When Do Credit Scores Update?
One of the most common questions asked about credit scores is: How often does my credit score update?
Think of your credit score as being similar to a grade point average (GPA), only instead of telling you how you’re doing in your school classes, it indicates how well you’re managing your credit. Like a GPA, your credit score is a representation of your efforts at a specific point in time. In the case of your GPA, that point in time is when your report card is issued. With a school report card, that GPA doesn’t update again until the end of the next quarter or trimester or semester, when your teachers turn in grades and you get your next report card.
Unlike a report card, your credit score doesn’t just update at the end of a specified length of time. It is continually updating based on the information contained in your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus. When a potential lender checks your credit score, the information contained in your credit reports is run through a credit‐scoring model—usually FICO© Score or VantageScore©—right then and there, and they get a three‐digit score based on what’s in your credit reports at that precise moment.
[Note: If you’re checking your own credit score through a credit card company or one of the popular “free score” services out there, the accuracy of the score you see is dependent upon how frequently that particular company updates their credit score information.]
So, the answer to the question above is: Your credit score updates continually.
But, if you’re concerned with raising your credit score and the timing involved, you’re asking the wrong question.
The Right Question
Since your credit score is based on what’s in your credit reports, the only way it will rise or fall is if there are changes to the information contained in your reports. So the real question is, How often do credit REPORTS update?
The answer to this question is more complicated, namely because it’s completely up to individual creditors when they choose to report your account activity to the credit bureaus.
It’s further complicated by the fact that creditors are not required to report anything if they choose not to. There are no laws on the books mandating that they must.
And it gets even more complicated when you factor in that creditors, even if they do choose to report your account activity, may not choose to report it to all three bureaus, which is also not against any laws. So your separate credit reports may not even reflect the same information.
Settling for Generalizations
With no laws requiring creditors to report your account information or specifying when they need to do it, it’s impossible to say “Your credit reports will update on X date every X days/weeks/months.”
Luckily, there are some general rules of thumb that creditors tend to follow. For example, most larger financial institutions report your account activity at least once a month, usually at the end of your billing cycle. But it really depends on the company as to when—or if—they report.
Even after account information is received by the credit bureaus, the individual bureaus can update your credit report on their own schedule. If they choose to do it “immediately,” there may still be a bit of a delay, as there are processes in place to first ensure that the information they receive makes sense.
When a lender considering granting you credit does a “hard inquiry” to your credit report, that information is reported immediately and could change your credit score in near real time. A hard inquiry typically lowers your credit score by five points or less.
What Over When
If you’re concerned about your credit score and are actively trying to raise it, concentrating on what goes into your credit reports rather than when they update may be a more effective strategy. This is because there are certain activities that, once they appear in your credit reports, can boost or bust a credit score, including the following:
As previously mentioned, a single hard inquiry can lower a credit score by a few points. And every hard inquiry stays on your credit report up to two years.
Delinquent and/or Missed Payments
Payment history determines up to 35% of your credit score, so making consistent, on‐time payments of at least the minimum amount due is one of the most effective paths to a healthy credit score. A single late payment of 30 days or more could do significant damage to your credit score.
A Change in Your Credit Utilization Ratio (CUR)
Your CUR reflects how much debt you have in relation to how much credit you have. By lowering your outstanding balances, you decrease your CUR, which can raise your credit score. Conversely, if you increase how much you owe, you raise your CUR, which can lower your credit score.
Another way to lower your CUR is to increase how much credit you have. This can be achieved by getting a credit line increase or opening new credit or charge card accounts. But if you go this route, it’s important not to simultaneously raise your outstanding balances to the point that they negate any additional credit.
These are credit score killers that stick around in your credit reports for a long time. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy gets removed after 7 years; a Chapter 7 stays there for 10.
If you’re obsessing over when or how often your credit score changes, relax. If you’re taking positive steps to improve it, you could see some upward movement in as little as a month. But so long as you’re focusing on continuing to take positive steps to improve your credit—and not doing anything detrimental that could sabotage your efforts—you’ll hopefully see some improvement in your score every time you check it.