Netflix has about 222 million subscribers, and Disney, which owns Hulu and ESPN, has nearly another 200 million subscribers. That’s a lot of opportunity for millions of people to increase their credit scores.
Let’s face it, having good or bad credit affects every facet of your financial life. Life is impacted by your credit score, from loan and mortgage applications, and even something as essential as a lease on a new apartment
Do Subscriptions Build Credit?
Yes, subscriptions can help build and bump up your credit scores, and there are a few ways to build credit using the subscription services you are already paying for.
According to Experian, more than 4 million people have connected utility and telecom accounts such as Netflix and Hulu to Experian Boost, and they’re seeing an average 13-point increase in their credit score. If you’re a longtime Netflix user, paying your Netflix account balance every month can count as an on-time payment on your credit report.
Experian Boost is a free feature that helps you improve your credit score by paying monthly bills on time. Using Boost allows your streaming, phone, and utility payments to “count” toward your Experian credit score. This service lets you improve your credit score with on-time HBO, Hulu, Disney+, and Starz bill payments.
Anyone can sign up for Experian Boost, but consumers with little to no credit and those with very poor to fair credit scores benefit most. Out of each FICO credit tier—very poor, fair, good, very good, and exceptional—the majority (87%) of people with an abysmal score who used Experian Boost saw their FICO score increase. Among people with a fair score, 63% saw their scores increase.
Experian Boost has helped many users with “thin files,” less than five accounts in their credit file, increase their FICO score. Other statistics included:
- Overall, 85% of thin-file consumers who used Experian Boost saw their FICO scores increase.
- On average, consumers saw an increase of 19 points.
- 15% of those users moved to a higher credit score range.
- 41% shed their thin-file status.
All you need to do is answer a few security questions and connect to your bank. Any bills you add will need to have three months of payments within the last six months and have to be in your name.
Experian has an app for iPhone and Android. You can sign up for the program directly through the mobile app. Once you’ve joined, you’ll be able to view which subscriptions were added to your credit report.
Perch Credit is a free credit-building platform like Experian Boost that allows you to build your credit using your recurring expenses like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Apple Music. It was designed to help young adults develop their credit using this nontraditional data. Their mission is to teach financial literacy and help people jump-start their credit scores.
It is a quick and easy set up in as little as 5-minutes with a submission of a photo ID or other documents as needed. Perch helps increase your credit score through automated credit building, and it can report just six months of rental payments to see a positive impact on your credit score.
Kikoff gives you a $500 balance or revolving line of credit that doesn’t expire. You can use the cash to establish Credit by purchasing something in their store starting at $10. The purchase is made with the Kikoff Credit Account. Your monthly payment helps you build a credit history. They also do not pull your credit, so there’s no harm to your current score and no need to link your bank account.
You cannot access the $500 any other way except through purchasing items through their store.
Kikoff has no administrative fees, annual fees, late fees, finance charges, 0% APR, and end date. The company doesn’t do a credit check, and no deposit is required to get started—a $2 monthly membership with 0% interest and no additional fees. Membership commitments are for 12 months, but you can cancel anytime and pay off your balance.
Kikoff reports to Equifax and Experian and can take up to six weeks to show up on your credit report. You can keep track of your score on your account, and they email you with any updates to your account.
This platform is available for iOS and Android and in 47 states.
Grow Credit Mastercard
Grow Credit is one of the best credit cards to build credit using everyday purchases. It allows you to establish credit as you pay for qualifying monthly subscriptions, including eligible bills, TV, music, and other streaming services. You pay off the bill in full each month and build credit in the process.
To apply for this interest-free card, connect your bank account and add your subscriptions. Then use your new card as your payment method to make your payments consistently.
You can easily apply through the app for iOS and Android in minutes; then, you update your payment method from your Netflix or Hulu account. See their list of qualified subscription-based companies based on the pricing tier you choose.
