- Your credit report can change every time the credit bureaus update their data on you
- Your FICO and Vantagescore can change when the data changes
- Your score is not likely to change daily, so monthly monitoring is usually more than enough
Your credit score can change every time a lender or collection agency reports information concerning one of your credit accounts. That information might be about a payment, your balance, the age of your accounts (which changes with every passing day), your recent applications for new credit, and the kinds of credit accounts that you open.
Your score also updates based on how much you owe on each debt, both in dollars and cents and the percentage of your credit that’s in use. On revolving credit accounts (credit cards) the amount you owe compared to your credit limit is called your credit utilization ratio.
A credit score is a numerical representation of the likelihood you’ll pay your debts. It’s based on a snapshot of your relationship with credit at the moment the credit score is calculated. Most of the credit scores we come across range from 300 to 850 and are based on FICO or VantageScore algorithms, but there are dozens of credit scoring agencies that generate scores for you.
Where Does Your Credit Score Come From?
Credit scores are based on credit reports, and credit reports are maintained by credit reporting agencies. The most well known credit reporting agencies are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. These agencies compile your credit history based on information they receive about you from various sources. Sources include financial institutions that have extended credit to you, like credit card issuers and lenders, as well as debt collectors and other companies where you have a delinquent account. Sources also include public records. A court judgment against you, a bankruptcy, or an eviction is likely to be reflected in your credit score.
How Often Does Your Credit Score Change?
Your credit score changes every time new information is added to your credit report. Many creditors report your information once a month.
Suppose you have just one credit card. Your score might change when your card issuer reports your payment and your credit utilization ratio.
Keep in mind that the passage of time is a factor in your credit score. If you have a credit card that you rarely use, even without financial data your credit score is likely to change as the account grows older.
Credit scores may not update in real time
There is often a time lag between your doing something that affects your credit score and that information being provided by the lender or other furnisher to the bureaus.
And it's common for the same creditor to provide the same information about you to each bureau on different dates. Sometimes those dates can be weeks apart.
So, don’t imagine that you make a payment one day and it turns up on your report the next. It may happen to. But it’s more likely to appear days or weeks later. Don’t worry! It will generally turn up in the end.
If this bothers you, you can check the “Date Updated” line, which appears on each entry on your credit reports. Compare that to your payment date and you might get a rough idea of how long it takes a particular creditor to report an action to each bureau. But there’s no guarantee that timetable won’t change.
Not all information is shared with all credit bureaus
Just as each creditor or furnisher gets to set its own reporting timetable, each creditor or furnisher can also choose which credit bureaus to report to. Major creditors like Chase and Citi tend to report to all three big credit bureaus. But some might report to just one bureau. For that reason, your credit report from each bureau may not match the others, and as a consequence, you might have different credit scores. It’s normal to have different credit scores, but checking your score will still tell you where you stand.
Things like rent, utilities, and cell phones haven’t contributed to credit scores in the past, but they can now. Modern credit scoring algorithms can factor in those kinds of payments, which can be especially helpful for consumers who don’t have loans and credit cards, but want a credit score.
If you’re applying for credit and you want a credit report and score that factor in your rent, utility, or cell phone payments, the creditor may be able to help you through the process. Or you can sign up with a service like Ultra FICO (which factors in your responsible use of bank accounts) or Experian Boost (which factors in your rent and utility payments).
How Often Can You Check Your Updated Credit Score?
Check your credit score once a month or every few months to stay on top of it. Free credit score sources typically don’t update more than once a month, so there is no point in checking more often. Paid credit score sources may update every time your data changes.
>>Learn more about How to Check Your Credit Score.
Sources for checking your credit score
Credit card statements
Most credit card statements now show your most recent credit score. And that’s usually enough to keep an eye on how things are going.
Just note that different card issuers use different credit bureaus and scoring technologies as their sources. So, for example, you may see your FICO score from Experian with a Wells Fargo card. But you may see your VantageScore from TransUnion on your Amex statement.
Free score providers
If you’re applying for an important new loan – a mortgage, say, or a big auto or personal loan – you may want to pay closer attention to your score than usual. And you might wish to sign up for free credit score monitoring from providers such as:
CreditWise from Capital One
Checking your credit from two or three different sources will tell you what credit score neighborhood you’re in.
You can pay to see scores from all three bureaus for a fee through:
Equifax Complete Premier continuing monitoring service (VantageScore only). That allows unlimited access.
Experian 3-Bureau Credit Report and FICO Scores. This provides one-time access for a lower cost than the unlimited plan.
TransUnion offers unlimited access to your TransUnion score for a fee.
You may be able to get your credit score through credit counselors. Find a reputable counselor or agency at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America
How Often Should You Check Your Credit Report?
The following advice applies only to those reading this after Dec. 31, 2023. Until then, according to the Federal Trade Commission, you can request at no charge new copies of your credit reports each week.
Free annual credit reports
You’re legally entitled to one free report from each of the big three credit bureaus each year. You can get them all at once, or stagger them to one every four months. If you time your requests that way, you’ll be able to take advantage of free annual credit reports while keeping abreast of changes more often.
Obtain your reports only through annualcreditreport.com. That website is owned jointly by those credit bureaus so that they can fulfill their legal obligation. It is the only site authorized to give you the free credit reports that you are entitled to by law.
More frequent checks
There may be times when you want to check your reports more often than usual. For instance, when you’re worried about your identity having been stolen, or when you’re trying to make quick changes in order to qualify for a mortgage.
At such times, your report may be crucial to your application being approved and the interest rate you’ll be offered. So, it may make sense to pay for additional copies that show your most recent reports.
If you’re trying to make a quick credit score change in order to qualify for a mortgage, you may be able to request a rapid rescore, though only through your lender.