According to Experian, there are two steps you can take if your utility accounts are not being recognized by its Boost program. But don’t ignore other ways to add positive data to your credit report and boost your score.
Dear Keeping Score,
I’ve been trying to use Experian Boost to boost my credit score; however, it doesn’t recognize my Internet or telephone company provider. I’ve contacted Experian Boost, but no luck in my credit score boost as a result. What should I do now to get my credit score boost up? –Santana
I am a fan of the Experian Boost program, but like all new programs there are likely to be wrinkles to iron out.
Boost allows consumers who don’t have a credit card or who have a thin credit file to add positive data to their credit profile if they have a record of paying utility and phone bills on time. Basically, you give Experian permission to access your bank information and they pick up the positive payment data. This data is then used in figuring your credit score. Both FICO and VantageScore consider this data.
We contacted Experian to find out what a consumer can do if his utility accounts are not recognized by Boost. Company spokesman Greg Young said in an e-mail there are two steps you can take.
If your utility bill is not identified, Boost will take you through a question-and-answer session that helps determine if the bill is eligible, Young said.
“For example, the individual may not have made three payments to the account in question in the last six months,” he said. “Also, sometimes a municipality is the payee and the bills or payments may not be recognized because they can’t be distinguished from other payments to that municipality,” such as trash, water or traffic tickets.
Based on your answers, you’ll get an explanation as to why the account is not eligible and you’ll be taken to a page where you can submit the account to Experian.
Young also noted that after you connect your bank account to Experian Boost, you’re taken back to its main page, which features a feedback module. The module provides three options, including “some of my bills didn’t show up.”
“Selecting that option brings up language that asks if their bill is qualified, providing information to help the individual make that determination,” Young said. “If the individual believes the bill qualifies, there is a ‘my bills qualify’ button that leads to a form where the account information can be submitted to Experian.”
Experian Boost is not the only option if you’re thin on credit data
The good news is Experian Boost is not the only option for you – or for anyone – to boost your credit score.
I suspect you may be one of those people with a thin credit file. What that means is that you may be the most responsible person on the planet with your money, but if your money habits don’t include something that the credit reporting agencies can track, your credit score will not necessarily reflect this good behavior. Without adequate data to input into their systems, there is simply not enough there to generate a great score.
There are several ways to add data to your credit report and increase your score. Here are a few:
- UltraFICO. This is another free offering that allows you to have checking, savings and money market account data considered in your credit score.
- Overdraft line of credit. If you have a checking account, you may want to add protection against overdrafts. Essentially an unsecured line of credit, this feature comes into play automatically if a check is presented for more money than you have in your account. Instead of bouncing the check, the account draws on the LOC to pay the check. This LOC is also reported to the bureaus. The beauty is that you don’t need to incur any debt to get some positive reporting data.
- Review and correct errors. Did you know that about 25 percent of credit reports contain errors? This is no big surprise as there are billions of pieces of data hitting credit files daily, so some is bound to be misplaced. Review your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com for free and dispute any errors or out of date items you find.
- Lastly, if you are a homeowner, add a home equity line of credit. Like the LOC above, this gets reported whether you draw it down or not. But be careful of fees.
Keep in mind the five credit scoring factors
Credit scores are built on five factors, which I have discussed in this column many times. Here are some quick tips addressing each scoring category:
- Payment history. Pay all of your bills on time. Pay before the bill is due. Pay in full.
- Credit utilization. Try not to have a balances of more than 25 percent of your credit limits. The best scorers average 7 percent utilization, according to FICO, but paying your balances in full every month is ideal.
- Credit history. If you’re young or have a thin file there isn’t much you can do. However, if you are added as an authorized user to an account with a long and positive history, you can extend your history overnight.
- Credit mix. This refers to the types of accounts you have. Add a line of credit, a furniture installment loan and maybe your next car purchase to get a boost. If you don’t already own a home and are planning on buying one in the near future, your mortgage should help you in this category.
- New credit. This may sound like a catch-22, but adding new credit will drop your score … at first. But then it will raise it as positive new data flows into your account (including more overall available credit and your on-time payments). So, take one step backwards to get a bunch going forward.
I hope that you are able to work out the problems with Experian Boost, but doing some of the things I suggested above will be good for your score in the meantime. I would love to hear from you again if you are able to get it worked out with the Boost program.
Remember to keep track of your score!