It’s exciting to see how much your credit score has improved after you’ve started making positive changes to your credit report.
Perhaps you’re considering a credit monitoring service to check your progress. Or maybe you’re preparing to apply for a mortgage or car loan and want to see if you’ll qualify.
Both loan approval and interest rates depend on your credit report and credit score, so it makes sense to check them beforehand.
But exactly how often does your credit score change? What kind of changes on your credit report warrant an increase in credit score? We’ll show you when to check your credit scores so you can effectively monitor changes to your overall credit health.
What causes your credit scores to change?
Understanding what causes credit scores to change is the first step to understanding how often they change. Your credit scores are a reflection of your credit report. However, the credit bureaus don’t calculate your credit score.
Instead, credit scoring models, such as FICO and VantageScore, analyze credit reports to calculate a credit score that lenders and other third parties can use to assess your risk level.
How are FICO scores calculated?
The most popular credit score that lenders request is the FICO score. There are five different categories that contribute to your FICO score, each of which is weighted differently.
- Payment history: 35%
- Amounts owed: 30%
- Length of credit history: 15%
- Types of credit: 10%
- New credit: 10%
You can see that as you begin to modify each category, your FICO score will begin to change. However, the length of time each one affects your FICO score varies. Some are short term, while others last longer. For example, a hard inquiry for a new credit card typically only affects your FICO score slightly for six to twelve months.
That’s a short amount of time in the world of credit. By contrast, making on-time payments can take over a year to fully erase the damage caused by a defaulted loan.
When you’re ready to repair your credit, review each category above and think about how you can improve your financial habits. Get started right away so that you can make the most progress before you really need it.
How often is your credit score updated?
Your credit score is not an ongoing number that fluctuates every day. In reality, it’s a product sold in conjunction with your credit report. So, the number itself only changes when it’s requested by you or a third party (such as a lender, employer, or potential landlord).
Your credit scores also reflect a particular moment in time, not two periods that are compared to one another. So, it doesn’t change in a technical sense. It’s simply recalculated based on the contents of your credit report each time your credit scores are requested.
Different Credit Scoring Models
You should also keep in mind that different credit scoring models come up with different credit scores. An auto lender, for example, will likely request an industry-specific credit score that places greater importance on your potential risk in repaying your car loan.
A credit card company might check a bank card credit score before approving your application. Regardless of how closely you monitor your credit score, your lender may not use the same calculation.
In a worst-case scenario, you might be denied a loan you were counting on because you and the lender used different credit scores.
Before applying for a loan, you can ask your lender which credit scoring model they use so you can prepare yourself. You can then check that specific credit score and see if there are any areas for improvement to address.
When is your payment history reported to the credit bureaus?
Most creditors typically report information to the three major credit bureaus each month. The information they send includes payments that are paid on time and in full as well as any credit accounts that have entered delinquency.
However, companies like utilities and cell phone carriers usually only report late payments to the credit bureaus. It’s important to pay your bill by its due date to avoid being penalized. However, those timely payments probably won’t do anything to actually help your credit scores, they just prevent your credit scores from dropping.
By law, lenders and credit card issuers may not report a late payment to a credit bureau until 30 days after the due date. If you’re typically a good customer and don’t miss payments, the lender or creditor may not report you right away. But the clock is still ticking from that original deadline because late payments are reported in 30-day increments that are visible on your credit report.
They start at 30 days past due, then 60 days past due, and 90 days past due. Your credit score will drop with each additional period, so pay as soon as possible to avoid further damage.
Credit card companies also update your account credit card balances each month. This affects your credit utilization ratio. If you paid off a lot on one credit card but racked up a balance on another, all of that will be reflected on your credit report. It will also reflect on your credit score.
Remember that the amount you owe accounts for 30% of your FICO score. Most lenders want to see your credit utilization ratio under 30%. This means you don’t want to owe more than 30% of your available credit limit. If you pay off your credit card balance to lower this amount, you will increase your credit scores.
Which items can affect your credit score?
Unfortunately, most positive items rebuild your credit little by little over time. This includes timely payments, lowered debt amounts, increased lines of credit, and the length of your credit. However, negative items tend to drastically hurt your credit in one fell swoop.
The biggest ones are delinquencies, sudden increases in your credit card debt, and legal disputes that require you to repay money owed. Do everything in your power to avoid any of those three situations. Otherwise, it will take your credit scores years to recover.
But, it is possible to greatly increase your credit score by removing old and inaccurate information from your credit report. You can either do this on your own manually.
You can also work with an established credit repair firm like CreditRepair.com that talks directly to your creditors on your behalf to dispute any incorrect items. Once those items are deleted from your credit reports, you could see a huge bump in your credit scores.
How frequently should you check your credit score?
We recommend checking your credit score each month when you’re working on repairing it. The information on your credit reports is changed and updated every 30 days as creditors report your most recent activity. Changes you initiate, however, aren’t reported immediately.
Even if you settle an account or have a dispute removed, it’s best to wait to check on your credit score because the update might not have been reported yet. So if you’re looking for a credit monitoring service, don’t worry about paying extra for daily updates.
This also means that you need to plan in advance if you want to raise your credit score before applying for a loan. Start checking your credit score three to six months before anticipating the need to apply so you have time to address any issues or fix inaccurate information.
You’ll also have enough time for all of those updates to register on your credit report before a lender pulls it.
Remember, a credit score is a numerical representation of your credit report, so make sure it is accurate. Once you’ve done that, your credit score will automatically reflect those positive changes.
Where to Go From Here
There’s no time like the present to get started on repairing your credit. Begin by checking your current credit score as a baseline. Then, review your credit reports in detail to see what areas look weak.
Next, create a solid plan to address those weaknesses. Replace them with responsible habits such as paying all of your bills on time and aggressively paying down debt. This will lower your credit utilization.
Some categories simply take time to rebound from, such as delinquencies or new lines of credit. As you continue to work on your credit, check your credit scores once a month to monitor your progress.
This can help you determine when you’re ready to make a major financial decision, such as qualifying for a competitive home loan. Or, it can simply serve as motivation to keep up the good work with your finances.