November 28th, 2012

Credit 101: Credit Score Changes

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credit 101

It’s been a while since we’ve visited the Credit 101 classroom. But a topic bears further review. In this blog post, we discussed a few reasons why your credit score changes or remains the same. In today’s post, we’ll flesh out some of the details and try to tackle two of the most common questions we receive:

    How often do credit scores change?
    Why hasn’t my credit score changed?

How often do credit scores change?

Your credit score changes when something on your credit report changes. This includes a number of possible factors, like missing a payment on a loan or credit line, applying for new credit, an adjustment in your credit limits, paying down debt, defaulting on a loan, closing an old account, declaring bankruptcy, and lots more.

One thing that’s important to remember is that for some of these changes, it takes a while for them to reflect in your credit report. For instance, a lot of Credit Karma members are curious why their current credit card balances aren’t reflected in the account. The reason for this is because creditors report new balances to the credit bureaus just once a billing cycle. That means you could pay off a high balance on your credit card and not see the update to your credit report and score for 30 days. That’s why it’s important to keep your credit card utilization to 30 percent or less that your total credit limits, unless you know the exact date that your creditors report your balances. (And that date can vary from creditor to creditor.)

This is also true in some other cases. If you refinance an auto loan, for instance, it could take a while for the new loan to be straightened out at the credit bureau, meaning that two loans could temporarily show up on your credit report. This is one reason why it’s important to stay away from making big credit moves like refinancing before you apply for new credit like a home loan.

Now that you know that creditors can take a while to update the credit bureaus and credit bureaus can take a while to smooth things out, what does this mean? It means that your credit score can change often, but it also means that it could take a while for your credit score to change.

Why hasn’t my credit score changed?

Another common question we receive here at Credit Karma goes something like this:

“I’ve paid off my debts. Why hasn’t my score changed yet?”

First of all, it’s important to remember that there’s usually never just one new factor influencing your credit score. While there are some common factors that go into your credit score, lots of things could be at play. After all, your score encompasses years of your financial life. For example, if you paid off a large portion of your credit card debt but an old account falls into collections, your score likely wouldn’t improve, even though you might not instantly find out about the collection account. (You can make sure you’re alerted of things like that with Credit Karma’s free credit monitoring.) The derogatory mark would overshadow the reduced credit utilization.

The reverse could also be true. You could have high credit utilization that’s bringing your score down, but at the same time have an old derogatory mark fall off of your credit, causing your score to increase. Your financial and credit actions aren’t isolated.

So what should I do?

First of all, remember that a small drop in your score isn’t abnormal or something to be alarmed about. A 10 of 20 point fluctuation can be perfectly normal. Secondly, remember that you are not your credit score. While you should keep an eye on your credit, it’s not helpful to constantly fret over your score. This is especially true if you’re making all the right credit moves. Here’s how to make certain that’s true:

  1. Monitor your credit on Credit Karma. If you’re opted into credit monitoring, you’ll get an email when an important change occurs in your credit report, like a new hard inquiry or delinquent payment.
  2. Check your Credit Report Card. We developed the Credit Report Card to help you keep an eye on the most important factors influencing your credit score.
  3. Research before you apply. When you’re ready for a new credit card or loan, use Credit Karma’s approval odds as well as member reviews to help you make your choice.

I hope that helps clear a few things up about credit score changes. Have a question? Feel free to leave it in the comments. I’d be happy to answer it!

Have a Karmic day!

Bethy, Social Media Maven

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31 Comments

  1. How often should I update my credit score on Credit Karma? Right now I do it once a month but is that too much or too little?

    Thanks!

    Lonnie at 4:03 pm on November 28, 2012
  2. It will change when something on your credit report changes

    Tom at 5:25 pm on November 28, 2012
  3. Recently divorced. Receiving as part of settlement his 401k but have to pay off large balance on shared credit card with part of it. The account then has to b closed – have had it for over 18 yrs. Will this hurt my credit score?

