Experian Boost Review: Can Boost Improve My Credit Score?
Your credit score is an important part of your finances, can Experian Boost help improve it?
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Your credit score is an important part of your financial life that impacts things like your ability to qualify for a mortgage or other types of loans and credit. A bad credit score might even hurt your chances of getting a job or securing a lease for an apartment.
Unfortunately, building a solid credit history can be difficult, especially when you’re just getting started. You need loans or lines of credit in order to start establishing payment history, but getting approved for those loans or lines of credit can be difficult if you have no credit history.
So what are you supposed to do?
Experian, one of the three leading credit bureaus (along with Equifax and TransUnion) created Boost for the purpose of helping people who have thin credit files to establish credit or increase their score.
What is Experian Boost?
Boost is a free program offered by Experian. Consumers can sign up on Experian’s website and potentially boost their credit score in just a few minutes.
While there are many factors used to determine your credit score, the most heavily-weighted factor is your payment history. Boost works by adding positive payment history to your credit file that otherwise would not be included.
With the help of Boost, you may be able to add some routine bills, like monthly utility payments and cell phone bills, to your credit report. If you have a limited amount of data on your credit report, these qualifying payments can make a significant difference and improve your score. The purpose of Boost is to reward people with limited credit history for responsibly managing bills that wouldn’t normally impact a credit score.
According to Experian, the average user who receives a boost will improve their credit score by 13 points. Some users may not see any increase, and others may experience more significant increases.
How Does Experian Boost Work?
Boost works by connecting to your bank account and/or credit card accounts to quickly find bills in your payment history that can be added to your credit file. Late payments or negative items will not be added, so Experian Boost cannot lower your credit score.
To get started, you’ll need to create a free Experian account and register for Boost. Please note that Experian will offer you some paid upgrades, but these aren’t necessary in order to use Boost, and you won’t need to enter any payment information.
One of the major perks of Boost is that it’s very easy and requires little time. To create the account you’ll need to enter some personal details, like your date of birth and social security number to verify your identity. At this point, you’ll be able to see your current credit score.
Next, Boost will attempt to link to your bank accounts and credit card accounts. Experian integrates with more than 8,000 banks. I use a relatively small community bank, and Boost was able to connect and login with no problem.
You’ll enter your online banking username and password so Experian can login and automatically view your history. It will scan your accounts for bills that have been paid at least 3 times in the past 6 months, and you’ll be notified of the findings.
Experian will show you the bills that are eligible to be added to your credit file and you can approve or decline them. It’s also worth noting that Boost is not permanent. You can login later and undo Boost to remove these items from your credit file.
After adding the items to your credit file, Experian will calculate your score and show you the results. In a matter of just a few minutes, you’ll be able to sign up, integrate with your financial accounts, allow Experian to find items to add to your credit report, and see the real-time impact on your credit score.
It’s important to understand that there are several different types of credit scores, like FICO and VantageScore (FICO Score 8 is currently the most widely used credit score). Lenders will only see the impact of Boost if they pull your Experian credit report or view your credit score using Experian data, such as FICO Score 8.
While Experian Boost is a useful (and free) program, there are some limitations that need to be mentioned.
- It may not impact the credit score used by lenders. Because there are several different types of credit scores, there is no guarantee that Boost will impact the score that is actually being used by your lenders or creditors. However, that doesn’t mean that Boost should be ignored. Experian is one of the leading bureaus and FICO Score 8 is the most commonly used type of credit score, so there is certainly potential for benefits.
- It doesn’t impact your credit report with Equifax or TransUnion. While Boost will add payment history to your Experian credit report, lenders may be using only your Equifax on TransUnion report, so Boost might not help you to get approval.
- It only uses utility and cell phone payments. Other bills like rent will not have an impact.
- It won’t work for everyone. Boost is intended to help people with thin credit. If you have strong, established credit, Boost is unlikely to improve your score.
- It’s not going to turn bad credit into good credit. Boost can certainly help to increase your credit score in the right situation, but its impact is limited. Don’t count on Boost to offset negative payment history on your credit report.
