Does Experian Boost Really Work and Is It Worth It?

How Is Experian Boost Helping Consumers?

A growing number of people looking to improve their scores or establish credit history are trying Experian Boost and experiencing an instant credit score increase. In fact, consumers have collectively added more than 29 million points to their credit scores using Experian Boost.

Offering more ways to help consumers take control of their credit, Experian recently announced that Netflix payments could be factored into Experian Boost scores. The popularity of Netflix gives more opportunity for consumers to improve their credit scores based on their other on-time payments.

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Pros and cons of Experian Boost

Experian Boost is worth signing up for if you’re looking for an easy way to boost your credit score. However, the service has limitations, so you shouldn’t expect any miracles.

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of Experian Boost.

Advantages of Experian Boost

Experian Boost has three main benefits:

  • Zero cost: There are other companies (like LevelCredit, for example) that offer similar services that add your regular monthly payments to your credit report, but most of them cost money. In contrast, Experian Boost is free.
  • Immediate score improvement: Unlike most other methods for building your credit, Experian Boost instantly updates your credit report, giving you an immediate increase in your credit score after you’ve registered. 7 This can help you qualify for credit and loans with more favorable terms, such as lower interest rates.
  • No risk: Signing up for Experian Boost won’t cause a drop in your credit score, even if you’ve missed bills in the past. This is because Experian only adds on-time payments to your credit report.

Downsides of Experian Boost

Experian Boost has several drawbacks:

  • Less effective if you have good credit: If you already have a solid payment history and a good credit score, Experian Boost isn’t going to have a substantial effect on your credit. According to Experian, a full 21% of people with poor credit who have used the service were able to boost their FICO score into the “fair” range, but only 3% of people with “good” credit saw their score move into the “very good” range. 6
  • Doesn’t affect your Equifax or TransUnion credit scores: As mentioned, Experian Boost only adds your payments to your Experian credit report. This means that your TransUnion and Equifax credit scores won’t increase when you sign up.

Is Experian Boost safe to use?

Experian Boost utilises “open banking”, which is the result of a series of reforms in the financial sector that has led people to be able to share their financial information – including current account data – with other banks or third parties. By signing up to use Experian Boost, you are giving permission to Experian to access your current account and draw data from it. In return, Experian promises to access, analyse and store your data securely.

In practice, this means safeguards have been put in place, such as ensuring that bank log-in details aren’t shared or stored by Experian and that all data is protected by end-to-end encryption and is stored securely. As a company already responsible for accessing and handling sensitive financial information, Experian is confident in its ability to protect your data.

In terms of how it uses your data, it is worth considering how comfortable you are with your data being shared with other third parties, apart from the lenders who are assessing your score for the purposes of approving a line of credit. There is the option to opt-out of the data being shared with other third-party companies, so it is important to read the terms and conditions carefully and act accordingly.

Importantly, Experian states that your credit score won’t be negatively impacted by using Experian Boost. Any negative patterns or trends are not passed on to lenders or deducted from your credit score.

Pros Cons

Experian Boost can be an effective way to help your credit. That doesn’t mean it’s the right move for everyone.

Pros

  • It’s free.
  • Adding more positive information to your Experian credit report can have a very positive impact if your credit report has very few accounts.
  • Experian claims the average credit score improvement is 14 points. That could make a big difference for some people, especially if you cross over one of the major score thresholds from “poor” to “fair”, and from “fair” to “good”.
  • If you have late payments, it won’t hurt your credit score since Experian doesn’t know about your late payments. Since they won’t be included in your credit report they can’t affect your credit score.

Cons

  • You have to give Experian access to your online checking account.  This is a non-starter for some people who are concerned about the security of their checking account. 
  • You have to pay all of your utility bills from your online checking account.  This is the only way Experian Boost can scan your checking account to look to payments to utility companies.  This means you can’t use a credit card to pay your bill and earn reward points. 
  • It only works for people who already have a credit file.  
  • Because Experian Boost only reports positive payments, some lenders may not use these accounts when they calculate your credit score. 
  • Experian Boost only helps your Experian score.  It won’t help your scores at the two other major credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax.

