Experian Boost is a free program offered by Experian, one of three major credit bureaus, that helps people with no credit, new credit or low credit get higher credit scores. Although it may sound too good to be true, for many people, it’s not. The key is that Experian Boost allows you to add some of your positive utility bill payment history to your Experian credit report, which can give you an instant jump in your FICO score. Plus, it doesn’t count any negative marks like late payments.

If you’re trying to improve your credit score and regularly pay bills through your bank account, Experian Boost may be a good option to employ. Read on to see if Experian Boost could be right for you.

How Experian Boost works

When you start Experian Boost, you connect your bank accounts that you use to make online bill payments for your cell phone and utilities. Experian then pulls your positive bill payment information from those accounts. After you confirm that you want the information to impact your credit score, you’ll receive an immediate notification of whether or not your score went up. Don’t worry if you have been late on a couple of bills — Experian doesn’t input negative payment information, so that won’t affect your score in any way.

Experian believes they can help up to 100 million customers bump up their credit scores. The service is especially useful for people who are new to the credit game or have what’s called a “thin file,” like young adults or students. Consumers who sign up for Experian Boost report a 13-point boost average in their credit scores. That’s not bad for five minutes worth of work.

However, Experian is only one of three major credit bureaus; the others are TransUnion and Equifax. When a potential creditor pulls your reports — this happens if you apply for a car, banking products or house loan, among other things — they have to pull Experian’s report for your increased credit score to show up. If a creditor looks at your TransUnion or Equifax reports, they won’t see the boost. Also, the creditor has to look at the FICO Score 8 to see Experian Boost’s effects, but luckily this is the current model used by most lenders.

Is Experian Boost right for you?

Experian says that it has already helped over one million Americans. Figuring out if Experian Boost is right for you may seem tricky, but there are a few people who are exceptional candidates for the program.

If you are in one of the following categories, Experian Boost may be able to help you:

  • You have no credit history.
  • You have a thin credit file.
  • Your credit score is too low.

If you are brand new to credit, Experian Boost could help you build on your report using your responsible bill payment history. You’ll get recognition for behaving in a financially responsible manner for something like paying your bills, which doesn’t usually appear in your credit reports. The same is true if you have a little credit history but not enough to have credit scores. According to Experian, one-tenth of its customers went from having no score to having enough history to gain a credit score after using its program.

Additionally, if you want to raise your credit score, the program could help you. Say you’re applying for a mortgage but can’t get a decent interest rate because of your score. In that case, it might be worth trying Experian Boost. Experian claims that its Boost program helped three-quarters of consumers who had FICO scores under 680 raise their scores.

Keep in mind that Experian Boost is a free program, so there’s not much to lose by trying it.

Other ways to strengthen your credit score

If you’re looking for more methods of increasing your Experian credit score, you could also look into UltraFICO, another product Experian is testing out. This option differs from Experian Boost because it uses your responsible checking, savings and money market banking activity to generate a new score. However, you can’t see your score ahead of time.

Here’s how it works: say you apply for a car loan, but your credit scores are too low to qualify. That’s when you can ask the lender if they use UltraFICO, which will look at your banking activity to create another score. If you are responsible with your accounts, your UltraFICO score may be high enough to qualify for the loan.

There are several other ways you could increase your credit scores across all three major credit bureaus, as well.

  • Add rent payment to your credit reports. You can get your responsible rent payments included in your credit reports. Third-party services like RentTrack and PayYourRent offer a rent payment platform that reports your on-time payments to the three major credit bureaus. It may cost a monthly or annual fee, but if you consider what you could save in interest on a big purchase later, it may be worth it.
  • Sign on as an authorized user. If someone close to you has a credit card and maintains responsible spending habits, you could ask that they make you an authorized user. That gives you automatic access to credit if you have a short credit history. You’ll receive a card in your name under the primary account holder, but you don’t even have to use it to build up your credit history.
  • Apply for a secured credit card. A secured credit card is available even if you have bad credit. To open a secured credit card account, you have to put down a cash deposit. This deposit amount is typically the limit on your card, and the deposit lowers the risk to the card issuer. Making payments on time every billing cycle will build up your good credit and eventually allow you to move on to an unsecured credit card.

If you’re just starting with credit or have a lower credit score than you need to qualify for the loan you’re trying to get, Experian Boost could help you raise your score immediately. An average increase of 13 points means it’s not a magic wand, but combining Experian Boost with responsible financial behavior is a great start to a perfect FICO score. Whether you’re hoping to lengthen your credit history, build up a thin file or get out of the bad credit range, Experian Boost is a free service that may help get you there.

Meta description: Learn everything you need to know about Experian Boost so you can find out if the service is the right pick for strengthening your credit score.