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If you've been trying to build credit and you're frustrated with your progress, you should know that your credit scores typically only update once per month — and that a range of factors can impact where you stand. Not only do you have a unique credit score with each of the credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — but your scores can ebb and flow over time as information in your credit reports changes.
Read on to find out how often the credit bureaus update your score, what factors play a role in it, and why it matters.
- Each individual has multiple credit scores because there are different credit scoring models and your credit reports may be different across the three main credit bureaus.
- Your credit reports are a summary of your financial behavior, and they include information like your payment history, how many accounts you have, and your total debt load.
- Where on-time payments on your bills and low debt levels can provide your credit score with a boost, late payments or too much debt can do the opposite.
- How often does your credit score update? Your credit scores typically update at least once a month but sometimes more often, depending on your situation.
How Often Do Credit Scores Update?
According to Equifax, your credit score with any of the credit bureaus will typically get an update once per month. However, there are some variables that can lead to more frequent updates to your scores.
- New information plays a role. Your credit scores are updated based on new information in your credit reports, which can be positive or negative.
- Credit reporting is voluntary. Not all lenders report to all three credit bureaus, and each lender has the right to decide whether to report and when.
- Most lenders report monthly. That said, the majority of lenders report payments and other account details to the credit bureaus once per month
- Monthly reporting is still variable. Typically, creditors report to the credit bureaus at the end of a billing cycle or on the account statement date.
How to Check Your Credit Scores
Your credit scores can and will fluctuate over time based on information reported to the credit bureaus. With that in mind, a temporary drop of a few points shouldn't have you overly worried. Your goal should be making sure your credit score is following an upward trajectory toward a good credit score.
Checking your credit scores can help you find out where you stand, and you can do so with the following steps:
- Check your score with the credit bureaus. Both Experian and Equifax let you see your credit score for free without a credit card required.
- See if your credit score offers a free credit score. Many credit card issuers, including Bank of America and Discover, offer free FICO scores with some of their cards.
- Check your score via FICO. You can get a free credit score from myFICO.com if you agree to their credit monitoring services.
- Check out free services. Look into online services like Credit Karma and Mint that let you see a version of your credit score for free.
How Often Do Credit Reports Update?
We already talked about how often your credit scores can update — usually around once per month. But, what about your credit reports? That depends on a range of factors that are beyond your control.
- New information is added to your credit reports. As new information is reported to the credit bureaus throughout the month, this information is used to generate your credit scores.
- Monthly reporting can still fall on different dates. Even though information from lenders is typically reported to the credit bureaus on a monthly basis, the dates each credit issuer reports on is up to them.
- Information in your credit reports can be very broad. For example, your credit reports list your personally identifiable information (PIII), as well as information on your credit accounts, your credit inquiries and public records and collections.
- Some lenders report to one credit bureau, two of them or all three. Based on which credit bureau(s) they decide to communicate with, your credit reports could be different with each credit bureau.
How to Check Your Credit Report
Keeping track of your FICO score update frequency can help you track your progress, but you'll also want to keep an eye on your credit reports. After all, your credit reports are where you'll find information on your accounts that could be untrue, or even the early signs of identity theft.
Consider these steps:
- Head to AnnualCreditReport.com. This federally backed website gives you a free copy of your credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion up to once per week.
- Tap into other free resources. Credit Karma gives you a free look at your credit reports from two of the three major consumer credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion.
- Dispute false information you find. If you look over your credit reports and find false information that could be hurting your score, like accounts that aren't yours or incorrect late payments, you'll want to take steps to dispute the information.
How Much Can Your Credit Score Change?
Over a long enough timeline, you can go from having no credit score at all to having fair credit, good credit, or even excellent credit. Over a shorter timeline of a few months or one month, however, fluctuations in your credit scores (especially based on positive information) may be far less significant.
- Negative information can cause your scores to plummet in a hurry. A late payment on one of your bills, such as an auto loan or a credit card, could cause your credit score to drop as much as 180 points from one month to the next.
- Positive reporting can have the opposite effect of boosting your score. Improving creditworthiness with healthy habits takes time, and positive moves like paying off debt may only lead to a 10 points increase from one month to the next.