All charges must be paid in full via ACH payment from your linked bank account. They report to all three credit reporting companies, which is a bonus. Most will report to one or two, but this Grow Credit to all three, which is the gold standard.
The card is tied to one of four membership plans, depending on your eligibility. These plans allow you to build credit with qualifying subscriptions, each with a different limit. Pricing varies. They have four membership tiers:
- “Build” membership (free): This plan offers a $17 monthly spending limit on subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Pandora, etc.) Applicants must direct deposit at least $1200 per month (for at least two months) to qualify.
- “Secured” membership ($2.99 per month): Applicants must have a bank account that’s older than 30 days with a minimum balance of $1. A $17 security deposit is also required to cover your $17 subscription fees. The security deposit is returned after 12 consecutive months of on-time payments.
- “Grow” membership ($4.99 per month): $50 monthly spending limit and access to “premium” subscriptions and cellphone bills, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.
- “Accelerate” membership ($9.99 per month): $150 monthly spending limit toward premium subscription payments. The list includes JustFab, Dollar Shave Club, HBO Now, HBO Max, PlayStation Plus, Xbox Live, ESPN+, CBS, Showtime, iHeartRadio, Amazon Prime, Disney+.
Check out this video to learn more about how to build credit by using your monthly subscriptions:
Use a Traditional Credit Card
If you have bad credit or no credit, you can apply for a secured credit card instead. Set up automatic payments for a couple of your subscription services and link your bank account so that credit card repayment will be handled. If you make all of your monthly payments on time, this is an easy way to build credit.
Why Is Your Credit Score Important?
Most lenders use the FICO model to assess your creditworthiness.
Your credit score will determine whether you’re offered a credit card or loan, your credit limit, and the interest rate you’ll pay. If you’ve not yet applied for a credit card or loan, you have what’s considered “no credit.” Using a service that credits you for your subscriptions prevents you from being “credit invisible.”
- Your credit report must have at least one account that’s at least six months old.
- Borrowers also must have one account that’s been reported to the credit bureaus in the past six months.
It’s better to have a FICO score higher than 670 if you apply for any financing.
FICO scores range from 300 to 850.
- 300 to 579 (poor credit): Most lenders will reject applications from borrowers with a score in this range.
- 580 to 669 (fair credit): Some lenders will work with consumers with fair credit. However, interest rates will be higher, and the loan amounts will often be lower.
- 670 to 739 (good credit): The average consumer has good credit and can qualify for most loans or credit cards. The interest rates are usually middle-of-the-line.
- 740 to 799 (very good credit): Consumers with very good credit qualify for most loan products with decent rates.
- 800 to 850 (excellent credit): Around 18% to 20% of people have excellent credit. They are eligible for the best rates, and their applications are rarely rejected.
FICO Scoring Model
The FICO credit scoring model uses the following factors to determine an individual’s score:
- Payment history: This includes late payments, on-time payments, accounts in collections, foreclosures, and bankruptcies. It makes up 30% of the score.
- Length of credit history: This focuses on the age of each credit card or loan account. It accounts for 15%.
- Credit utilization refers to how much of a person’s available credit is used. Credit utilization accounts for 30% of the overall score. The recommended credit utilization is below 30%.
- The mix of credit: This refers to the different types of credit or accounts a person has, such as open lines of credit, installment loans, and so forth. It makes up 10% of the score.
- Most recent credit applications or hard inquiries: 10% of the score is based on how many current loan or credit card applications a person has had. The more numerous the “hard” inquiries, the greater the impact on the score.
- Derogatory marks: Although not percentage-based, bankruptcies, accounts in collections, and foreclosures all hurt the overall score.
You can find your FICO score at myFICO.com or one of the major credit bureau’s official websites. Another option is to get it from your credit card issuer, bank, or credit union.
How Can I Learn What’s On My Credit Report?
