In this article:
In the past, utility bills could only hurt your credit score. If you defaulted on your payments, your provider could close your account and enlist a collection agency to obtain payment—negatively affecting your credit report for seven years. Now, however, it's possible to use your on-time utility bill payments to improve your credit score.
Are Utility Bills Reported to Credit Bureaus?
Utility bills have historically been left out of consumer credit reports entirely, primarily because they're not considered credit accounts. Even now, utility companies don't automatically report your monthly payments to the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).
With a new tool called Experian Boost, however, you can have certain utility accounts included in your credit report to help increase your credit score.
This tool is available only for your Experian credit report, which means that utility bills will continue to have no influence on your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports, along with your credit scores based on those reports.
How Can Utility Bills Help My Credit?
Utility bills aren't typically used to determine your credit score. But if you're making those monthly payments on time, you may feel like you should get credit for it.
You now have the opportunity to get that credit with Experian Boost. Through this tool, you allow Experian to access your bank account information to identify various utility and telecom payments, including your cell phone bill.
You'll then have a chance to verify the information and confirm that you want to add it to your credit report. The entire process takes roughly five minutes and, if you qualify for a boost to your credit score, it will happen immediately.
Experian Boost only considers on-time payments, so you don't have to worry about late payments having a negative impact on your credit score.
Based on data from Experian, 10% of people who previously didn't have enough information in their credit file to have a credit score became scoreable after using the tool. Also, 75% of people with a FICO® Score below 680 saw an improvement in their score after adding utility payment information to their report.
Will Lenders Use My Experian Boost Score?
Experian Boost applies to most credit scores that lenders use, including the base FICO Score, as well as bankcard, mortgage, and auto scores. So once you opt-in and agree to add utility payments to your Experian credit report, they will be included in credit scores based on your Experian credit file.
Remember, though, that the tool does not affect your credit files with Equifax and TransUnion. So if a lender uses a score based on your credit data from those credit reporting agencies, your utility bill payments won't be baked into the score they see.
Can Utility Bills Hurt My Credit?
While Experian Boost won't use late payments for utility bills, it's still possible for a delinquent account to damage your credit score.
Specifically, this can happen if the service provider sends the account to collections or charges off the debt. This typically won't happen after just one missed payment. But if you miss multiple payments or leave a monthly bill unpaid for months, the provider may enlist the help of a debt collector. Leave it long enough, and it may charge off the account instead, assuming you're not going to pay.
Your payment history is the most important factor in determining credit scores. It makes up 35% of your FICO Score and is considered extremely influential to your VantageScore. So having a collections account or a charge-off reported to the credit reporting agencies can damage your credit score significantly.
What's more, the negative tradeline will stay in your credit file with each reporting agency for seven years. And while adding positive payment history can help reduce its impact on your credit score, it can take a long time to recover fully.
If you're looking for a way to improve your credit score, Experian Boost can help by including positive utility payment history to your Experian credit file. That information can then be used to increase the credit scores that may be used by lenders when reviewing your future credit applications.
In addition to using Experian Boost, it's also important to ensure that you pay all of your monthly debt obligations on time. If you have any delinquencies or collections accounts, get current on them as quickly as possible.
Also, work to pay down credit card balances, if necessary, to maintain a reasonable credit utilization rate (the amount of credit card debt you're using as a percentage of the total available). And avoid opening several new credit accounts in a short period. While these aren't the only ways to improve your credit score, they're some of the most important factors to focus on. Finally, be sure to check your free credit report to find out where your credit stands, then take positive steps to build your credit history starting now.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.