How Often Is Your Credit Score Updated?
When you’re making a big financial decision, understanding what affects your credit scores, how often they update, and why fluctuations occur is key. Whether you’re looking to buy a car, refinance a home loan, or consolidate credit card debt, a higher credit score can help you qualify for a loan with more favorable rates and terms. Here we clarify some of the mystery surrounding credit scores, how often they're updated and more, to help you stay on top of this important financial tool.
How Long Does It Take for a Credit Score to Update?
It’s easier than ever to track your credit score, which can make it feel like it’s constantly being updated and needing to be checked. But that isn’t actually the case. To answer the root question of how long it takes for a credit score to update, let's first explore when and how a credit score is created.
There’s no credit score without a credit report.
Credit scoring models (there are many) analyze the information in consumer credit reports from Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion to generate a score. A credit scores isn't created on its own—it's an additional piece of information that you can request along with your credit report.
Your score might be different depending on where you look.
If you’re checking your own credit scores using one of the many online credit tracking tools available today, you might get different results depending on which one you're looking at, even if you're checking all your scores on the same day. Sometimes this happens because one tracking tool offers credit score updates daily, while another might only update their records on a weekly or monthly basis. Often, any differences between scores using these tools are due to the scores being sourced from different scoring models, or because they’re based on different credit reports from different reporting agencies.
For example, one tool might score you using a VantageScore 3.0 scoring model while another uses the FICO Score 8. While both scoring models range from 300 to 850, how these are calculated is not necessarily the same, leading to completely different scores. And because your credit report at one agency will not always be the same as it looks at another, the same scoring models can easily lead to three different credit scores between your Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion reports.
How often do credit reports update, causing scores to fluctuate?
Much of the information in your credit reports come directly from your creditors, such as lenders, banks, and credit card issuers. These companies send updates to the credit bureaus with new information about your credit history every 30 to 45 days.
If you're someone who watches your credit scores closely and checks them frequently, you may notice a lot of fluctuation throughout the month. Because the information being reported to the bureaus can change at any time, these fluctuations are common. Other factors such as the age of your accounts or how long it’s been since a late payment was reported can also cause your scores to fluctuate.
7 Factors Affecting Credit Scores
Most consumer credit scores look at the information from one of your credit reports. Each model may have different weighting or consider slightly different data points. But you don’t necessarily have to overthink every scoring factor.
Many FICO and VantageScore credit scores have the same goal—predicting whether someone will be 90 days late on a payment in the next 24 months. As a result, they tend to move in the same direction as your credit reports are updated.
Here are some important factors that can affect your credit scores.
1. Payment history
Whether you’ve paid your bills on time or missed payments in the past, it’s all part of your history. On-time payments are best, as late payments can hurt your credit scores and stay on your credit reports for up to seven years.
2. Public records
Filing for bankruptcy can hurt your credit score, and the public record may stay on your credit reports for seven (for completed Chapter 13 bankruptcies) or 10 years (for Chapter 7 bankruptcies).
3. Collection accounts
Unpaid bills that get sent or sold to a collection agency may be reported to the credit bureaus and hurt your credit scores.
4. Revolving credit utilization ratio
The portion of the credit limits you’re using with revolving credit accounts, such as credit cards and lines of credit. A lower credit utilization rate is better for credit scores.
5. Experience with different types of accounts
Having experience with revolving and installment credit accounts can be better for your credit scores than only using one type of account.
6. The age of your accounts
A higher average age of accounts and old accounts in your credit reports can also be good for credit scores. A new credit card or new loan might lower your average age of accounts. Paid off and closed accounts could still be considered in age-related factors.
7. Hard inquiries
When you apply for a new credit account, a record of the credit check—called a hard inquiry or pull—is added to your credit report. Credit inquiries aren’t a major factor, but they may hurt your credit scores a little.
Best Ways to Maintain and Improve Credit Scores
Getting a good credit score can take time, and maintaining it could be difficult. But there are some general guidelines that will put you well on the way to getting an excellent score.
Pay your bills on time.
Your payment history is one of the most important scoring factors, and having a long history of making your payments on time can go a long way toward getting a good credit score.
Technically, a payment has to be at least 30 days past due before the late payment can be reported to the credit bureaus. If you missed a payment, try to bring your account current right away. If you’re having trouble affording your payments, try reaching out to your creditors right away.
Pay down credit card balances.
Large credit card balances can lead to a high credit utilization rate that hurts your credit scores. It can be difficult to pay off credit cards that have high interest rates. But focusing on paying down credit card debt could help you save money and improve your credit scores.
Make early credit card payments.
Because credit card balances generally get reported to the credit bureaus before your payments are due, you could have a high utilization rate even if you pay off your card in full each month. If you’re paying off your cards anyway, making early payments (before the end of each statement period) could lead to a lower utilization rate.
Understand what leads to hard inquiries.
Credit applications can lead to hard inquiries that may hurt your credit scores. But credit scoring companies also recognize that shopping for a good rate on a loan isn’t necessarily risky behavior. After all, you may apply for several mortgages to see which lender offers you the best rate, but only wind up taking out one loan.
With some scoring models, hard inquiries from auto, mortgage, and student loans that occur within a 14-day period only count as one inquiry for scoring purposes. Some scoring models may “deduplicate” inquiries from other types of accounts or a longer period.
Check for and dispute credit report errors.
Closely review your credit reports for errors that may be hurting your credit score. Some errors could be mistakes—such as a late payment that you had paid on time. Others may be an indicator of identity theft or fraud, such as an account that you didn’t apply for or open.
If you notice an error, you can file a dispute with the credit bureau, which must investigate your claim unless they deem it frivolous or irrelevant. When you suspect fraud, you can also reach out to the creditor to close the account.
How to Check Your Credit Score (and How Often)
You can get a free credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies from annualcreditreport.com at least once every 12 months. However, these credit reports don’t come with a credit score.
If you want to check your credit score, there are free options from lenders, banks, credit card companies, and online apps. Paid credit monitoring programs also exist, and they may come with additional features, like credit score simulators or identity protection monitoring.
You don’t necessarily need to check your credit scores every day, or even every month, however, a tracking service that alerts you to suspicious or important credit score changes can be useful. And if you plan on shopping for a loan, you may want to check your scores a few months ahead of when you apply to give yourself time to make any improvements your score might need.
Credit Score Updates FAQs
How often do lenders report to the credit bureaus?
Generally, lenders, creditors and financial institutions report new information about you to the credit bureaus every 30 to 45 days. Timing on this varies greatly, which can lead to new information being added to your credit reports (and fluctuations to your scores) throughout the month.
Which credit bureaus do my lender report to?
Check with your lender to find out. Many large lenders report to all three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. But some may only report to one or two bureaus, or to none at all.
How long does it take for a credit score to update after paying off debt?
Credit scores can be generated each time a new credit report is requested. Once the new zero balance is reported to the credit bureaus and your credit report is updated, credit scores based on the new report will reflect that you paid off the debt.
How often do credit score trackers update your credit score?
Many credit score tracking programs request new credit reports and scores on a regular basis. But check with the program for specifics, because it may be every day, week, month, or quarter depending on the program.