Experian Boost works best for people with thin credit files. If you have 20 years of payment history, have owned multiple credit cards, and had a car loan and home loan, adding proof of utility payments will not have the impact that it would have for someone with a thin credit file. 

Is Experian Boost Worth It?

Experian Boost is a free feature that can help you raise your FICO® Score in a matter of minutes. For anyone who has worked to improve their credit scores over months or even years, seeing those credit scores go up instantly can be extremely rewarding.

Having a good credit score not only makes you feel good, but it can also help you save money and expose you to new financial opportunities. Your improved FICO® Score may help you get a favorable interest rate on a new loan, which could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. Your improved credit score may also make you eligible for a new type of credit. These positive outcomes make Experian Boost worth it for many consumers.

Is Experian Boost Legal?

You might wonder if all of this is legal. Can Experian expect you to give them access to your bank history so they can see your payment records?  

Rest assured that Boost is 100% legal. The service is optional.  You do not have to participate.  As for their access to your records, that’s Experian’s entire business model. They are a consumer reporting agency.  Every time a credit card company or lender has sent Experian information about you, you have given them permission to do so (probably in the fine print when applying for a new credit card or loan, which few of us ever read).

How to Use Credit-Boosting Programs

To use any new scoring program, you must opt in. 

For Experian Boost, that means granting permission to the accounts you use to make your payments, such as checking, savings, and credit card accounts. While the bureau says Boost does not access your account information beyond collecting payment history, this access could be a drawback for some users.

UltraFICO also relies on permission to access your banking information, but scrutinizes your accounts further, looking into your day-to-day financial activity to determine your UltraFICO Score. TransUnion’s eCredable Lift, on the other hand, does not require access to banking information at all. Instead, you only need to grant permission via your utility accounts logins.

After opting in to Experian Boost, up to 24 months of payment history is added to your credit report, and reports each month like any traditionally-reported credit account. The payments you choose to add to your score are optional; you could add your Netflix bill but not your natural gas payment, for instance.

Only positive payments are added, so missed or late payments on these accounts won’t affect your score through Boost — though TransUnion’s program does report negative information in addition to positive. 

But you should still view any account which is linked to your credit report as imperative to pay on time and in full each month to reap the benefits. Missed or late payments can still negatively impact your credit report eventually if the provider sends your account to collections.

“Really fit it into your budget,” Livadary says. “Making those payments is an essential, non-negotiable expense.”

What is Experian Boost?

Ultimately, whichever credit score you look at, the higher your credit score the better your chances of being able to access better products at more favourable rates. Therefore, being able to improve your credit score with Experian in a quick and easy way is very attractive. This is where Experian Boost comes in.

Agencies such as Experian, Equifax and TransUnion calculate your score by taking into consideration:

  • Your personal details – your address and whether you are a renter or homeowner, employment status and salary, and your marital status are all used to help build a profile of how you are likely to behave as a borrower
  • Credit history – it shows previous and current debt and how well you have serviced it, including your record for making payments on time
  • Enquiries/applications – your score is influenced when you apply for bank accounts, mortgages, credit cards or other types of finance. Too many unsuccessful applications are detrimental to your credit rating
  • Public records – including CCJs, IVAs or bankruptcies

Experian Boost adds an extra dimension to this calculation, connecting to your current account to observe “trends that show a strong payment history” with companies other than mortgage lenders, credit-card issuers or other finance companies. The three categories they include in this analysis are:

  • Payments into a savings or investment account, such as an ISA
  • Council-tax payments
  • Subscriptions to digital entertainment, such as Netflix or Spotify

It looks for positive examples of payments over the previous 12 months, using these to work out what level of “boost” to award, with the maximum being an additional 101 points on your overall Experian credit score. This information is passed on to lenders when you apply for credit to help support your application.