Checking your credit history and credit scores can help you better understand your current creditworthiness. Regularly checking your credit reports can help you be more aware of what lenders may see. Checking your credit reports can also help you detect any inaccurate or incomplete information. If you notice any inaccuracies, report and correct them immediately.
You’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies, Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. Order online from annualcreditreport.com, the only official website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228.
Other Ways to Build Credit
Chime is a cash advance that allows borrowers paycheck advances up to two days earlier with direct deposit and access to monies already earned before payday. Cash advance apps are easy to use set up, and you can instantly get your funds with just a few taps on your phone.
A chime goes one step further with its Chime Credit Builder Card. It is a secured credit card with no set spending limit. Secured credit cards usually require a minimum deposit to open an account. The deposit becomes the card’s credit limit that the cardholder uses to purchase. Chime cardholders don’t have to make a minimum deposit to open an account. They can transfer money into their secured account at any time. Each transfer becomes part of the spending limit for the month. The money transferred covers all the purchases at the end of the billing cycle.
To qualify for this, you need to open a Chime Spending Account. This free checking account has no minimum balance and no overdraft fees. You need direct deposit to qualify for a Credit Builder secured account; $200 from an employer direct deposit (Venmo and peer-to-peer transfers do not qualify) within the last 365 days as a customer. Then you can apply for a Credit Builder and Visa credit card. There is no credit check and no minimum deposit. Chime doesn’t charge fees to use Credit Builder.
Chime touts that participating in this Credit Builder program can, on average, increase your credit score by 30 points, as long as you make your payments on time.
These are small limit loan amounts typically less than $1,000, where the money is set aside for you in a secured savings account or CD (certificate of deposit) while you pay off the loan. These loans allow you to build credit while you save money. You make monthly payments with interest for a specified loan term, and once it is paid, the CD unlocks, and you receive the funds minus any interest and administration fees.
These loans are available at a bank, credit union, or online lender. The lender reports your monthly activity and payment to the three major credit bureaus that generate your credit rating.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reports that consumers with thin credit files saw their credit scores increase by 60 points more than participants with existing debt.
Self Credit-Builder Loans
Self is an online lender that does credit-builder loan amounts between $520 to $1,663. You can choose from four plans with the payment term and dollar amount that fits your budget. You can begin building a credit history for as little as $25 a month. Terms range from 12 to 24 months. You can automate payments and track how your credit score changes over time. When you open a Self account, you can qualify for a Self Visa credit card in as little as three months.
Their interest rates range from 14.70% to 15.97%. Other fees include a $125 finance charge and a one-time $9 non-refundable administrative fee. Available in all 50 states.
The Bottom Line
Society is increasingly dependent on credit to make purchases and other financial decisions, but a thin credit file is better than having a bad credit file. It is never too early to start building your credit history.
Your credit history will play a significant role in whether your applications are approved, determine how high your interest rates will be or whether you are asked to pay additional security deposits.
Rent-payment reporting is becoming increasingly common, but it’s far from a universal practice. Not all credit-scoring models take this information into account. If you are unsure, ask your landlord.
Most do not report rental payments, but the practice is becoming increasingly popular thanks to the rise of rent-reporting services. These enable landlords to enter information about your payment history each month and submit it to the credit bureaus. Some of these are directly affiliated with one of the three bureaus and may only report to that bureau, while third-party rent-reporting services may report to more than one.
Social Security payments have no impact on your credit score because the credit reporting companies do not list income information.
Cell Phone companies do not have any standard minimum credit rating to prequalify prospective users. Most of them will consider a credit rating or score of 600 and above. A prepaid plan is one way to go if you have bad credit.
You can also join a family plan, pay a security deposit or find a co-signer.
If you have bad credit and know you’re going to need a loan within the next year or so, it might be worth hiring a credit repair service to help boost your credit score. Keep in mind, though, that most of the work a credit repair service does can also be done by you, at no cost. But if you don’t have the time, the savings on interest when you apply for a home loan or car loan can be significant enough to offset that extra cost.