    Mary Ellen at 7:13 pm on November 28, 2012
  4. how many point does a deleted late payment and a pais in full collection return to credit score

    falisco at 8:40 am on November 29, 2012
  5. Hi, Lonnie! Once a month is a really good guideline. Like I mention in the post, your credit score CAN change at any time, but for many people, changes occur just once during a 30-day period. Checking everyday is excessive. Stick to once a month, and you’ll be set.

    bethy at 10:36 am on November 29, 2012
  6. Exactly true, Tom. Thanks for the comment!

    bethy at 10:37 am on November 29, 2012
  7. I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this, Mary Ellen. Unfortunately, closing that 18-year-old account will hurt your credit. However, if the card was maxed out (or nearly so), it was likely hurting your credit anyway. Maybe even more than the 18-year history was helping it. Either way, it’s a MUCH better idea to close a credit card that you’re sharing with your ex. If that account remained open and something negative happens to it due to your ex’s actions (delinquent payment, sent to collections) that would really damage your credit. For most people, it’s easier to build credit than repair it after some serious damage. Good luck!

    bethy at 10:40 am on November 29, 2012
  8. Thanks Mary Ellen :)

    Lonnie at 10:41 am on November 29, 2012
  9. P.S. Keep an eye on how that closed account impacts your credit on your Credit Report Card.

    bethy at 10:41 am on November 29, 2012
  10. Hi, Falisco. It depends on the other factors influencing your score as well as the credit score model used. No one can give you an exact calculation on this. Plus, remember that the collection account, although paid in full, could still negatively impact your credit. It depends on how it’s phrased on your credit report. Read this blog post for more info. I will say that it sounds like you’re making some smart moves to clean up your credit. Good luck!

    bethy at 10:44 am on November 29, 2012
  11. These scores aren’t accurate. I have a credit card with more than a 20 year history and more than 20k limit but it’s not being counted in my score. Why not?

    What good are scores if they don’t reflect you’re actual credit history and worthiness? I run a monthly balance of 2-5k with my 2 open credit cards. I pay them off each month. I never pay interest or only the minimum balance, NEVER.

    For every category you score I have an A rating except the number of cards. For that I get a D? I only have 2 active cards and I pay them off monthly. So for that, my overall score goes down to a B? NEVER LATE. NEVER MISSED. Over 20 years with the same credit card, never closed. No inquiries. No collections. No creditor comments. Nothing negative, but I have a B score?

    I just don’t get it.

    cyberian at 2:38 pm on November 29, 2012
  12. The score you get on Credit Karma is definitely accurate. The problem is that you have dozens (literally dozens) of credit scores based on different scoring models. It’s crazy, we know – that’s why we also show you details of your credit report in the Credit Report Card. The grades you get there don’t influence your credit score at all, they’re merely to show you how you compare to other Credit Karma members. I also have a “D” in number of accounts because I don’t have a mortgage, auto loan or student debt.

    As for your 20-year-old credit card, all of the information on Credit Karma comes from TransUnion, one of the major credit bureaus. If that account is still open and in good standing, it means something is going on on TransUnion’s end and you should check that full credit report to see what’s up.

    I’m here to help clear these confusions up, so feel free to ask any other questions!

    bethy at 4:31 pm on November 29, 2012
  13. A point of clarification for cyberian.

    The credit bureaus never receive any data indicating whether you pay your credit card balances in full each month, or revolve the credit line (pay less than the full balance).

    You lender reports the outstanding balance at the end of the billing cycle – lets says it’s 5K. They send you a bill, and shortly after, they receive your payment which lowers your balance. But since you continue spending, it grows to back to 5K and they report this number to the bureaus, and so on.

    Total revolving balances is a common factor considered in risk scores – and $5K is on the high side.

    Kevin @ Credit Bureau Insider at 11:44 am on November 30, 2012
  14. Credit score for us is a very important thing, it will determine a lot of things that we can buy. Will be always with us, we should be clear that it changes, in order to make proper change. But in IceboxJewelry it may not be needed, you can get what you love jewelry. jewelry financing no credit check

    IceboxJewelry at 7:11 pm on December 4, 2012
  15. Ihave one derogatoryremark on mycredit report, it is scheduled to be removed December of 2012 per my reports from the Big 3. When can I expect this to update on my report?

    David at 5:40 pm on December 6, 2012
  16. Jenna

    Hi David! Updates can vary by bureau and lender, but in most cases, you can expect for your report to be updated within 30 days.

