Your credit score tells banks and other lenders about your creditworthiness and the potential risk when lending you money. The three major credit reporting bureaus–Equifax, Experian and TransUnion–all have the information that creates your credit score. But how often does your credit score change?

The frequency at which your credit score changes depends on how often it’s updated. Your credit score could change daily if your creditors and lenders are making changes to your report on a daily basis. Since your credit score is based on the information in your credit report, frequent updates to your credit report can cause a change in your credit score.

Lenders report your active accounts to the credit bureaus once a month. This reporting includes the credit limit or original loan amount, the amount you owe, date the account was opened and how late your bill is (30, 60, 90, or 120 days late). Since lenders report at different times, updates can happen daily.

So what affects your credit score? Here are the details on what can boost your number and what can lower it!

Late Payments

So how badly will a late payment affect your credit score?  If you were 30 days late (or beyond) that blip on your credit might not happen instantaneously. The negative repercussions will hit your score, though, when your bank or lender reports to the bureaus. According to myFICO, a payment that is 30 days late isn’t as bad as being 90 days late. But paying on time does account for a big bulk of your credit score—in fact, payment history makes up 35 percent of your score!

Your goal is to control everything and anything that you can to boost your credit score and paying on time is something that you can control. If you pay everyone on time all the time, you’ll get an A+ on this part of your credit scoring. And that will add up over time. To try to ensure that you’re making payments on time, consider setting up automatic bill pay with your credit card company or other lenders. Online bill pay sites also let you schedule payments and make payments quickly. You also can set reminders on your cell phone to remind you of payment due dates!

But no matter how diligent you might be about paying your bills; late payments just happen sometimes. Maybe you forgot to click through all the screens on a bill pay site and the payment wasn’t finalized. Or perhaps you just forgot to pay the bill, or you couldn’t pay the bill on time because of tight finances. Yes, a 30-day late payment will blip your credit. However, if you’re only a few days late–or under the grace period—you shouldn’t see a hit to your credit report. To be sure, though, contact your bank or lender.

Also, myFICO also notes that more recent late payments might hit your credit harder than late payments from your past. So a late payment from many years ago isn’t going to affect your score as much as a late payment from last month. However, if you are in a situation where you are delinquent (or know you will be delinquent), contact your lender to discuss options and explain your situation. Communication is always the best idea, because you do NOT want that bill sent to collections! Paying on time is a big part of your score, so don’t make paying late a part of your history.

Paying Off Debts: Is It A Number Boost?

Now what about paying off all your debts; how does that impact a credit score? While paying off debt is great for your budget bottom line, you may discover that your credit score does not update quickly with actions you take with your credit. If you pay off a credit card today, your credit score may not reflect that tomorrow. Closing a credit card account can have a negative impact on your credit because you have just lowered your available credit. So think twice about closing those accounts even when you pay them off.

It’s important to keep in mind that paying down installment loans like a car loan, mortgage, or student loan also won’t necessarily give your credit score a huge boost. It’s essential to pay these loans on time, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see a huge boost right away. Paying down revolving debt such as credit card debt plays a much bigger role and can boost your scores. According to FICO, 30% of your credit score is based on your debt to credit ratio.

Don’t Charge Too Much

And charging a lot of purchases on those cards also may impact your score. When you make large purchases on your credit card, you’re also affecting your debt to credit ratio. So not only will those monthly payments increase—which may impact you paying down the debt—but your credit availability on the card also decreases because of those charges (if you don’t pay them off!). So watch those major purchases—or pay them off quickly!

Why Are My Scores Different?

If you’re checking your score at all three bureaus, each score also may be slightly different. This could depend on the type of scoring system being used or it also could be an issue with one bureau not having the same information on your accounts. According to Nerd Wallet, information about your account could be reported to all three—or not. However, the site notes that banks typically report your account to each of the bureaus. Regardless, if you’re checking your score and it differs from bureau to bureau, don’t be too alarmed.

The Effects of Bankruptcy

Filing bankruptcy also negatively impacts your credit score. So how low will the score drop? According to Money Crashers, your credit score may take a hit between 160 to 220 points (the impact depends on what type of bankruptcy you declare—Chapter 7 or Chapter 13). While the credit score hit may be hard to face, the benefits of bankruptcy might outweigh the negative credit hit, especially for individuals who are in serious debt (and have probably taken hits to their credit anyway).

Credit Inquiries Affect Your Score!

Another major issue that also can affect your score—and it’s something that not many consumers think about—is inquiries about your credit score! However, myFICO notes that only inquiries that are related to “applications for new credit” affect your credit numbers. If you check your credit scores, you will typically see inquiries noted on your report. Inquiry information also may be useful if you’ve had your identity stolen, as new inquiries may alert you of any banks or lenders that have checked your credit that you didn’t authorize personally.

Unfortunately, an inquiry bumps your credit score lower…but not by much (myFICO says the hit is typically “less than five points”).  Lots of inquiries will have more of a ding to your credit, and according to myFICO: “Statistically, people with six inquiries or more on their credit reports can be up to eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with no inquiries on their reports.”  The site also reveals that inquiries will have a greater impact to your score if you don’t have a long credit history or if you don’t have many credit accounts. However, if you are only applying for a new credit card and the bank must check your credit via an inquiry, being approved for the new account—and having access to more credit—may help your credit score in the future even though that inquiry takes points away in the present. There is also a difference between a soft inquiry and a hard inquiry. Soft inquiries do not affect your credit score, but hard inquires do. Make sure you clarify when applying for credit.

Your Credit History Matters

If you’re new to the credit game, then your credit score also will be affected by your lack of credit history. While opening a new credit card gives you a boost and a door to the world of new credit, those with a short credit history may find that their lack of credit experience lowers their score. Why? Your credit history also plays a role in your credit score, and it changes over time. The longer you have credit, the better it may be for your score. According to Time, “length of history” accounts for 15 percent of your credit score. While this probably won’t boost your points month to month, over time, your credit length could really help that score. And if you are mindful of the other areas impacting your score—new credit, credit type, payment history, and your balances (or amount owed)—then your score may be a lender’s dream!

So how often does your credit score change? The short answer is monthly, because this is how often lenders report to the bureaus. However, most of us have multiple lenders and creditors, so your credit score could change daily or weekly.

Take charge of your credit by controlling the areas of your credit score that you can control; pay your bills on time, mind your debt to credit ratio, and do not apply for several credit cards or loans in a short period of time. Remember, paying on time makes up the bulk of your credit score, so be mindful of payments. While paying off loans will help your credit, the positive impact to your score won’t happen immediately. However, if you have just paid off a large debt and are wondering why your score hasn’t changed much, you can contact your creditors to make sure they are reporting your recent credit activity to the credit reporting agencies.

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