Downsides of Experian Boost™

Though Experian Boost is a great feature for consumers who might not have a strong credit file, it isn’t perfect. Here are a few downsides of the feature:

  • If you’re a long-time avid credit card user who charges everything for the rewards points and pays your bill on time and in full, Experian Boost may not be very beneficial. Your credit history already includes the payment history from your credit card payments (which are reported by the card issuer). Adding a few more on-time payments is unlikely to have a large impact on your credit scores. Experian Boost is most beneficial for users who do not have a very robust credit file.
  • Lenders might be using a version of a FICO Score or a different credit scoring model that doesn’t work with Experian Boost. There’s no guarantee that using Experian Boost will increase your odds of approval for a specific credit product from a specific lender.
  • Experian Boost looks at cell phone, utility and service payments. It would be more helpful if it could include rent payments as well. It is possible to get rent payments added to your credit report, though—here’s how.
  • As Experian itself points out, adding utility payments to its records won’t affect what’s in your files with the two other major credit bureaus–Equifax and TransUnion. So depending on which bureau a prospective lender or credit card issuer uses, Experian Boost may not help you get approved.

Bottom Line

Experian Boost can have a positive impact on your score, and may even propel you from one scoring category to another, helping you qualify for better lending terms on loans and credit. But it’s only a small piece in the bigger picture of improving your credit score. 

Consider Experian Boost or other new scoring methods as a tool, but continue to practice the good credit habits that will lead to lasting excellent credit, too. Make timely payments in full on all your accounts, keep your utilization ratio low, and be smart about the lending products you choose to pursue.

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.

Who will benefit the most from Experian Boost?

So, what can you expect from using Boost? Well, the more lines of data you can supply, the better. Here’s who benefits the most:

  • Those with thin credit files (five or fewer accounts) will see the biggest impact from the program, but you need to have at least one open traditional account to get a score boost.
  • If you’re new to credit (short credit history) or just don’t have much in your credit file, you can benefit from the program quite a bit.
  • Those with scores just below the next credit scoring tier might want to consider using the program.

Score increases of approximately 10 to 30 points are typically doable and the impact is almost immediate. During the sign-up process, Experian will give you a free credit report and score. Once sign-up is complete, you get an updated score right away.

Even people with top scores can add a few extra points, but the impact of moving from 800 to 805 is not as dramatic as moving from 680 to 700. The Boost data affects FICO 8 and 9 and VantageScore 3 and 4.

Keep in mind that this service is available only from Experian, so if a prospective lender only uses credit reports and scores from Equifax or TransUnion, Experian Boost may not help you get approved for a credit card or a loan.

Who Is Experian Boost Best Suited For?

Experian Boost is ideal for individuals with no credit history or just starting out with their past few credit accounts. You could also benefit from Experian Boost if you’ve had a series of past financial missteps and are working to improve your credit health.

Even if it only adds a few points to your credit score, the increase could help you move into a new credit score range. Depending on where your score started, it could mean the difference between qualifying for a loan or a credit card. In some cases, a slight increase may get you a more competitive interest rate that saves you hundreds or even thousands of dollars more on loan products.

However, you may not see the type of results you’re seeking from Experian Boost if you have an established credit history and your credit score is on the higher end.

How Does Experian Boost Work?

Experian Boost™ works by adding bills you pay every month like your power bill and mobile phone bill to your Experian credit report. Your score will only increase, and you have full control over the self-reported payment history you choose to include. Score increases range from a few points up to double-digit increases.

If you are looking to improve your chances of getting approved for financing, give Experian Boost™ a try. In the unlikely event your score does not increase, or you choose not to add an account to your credit report, you can prevent the account from being added to your credit report.

Boost Your Credit ScoreResults may vary. Some may not see improved scores or approval odds. Not all lenders use Experian credit files, and not all lenders use scores impacted by Experian Boost.

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