Can Experian Boost help me improve my credit score?
According to Experian, Boost has already increased credit scores by a total of more than 28 million points. With an average increase of 13 points, that’s more than 2 million people that have had success improving their credit score with Boost.
If you have limited credit history (i.e., you’ve had very few credit cards or loans in the past), or if you have damaged credit, Boost may be able to help. In either situation, any positive payment history that you can add to your credit report may be able to help your score, so it’s certainly worth trying.
The only way to know for sure if Boost will help you is to try it. Fortunately, it’s free and it only takes a few minutes of your time.
If you have established credit and there are already a number of tradelines on your credit report, adding cell phone and utility bills is unlikely to increase your score with the major credit bureaus. I have about 20 years of credit history. I tried Boost and it did not increase my score.
Is Experian Boost safe?
Any time you’re entering sensitive personal information online, you should think about safety. Experian uses 256-bit SSL encryption (bank level security) to protect your data. According to Experian, Boost uses read-only access to your bank statement and Experian does not store your bank login credentials (source).
Although Experian takes all of the necessary precautions, there is always some level of risk involved in entering your personal information online. These risks are minimized thanks to Experian’s procedures, but risks cannot be completely eliminated.
Experian Boost Pros:
- Effective - Boost is effective at doing what it is intended to do, which is to help consumers with limited credit history.
- Fast - You may be able to increase your credit score in just a few minutes, and you can see the results in real time.
- Credit Score Tracking - Experian will monitor your credit score and send you email notifications when needed.
- Won’t Lower Your Score - Boost only uses on-time payment history. It won’t add any late or missed payments that would hurt your score.
- No Cost - Believe it or not, Boost is a free service, regardless of whether it increases your score or not.
Experian Boost Cons:
- Not Universal - Although Boost can improve your Experian credit report, it may not have an impact if your lender is using a different bureau or credit score.
- Doesn’t Work for Everyone - If you have a number of tradelines on your credit score already, the impact of Boost will be minimal, or it may not improve your score at all.
- Lenders May Overestimate Your Debt Load - Your debt-to-income ratio will have a big impact on your credit and loan applications. Lenders may see utility payments on your Experian credit report and include those bills in your debt calculation, which will negatively impact your debt-to-income ratio. Experian says it is working with lenders to explain that these items are not debt, but it still could impact you.
- Security Concerns - Although Experian claims that Boost is safe, there are always some safety concerns when you’re entering your bank account username and password.
Other Ways to Improve Your Credit Score
Boost is one option for increasing your credit score. If you’re looking to establish credit or improve your credit score, there are some other options that you may want to consider as well.
While Experian Boost can use cell phone and utility bills to increase your credit score, UltraFICO uses your checking account, savings, and money market accounts to accomplish the same thing.
Secured Credit Cards
If you’re unable to get approval for an unsecured credit card, you may want to apply for a secured credit card. These cards typically have low credit limits and they are secured by a cash deposit, so you won’t be in danger of racking up a lot of debt with a single secured credit card, and it will help you to establish your credit (assuming you make monthly payments on time).
Credit Builder Loans
Credit builder loans are typically small secured loans that are intended for people with no credit history or limited credit history. Like a secured credit card, you can start to build some solid payment history and you won’t run the risk of accumulating a lot of debt.
Make All of Your Payments on Time
Regardless of what type of loans or credit you have, the most important thing you can do to improve your credit score is to make all of your payments on time. Experian Boost may be able to help your score today, but you’ll need to continue making payments on time.
While there is no guarantee that Boost will be able to increase your credit score, it’s free, it only takes a few minutes of your time, and you’ll see the results right away.
If you have limited credit history or no credit history at all, Experian Boost could be a great product for you. It may be able to help you start to establish your credit, which can open up more doors and make your financial life a little easier in the future.
Boost can also be effective if you have damaged credit and you’re trying to get things on the right track.
If you ever decide that you want these items removed from your Experian credit report, you can easily have them deleted.