If you’re young, new to credit or have a spotty credit history, it can be tough to convince lenders that you can handle a loan or credit card responsibly. But new tools such as Experian Boost and rent reporting services can help. Here’s how they work.
But don’t give up just yet: your odds of convincing a lender that you’re a better credit risk than your FICO score indicates are going up, thanks to a surge in new tools promising to help atypical borrowers better showcase their financial history.
In the spring of 2019, for example, Experian introduced a first-of-its-kind credit-building tool called Experian Boost that allows you to proactively add nontraditional data to your credit report, such as cellphone and utility payments.
That way, you can get credit for bills you’ve paid on time, even if they aren’t conventional loans. And unlike in the past, you’ll no longer have to rely on others, such as your landlord or cable company, to report your information for you.
Similarly, FICO is in the process of beta testing a new kind of opt-in credit score called UltraFICO that relies, in part, on information from your savings or checking accounts. Once the new score becomes more widely available, you’ll be able to link your deposit accounts to your FICO profile and get credit for your saving, budgeting and everyday payment habits.
Here’s a closer look at some of the options available to you and how to take advantage of them.
5 ways to self-report information to credit bureaus
Your options will vary, depending on what you want to report
There are a number of services available that allow you to proactively add information to your reports – or self-report your data to a lender.
They all work slightly differently and use different information to bulk up your financial profile. Experian Boost, for example, zeroes in on your cable, phone and utility payments. UltraFICO pulls an even wider variety of information from your account, including your cash flow, spending habits and account history.
Meanwhile, rent reporting services, such as Rent Reporters and Rental Kharma, will relay your on-time rent payments on your behalf.
Alternatively, you can work directly with a lender that uses alternative data and link your bank accounts so they can assess your transaction history. Or, you can use a nontraditional score service, such as PRBC, and ask a lender to consider it.
Depending on your goals and financial history, you could even use multiple alternative data reporting services to showcase your financial history.
If you’re confident that giving lenders a more comprehensive view of your financial situation will help give you an edge, rounding out your financial profile with alternative data could be really useful – especially if your credit history is thin or nonexistent.
Warning: Alternative data isn’t always helpful
But be careful. Adding more information to your credit profile can help. But it can also work against you.
For example, a credit score that takes into account alternative data, such as your bank account information, could potentially rate you more negatively if you have limited funds in your account or have recently had a lot of big expenses.
Credit scorers, such as FICO, don’t currently disclose exactly how they rate certain types of information, such as your cash flow or savings. So you’re taking a risk by giving them an inside view of your account history.
Similarly, just as a missed payment on your credit card can hurt you, so can a late electricity payment or a lapsed phone bill.
Before you share more information about yourself and your financial history, think carefully about whether you really want to show that much information to lenders.
If you prefer to have more control over your information, you can also choose to only work with self-reporting services, such as Experian Boost or a rent reporting service, that let you choose exactly what gets reported.
See related: How FICO’s new credit score changes will affect you
5 ways to ‘self-report’ your information
If you decide to self-report your information, here’s how to do it.
This online tool is well-designed and so it doesn’t take much time to set it up.
- All you have to do is set up an account with Experian and check the box that says you’re interested in trying CreditBoost.
- You can get started at Experian’s website.
- Once you’re logged in, click “Start your FREE boost” and you’ll be taken to a page that outlines your next steps.
- Once you click “Let’s Go,” Experian will ask you which bank or credit card accounts you use to pay your bills.
- After you select your bank or credit union, you’ll then be asked for the log-in credentials for either your bank account or credit card. Link whichever ones you use to pay your phone bill and utilities.
- Once your accounts are linked, Experian Boost will scan your transaction history in order to identify your positive bill payments. It will then ask you to verify your payments and choose which ones you want added to your credit report.
After you’ve verified your payments, Experian Boost will then recalculate your new FICO score. You’ll also get a free copy of your Experian credit report.
According to Experian, the entire process can take as little as five minutes and could add as many as 13 points or more to your score. The thinner your credit history, the more likely you are to benefit.
This tool is still being tested and so it’s not yet available to the general public. Right now, you can sign up with FICO to receive notifications about when UltraFICO has launched.
When it does become available, you’ll be able to link your different deposit accounts, including your checking, saving and money market accounts. According to FICO, the score will then scan your accounts for specific financial information, such as:
- Your account balances and usage.
- How long your accounts have been open.
- Your saving and spending habits: Specifically, the score will measure the “recency and frequency of your bank transactions.”
- Whether you “consistently” have cash available for payments or spending.
Rent reporting services
You can also add your rent payments to your credit reports by enlisting the help of a rent reporting service, such as Avail CreditBoost, ClearNow, Credit My Rent, Credit Rent Boost, LevelCredit, Pay Your Rent, Rental Kharma, Rent Reporters, Resident Link or Rock the Score.
Rent reporting services typically charge a significant fee, though, in exchange for relaying your information. Monthly fees can range anywhere from $5.95 a month to $9.95 a month, while setup fees can run as high as $25 to $145. Some rent reporting services are free, though, if your landlord has an account.
The process for verifying your rent payments will vary, depending on the company. So will the credit bureaus that get your information. Only a few of the rent reporting services report to all three credit bureaus.
This veteran credit score company will calculate an alternative credit score for you, based on bill payments you’ve shared with it. Bill payments that you can add include your cable bill, phone bill, internet bill, utility bill and subscriptions, such as Netflix and Hulu. You can share this score with potential lenders by asking them to consider your PRBC report.
Some alternative lenders also let you self-report your financial information by giving them access to your bank account information. They will then crunch their own score based on your alternative data.
See related: 10 tips to improve your credit score
There are a number of options available for proactively adding financial information to your credit reports. But proceed cautiously: widespread usage of alternative data for credit scores is still relatively new.
There’s a lot that we don’t know about how lenders are going to use this information or how exactly these new scores are being calculated. We also don’t have a lot of publicly available data yet that shows how people will be affected.
Proponents, such as Experian and FICO, say self-reporting tools like Experian Boost and UltraFICO can make a huge difference to people who need help getting access to a loan. But they also have a financial stake in saying that.
It’s also not guaranteed that your lender will even consider the extra information that you share. Lenders use different credit score versions and tools to assess potential borrowers, including their own internal methods. So they may still only consider conventional information, such as your loan payment history and credit card balances.
Regardless of where your credit score stands, you’re your own best advocate. So think carefully about whether sharing access to your data is the right choice for you.