By Rebecca Heilweil
A bad credit score can lead to stiflingly high interest rates, or a lack of access to credit altogether. To help ameliorate this challenge, Experianー a major consumer credit reporting company that reports on more than 220 million U.S. consumers ー has a new solution: factoring monthly payments for everyday services, like phone, electricity, and utility bills, into credit-seekers' scores.
The initiative, called Boost America, also boasts a familiar face as an ambassador: Hill Harper, an author and actor known for his role on the ABC drama, "The Good Doctor."
"If you're a millennial, if you have a thin file, if you're sub-prime, even if you have great credit, adding additional lanes to your file is beneficial because it 1) gives you more credit history, and 2) it thickens your credit file," Harper told Cheddar. "Fair and inclusive access to credit is one of the biggest issues we have in this country today."
Building credit is an age-old challenge: you want to know you'll have the money to pay back the debt you accrue. Experian's Boost America program may make that process a little easier by considering the bills you already pay ー which traditionally haven't been factored into credit scores ー as part of your credit history, potentially raising your score.
"It's a shift in the algorithm that allows this information in," Harper said. "Now it allows you to interact with your credit score." As of today, Experian reports that the program has helped boost a collective three million credit score points.
Harper is well-versed in finance and credit. He's written several financial and motivational books, including 'The Wealth Cure,' a New York Times bestseller that promotes a holistic approach to wealth building that goes beyond financial stability. "It's a little different than the Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey books," he said.
Harper said he found theater while he was playing football for Brown and needed a a class that would fit into his athletics schedule. He later picked up two degrees from Harvard, and also befriended former President Barack Obama.
Harper credits his overall success to "people who told me that there was nothing I couldn't do, but also gave me resources to empower me."
"I felt that if I could actually take some of the gifts I was given, and empower folks, help create wealth, it would be a good thing," he said.