When you’re on the road to repairing your credit report, you’ll probably be excited to see how much your credit score has gone up since you started to make positive changes. 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 qualify before you apply.
Both loan approval and interest rate offers are tied directly to the contents of your credit report — and the corresponding credit score — so it makes sense to check it ahead of time. But exactly how often does your credit score change? What kind of changes on your credit report warrant an increase in score? We’ll show you how often you should check your credit score so that you can effectively monitor changes to your overall financial picture.
What Causes a Change In Your Credit Score?
Before you understand when to check your credit score for changes, it’s first important to understand what exactly causes your score to change. Your credit score is a reflection of your credit report, although the three credit bureaus don’t actually calculate your score at all. Instead, separate companies analyze your credit report to calculate a score that offers insights on your potential risk to lenders and other interested third parties.
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 make changes to each category, your score will begin to change. However, the length time each one affects your score varies; some are short term, while others last longer. For example, a hard inquiry for a new credit card typically only affects your credit score with a slight ding for six months. That’s a short amount of time in the world of credit. Making on-time payments, on the other hand, can take over a year to fully erase the damage caused from a defaulted loan.
When you’re ready to repair your credit, go through each category listed above and decide how you can take actions to 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 Re-calculated?
Your credit score is not an on-going number that fluctuates every day. In reality, a credit score is 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 score also reflects 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 score is requested.
Another factor to consider is that there are several different scoring models available, all of which may churn out different numbers for your credit score. An auto lender, for example, will likely request an industry-specific score that places greater importance on your potential risk in repaying your car loan. A credit card company might check a bankcard score before approving your application. This is important to know because even if you’ve monitored your basic credit score and think you have a solid number, your lender might not access the same calculation.
In a worse 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 scoring model they use so you can prepare yourself. You can then check that specific score and see if there are any areas for improvement to address either in the near-term or long-term.
When is Your Credit Information Reported?
Most creditors typically report information to the three credit bureaus each month. The information they send includes payments that are paid on time and in full as well as any accounts that have entered delinquency. However, companies like utilities and cell phone carriers usually only report late payments. So while it’s important to pay your bill by its due date to avoid being penalized, those timely payments probably won’t do anything to actually help your score, they just prevent your score from dropping.
By law, lenders may not report a late payment until 30 days after the due date. If you’re usually 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 report: 30 days past due, 60 days past due, and 90 days past due. Your credit score will go down with each additional period so be sure to pay as soon as possible to avoid further damage.
Lenders and credit card companies also update your account balances each month. This affects your credit utilization ratio. If you paid off a large chunk of one credit card but racked up a balance on another, all of that will be reflected on your credit report, and consequently, your credit score. Remember that the amount you owe accounts for 30% of your FICO credit score. Most lenders want to see your credit utilization ratio under 30% which means you don’t want to owe more than 30% of the credit available to you. Pay off your credit card debt to lower this amount and increase your score.
What Items Can Make a Big Change In 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. Negative items, however, 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. If you’re on the verge of any of those three situations, do everything in your power to prevent it from happening, otherwise, it will take your credit score years to recover.
However, 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 or work with an established credit repair firm like CreditRepair.com that talks directly to your creditors on your behalf to dispute any items that are incorrect. Once those items are deleted from your report, you could see a huge bump in your score.
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 report is changed and updated every 30 days as creditors report your most recent activity. Changes you initiate, however, aren’t reported immediately, so even if you settle an account or have a dispute removed, it’s best to wait to check on your 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 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, your credit score is a numerical representation of your credit report, so the key really is to make sure all of that information is up to date. 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, and reviewing your credit report in detail to see what areas look weak. Then create a solid plan to address those weaknesses with responsible habits such as paying all of your bills on time and aggressively paying down debt to lower your credit utilization ratio. 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 score 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.