- Disputing an error on your credit reports can have positive results. While filing a dispute won't have any impact on your credit, getting negative information that was hurting your scores removed from your credit reports can yield positive results.
How Quickly Can You Improve Your Credit Score?
Even when you need to refresh your credit score quickly, how fast you can make progress really depends. After all, several unique factors determine credit scores in the first place, including your payment history, account balances, average length of your credit history, new credit and the types of credit you have.
- You'll need six months to get a credit score. If you just got a new account and you're hoping to see Experian or Equifax update quickly, you'll want to lower your expectations. When you are building credit from scratch, it takes six months for your first credit score to show up with the credit bureaus.
- Building up to good or excellent credit takes time and patience. It could take many months or years to build up to the highest credit score possible. With responsible credit use, you'll get there eventually.
- Fixing past credit mistakes also takes time. If you are working to improve your credit after a negative event like a late payment or a bankruptcy, it can also take months or years to move up to a better credit score range.
How Long Does It Take for Credit Score to Update After Paying Off Debt?
Paying off debt is often cause to celebrate, but you may not be as excited once your credit score updates. In fact, positive financial moves like paying off a loan completely can actually hurt your credit score since this can impact your credit mix, the length of your credit history or even your credit utilization ratio.
- Your credit score might improve after debt payoff. According to Equifax, this all depends on the unique combination of factors that are listed on your personal credit reports.
- Paying down credit card debt (but keeping the card open) will have the most positive impact. This is because paying off credit card debt lowers your credit utilization ratio, yet the account is still open and helping your score.
- When you pay off a loan completely, temporary dings in your credit can be frustrating. While seeing your credit score drop after paying off debt may make you feel like you made a mistake, ditching debt is still a net positive for your financial health.
- Wait 30 to 45 days to see results. Equifax says that most lenders report to the credit bureaus within 30, so be patient until then to see your results.
What Is Rapid Rescoring?
Want to refresh your credit score in a hurry? Some lenders may be able to help with something called a rapid rescore. This move can help you get a new payment or other information added to your credit reports within a few business days, but you should only request it in certain situations.
- Rapid rescore can happen when you apply for a loan. In fact, a lender or mortgage broker is the one who can initiate a rapid rescore and you cannot ask for it on your own.
- Rapid rescoring is not free. In fact, lenders have to pay a fee to each credit bureau (usually $25 to $40) when they request it.
- Ask for a rapid rescore if something recent could help improve your score. If you just paid off credit card debt and it should dramatically lower your credit utilization ratio, for example, asking to get that new information added to your credit reports makes sense.
- You may get a new score, but it depends. Rapid rescore can take three to five business days to complete, and it can result in a higher credit score that lets you qualify for the best loans for good credit or excellent credit.
Tips to Boost Your Credit Score
No matter where you are in your credit journey, you can always take steps to improve your credit score from where it is today. The fact is, credit can affect your life in so many ways, and having bad credit can cost you in the long run due to the higher interest rates and fees you'll have to pay.
The following tips can help anyone improve their credit no matter where you're at right now:
- Avoid late bill payments at all costs. Since your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score, you'll want to pay all your bills early or on time each month with no exceptions.
- Keep your debt to a minimum. How much debt you owe makes up another 30% of your FICO scores, and less debt is better. In fact, most experts suggest never exceeding 30% of your available credit limits for the best results.
- Keep old accounts open. The average length of your credit history makes up 15% of your FICO scores, so keeping old accounts open can help you.
- Apply for credit-building products that can help. A secured credit card or credit-builder loan could help you build credit if you're first starting out.
- Become an authorized user. If a trusted family member or friend with good credit is willing to add you as an authorized user to their credit card account, their on-time payments and responsible use can help improve your score.
- Use a free credit building app. A free app called Experian Boost lets you build credit with payments that normally wouldn't count, like your rent payments, utility bills, and streaming services.
Your credit scores should update around once per month, but possibly more often depending on when lenders and other credit issuers actually report information like your balances and your payments made. With that in mind, you'll want to make sure you always treat your credit with care, and that you make all the moves required to keep your credit in tip top shape.
For the most part, that means paying bills on time, avoiding too much debt and making sure you're using different types of credit responsibly. Your credit scores can change each month, but positive information added to your credit reports will get them moving in the right direction.