Here’s a scenario: you heard of this new credit card with a lot of neat benefits and you would want to apply. However, the company issuing the card sets their requirements for your score to be “good to excellent” in order to qualify and your score, as of now, is nowhere near that range. It could do with a boost.
It cannot be helped that your credit score can be the sole determining factor on how wide (or limited) your credit options are. This can be rather problematic if you are new to the whole concept of building your credit score since you have little to no credit history to fall back on.
However, Experian launched in 2019 a free service that may just help you build on your score. How it works is rather unique but it does beg the question: Is it effective?
First things first, what is this service that Experian offers to credit holders for free? In order to understand what boost is, one must first understand the makeup of your credit score. There are a several elements that make up your score and these includes the number of credit cards you maintain, the length of your credit lifespan, the presence of any delinquent accounts, and the payments you have made to your credit card accounts.
Out of these aspects, it is perhaps on-time payments that contribute the greatest in your regular credit scores. In fact, with Experian, the percentage that on-time payments take in contributing to your score is at 35%.
As such, Boost is a service that helps make sure that every payment you have made on-time will contribute in improving your score. To do this, Boost will connect your accounts where you usually make your payments and make every positive entry in there become more “visible” for the credit reporting agency.
So how does Experian do the whole credit score boosting if you have either limited history or a poor credit score? The answer can be traced back to one key factor that forms your regular credit score: Utilities. This includes everything that you need to survive on a regular basis including electricity, gas, water, cable, mobile phone plans, and other payments.
The reason here is rather simple to the point of ingenuity. If you have to pick between paying your utilities and the more luxurious investments you have made using your credit line, you are most likely going to pick your utilities. This might be because the payments there are comparatively easier to perform on a regular basis compared to larger, one-time investments.
Alternatively, the consequences of not paying your utilities are immediately felt and more bothersome. In other missed payments, the worst that you could get is another demerit and maybe a thorough telling-off. With utilities, on the other hand, you are cut from the very things that make living in your own household comfortable. In short, you can deal with missing a payment from that loan you have made but you’d rather not deal with having to live a few days or weeks without access to electricity or water.
As such, Boost works by making this frequent, on-time payments appear more visibly in your credit history. By showing every on-time payment you have made to your utilities, Boost can have these payments contribute to the tallying of your credit score which should generally lead to a better rating. The more on-time utilities payments appear in your credit report, the better your score would be in each reporting period.
But what about any payment you have missed? Boost will no longer consider them. The reason for this is because they would appear in your credit score anyway. The premise is that negative remarks on your accounts tend to be noticed more as any positive one so Boost intends to rectify that.
So what happens, then, if you do miss paying on a Utility already connected to Boost or the service can no longer find any positive entry to your account for a period of three months? The service will just simply remove that account from your report and it won’t be used again in preparing your credit score; unless, of course, you start making a series of on-time payments on that account again.
Because Boost works by monitoring the bank accounts connected to your utility payments, there is also the ability to lengthen the history of your positive payments. And the longer that history gets, the better your credit score gets over time.
However, this does have a disadvantage. If you were to stop using Boost, that history will be removed since your bank accounts are no longer connected to your service. Keep in mind that the sudden removal of a portion of your credit history often causes massive drops in your score.
In essence, if you were to use Boost to boost your credit score (pun intended), you should consider using it for the short-term. Long-term dependency on the service might cause massive drops in your score if you were to stop using the service after a long period of time.
Of course, to qualify for using Boost, you must have an Experian account. There is also the need to provide basic information and connecting your bank accounts used to pay for your utilities. After this, all that Experian will have to do is scan your accounts and ask for the verification of the payment histories already existing within them.
However, aside from these basic components, there are a few things that you also need to have checked:
Once you have signed up and connected all possible bank accounts that you have, Boost will start doing its work in the background. You will know that your payments are being factored into your score since they will appear in your next credit report.
In as much as how potent Boost can be in improving your credit score, it is something that tends to work only in some specific cases.
For example, if you have already a long credit history and tend to pay your bills on-time with rarely a fault, Boost is not going to help you a lot. This is because your credit history will already include the payments that Boost aims to make visible in other credit accounts. As such, the addition of new on-time payments will not improve your score greatly.
Also, if the lender uses FICO, Boost is not going to help you one bit. This is because FICO does not take utility payments into account when formulating your score.
On the flip side, Boost can help you if you tend to make payments in rent, mobile phone subscriptions, and even digital services like video streaming. There are ways to make these payments appear more visibly in your account and they tend to boost your score considerably.
Lastly, Boost’s improvements will not generally affect whatever score the other agencies, TransUnion and Equifax, have already set for you. So, if that lender tends to look at what those bureaus say about you than Experian, your Boost strategy might not help one bit in increasing the chances of your application being approved.
As far as its concept and intentions are concerned, there is no doubt that Experian’s Boost service has something to offer. By making the small, incremental, and frequent payments you make for your utilities appear more, the service can help in boosting your score within the next few credit reports. It also helps that the entire service is free of charge from Experian.
However, the service is only 100% if your situation falls under very specific conditions. Generally speaking, the service works if your credit score is good, not absolutely poor, but has a rather short credit history with no significant on-time payments made here and there. In essence, Boost is a great tool to make a good score great and not a bad score good.
If the latter is what you are generally aiming for, then it’s best to go through the grind of actually building up your score with a tried and trusted credit score boosting strategy.