started, create an account online or in the Experian mobile app. Information required to open an account is limited to your name, the last four digits of your Social Security number and your contact details. You’ll also have to answer some security questions to confirm your identity.
From there, you can connect bank accounts or credit cards you use to pay bills, at which point you can choose and verify the bill payments you want to add to Boost.
Experian reports the average user boosts their FICO 8 score by 12 points, and that 62 percent of users see their score increase.
However, the Experian Boost website contains the following disclaimer:
“Some may not see improved scores or approval odds. Not all lenders use credit information impacted by Experian Boost.”
This means you could do everything right and not see any impact. And since Experian Boost doesn’t affect your TransUnion or Equifax credit scores, the impact on your creditworthiness could be limited regardless.
When is Experian Boost a good idea?
Ulzheimer says consumers with very good or excellent credit scores may not need to bother with Experian Boost.
“If your score is 760 or above, you don’t need five more points,” he says.
For the most part, he believes the tool is most useful for people with a marginal score (e.g. a FICO score of 620), or even someone with a score in the high 500’s.
Rossman says the average benefit of Boost could also be “really meaningful to someone on the border between credit categories.” It could push you over the line to getting approved for a loan or line of credit, for example, or perhaps qualify you for a lower interest rate.
According to Everhart, Experian Boost is also ideal for someone who has a thin credit file, or less than five tradelines in their credit profile. Since your credit report is like a financial profile that demonstrates positive impacts and behaviors, adding more good data only makes sense if you get the chance.
“For someone who only has one or two tradelines in their file, Experian Boost provides an opportunity to add in more tradelines so the credit report can show all the great behavior that already exists,” Everhart says. “Many people with thin credit profiles are subprime, and Boost can help them.”
Other ways to ‘boost’ your credit score
If you’re looking for a way to add depth to your credit report, Perch and eCredable Lift are alternatives that can help you with newer versions of the TransUnion and Equifax scoring systems. They also encompass a wider range of potential accounts, says Rossman, adding that Perch lets you include your rent payments and eCredable Lift has a wider selection of utility providers.
While Experian Boost and Perch are free, eCredable Lift will set you back $24.95 per year.
There’s also the UltraFICO score, which lets consumers use alternative data sourced from their checking accounts, savings accounts or money market accounts to enhance their credit scores. You have to opt into this program, which is currently in its pilot phase. However, UltraFICO is also free to use.
Of course, you can always build credit the old-fashioned way. For example, you can make sure all of your bills are paid early or on time, which is the most important factor that determines your credit scores. You can also pay down debt to decrease your credit utilization, which can positively affect your credit with all three credit bureaus.
If you’re struggling to get started or you feel like you’re not making any progress, certain financial products can also help you prove your creditworthiness. For example, a secured credit card lets you build credit history, though you have to offer a refundable cash deposit as collateral. A credit builder loan can also be useful in building credit and easy to qualify for.
The bottom line
Is Experian Boost worth it? And does Experian Boost really work? According to Ulzheimer, the unequivocal answer to both of those questions is “yes.”
Boost is user-controlled, meaning you can add and remove bills any time you want. It’s also free to use, even though the impact is limited to your Experian credit score and only your FICO Score 8. Creating an account may take you 10 minutes at the most, and you could improve your credit and qualify for better loan terms or interest rates as a result.
Plus, Experian Boost will only be in place as long as you want it to be, Rossman says. “If it doesn’t help your score, you can just opt-out.”