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- When I immigrated to the US from Canada 10 years ago, I discovered that my credit score hadn't traveled with me. I was starting at zero.
- Cosigning for some loans helped me develop good credit, and I've protected it fiercely ever since.
- When my score dropped by 10 points in September, I decided to see if Experian Boost could help me make up the difference.
- I linked my bank accounts to my Experian account and let the credit bureau pull in my utility bill payment history, and my credit score went up by 14 points.
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I can be a bit obsessive about my credit score. OK, a lot obsessive. The thing is, when I moved to the US from Canada a decade ago, I got a nasty surprise: My shiny Canadian credit score hadn't traveled with me. I didn't have bad credit in the US, I had no credit. Nada. And in the eyes of the credit bureaus and lenders, that's almost just as bad.
A couple years in, I was lucky to have a partner with tip-top credit who was willing to cosign some loans with me and help me build my score. I piggy-backed on his credit and quickly notched up a score in the 700s. Now, I maintain it with good financial habits (like paying my bills on time, staying out of debt, and holding onto my oldest accounts) but I am protective of my score. I'm acutely aware that it can disappear in a minute.
So when my score dropped by about 10 points in September, I was not exactly pleased.
Giving my credit score a boost
I'm still not sure why my score dropped (perhaps a big charge on my credit card), but I wanted to bump it up as much as possible before applying for a mortgage later in September. I decided to give Experian Boost a try to see how much it could improve my score.
Experian Boost is a credit-booster tool introduced by Experian in 2019. It's free to use (once you've created an Experian account). It scans your bank accounts for recurring utility bill payments, such as internet and electricity, then includes your on-time payments in your credit score calculations.
The credit bureaus don't typically include these types of bill payments in their calculations, so including them can be a real win if you're young and don't have much credit history — or you're a fanatic like me and get a thrill from seeing your credit score rise.
My experience with Experian Boost
To use Experian Boost, I started by logging into my Experian account and linking my bank accounts. Then, I answered some questions about which accounts I use to pay bills and let the algorithm do its thing.
Experian automatically scanned my chosen bank account for utility bills and identified my gas, water and power, Netflix, cell phone, and internet bills as relevant. The whole process took barely five minutes, especially since I pay all of my utility bills from one bank account.
To my delight, my score immediately went up by 14 points after Experian reviewed my bill-payment history and included it in my score. (The company says the average boost is about 13 points.)
The great thing about this product is that it can't hurt your score — while it won't erase any late payments you've made in the past, it also won't count them against you. Plus, you have the ability to choose which bills you want counted, so if you have a long, clean history with one or two utility companies, you can select those for the best chance at increasing your score.
Ultimately, Experian Boost was a nice pick-me-up for a file like mine that's considered "thin" with only 10 years of credit history.
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