    Jenna at 7:55 am on December 7, 2012
  17. Okay, so I read Bethy’s comment and your reply, but the problem is that no matter how you slice it, the outcome of the overall score still remains an implacable and inscrutable mystery. If Bethy wants to achieve “excellent” credit, all she needs to do is go out and open 19 more credit accounts but without generating any hard credit inquiries, and not all at once or she tanks her average age of open acct score forever. We all understand that credit is something one “builds”, but the way this game is played, most of us feel that we are building on quicksand. BTW, I’ve got the same complaint as Bethy, except my only imperfect area is average age, but my otherwise impeccable credit history since the crash of ’08 rates only a B minus. Guess I better go out and borrow tons of money to buy cars and houses at really unaffordable rates right now, cuz if I don’t already owe at least half a million (that I’ll never be able to repay) I won’t qualify for the loan rates I need to buy the cars and to get approved for the mortgage, so — hmmmm… let’s think about that again, because isn’t that how we ended up with the crash of ’08? Why hasn’t somebody changed the rules of this crazy game yet?

    Michael at 2:17 am on December 9, 2012
  18. Oops, sorry Bethy, in previous post word-replace “Bethy” with “Cyberian” (much more than slight oversight, I know) cuz I can find no method to edit comment after submit.

    Michael at 2:22 am on December 9, 2012
  19. about 3 delinquent accounts are going to be removed from my credit report how will that effect my score??

    kevin at 8:58 pm on February 26, 2013
  20. No one can tell you how much your score will be affected by that, Kevin, since it depends on all kinds of factors. It depends on things like what your score is now (your score could increase more if it’s starting lower), what other items are on your report, etc. Best to wait for the change to see.

    bethy at 10:39 am on February 27, 2013
  21. 1. How do I update my score? There used to be a little button that said “update.” Now it seems to be gone.

    2. CK is incorrect in that my oldest account is a mere 2.5 years old. I do not deserve a “D” grade for this category. Heck, my Hilton Honors American Express says right on the front of it “member since 2008.” I know the reply will be that CK obtains information directly from Trans Union, so I need to take it up with them. But let me say this – I have already viewed my Trans Union credit report and it is correct. It shows the Hilton Honors account from 2008. So it is CK’s mistake. Correct the error and maybe (just maybe) I will take up CK on one of their credit card offers. But I certainly will not when I get bad grades that I don’t deserve.

    So there!

    3. And another thing – what is this “auto insurance score?” I have had no accidents, no claims, I’m a safe driver, and I have no points on my license. I scored an 820 or something like that. I should have a very high score in this area. That is another thing that irritates me about CK (the auto insurance score).

    Don’t get it.

    nick at 8:21 pm on March 14, 2013
  22. Jenna

    Hi Nick,

    1. When you log into your Credit Karma account, your score will automatically update if it’s been more than seven days since your last update. All you have to do is log in to initiate this update. In your dashboard, you’ll see the date when your score was last updated as well as when a new score will be available for you.
    2. Send an email to support@creditkarma.com and we’d be happy to look into it further.
    3. You can learn more about the auto insurance score here.

    Jenna at 3:36 pm on March 15, 2013
  23. I have a question. How is it possible that my credit score dropped from 753 last week to 684 this week with nothing negative reported. 12,600 credit. 874 used, 7%. This went up from 753 last month. Nothing else changed other than my balances and only by $100. This has me baffled. Credit Karma does not show any derogatory marks or changes.

    Sean at 5:05 pm on May 8, 2013
  24. Jenna

    Hi Sean! Unfortunately, as we pull our scores directly from TransUnion, we don’t have further insight into why your score dropped. Here’s a video we created explaining some of the common reasons why credit scores drop: http://blog.creditkarma.com/credit-101/credit-scores/why-did-my-credit-score-drop/

    The best thing to do is to continue to monitor your score and make good financial moves to improve your score.

    Jenna at 2:45 pm on May 10, 2013
  25. I have a question also. My credit score dropped 53 points since the last update. Apparently because my credit card limit increased from 2k to 4k. But I only owe less then 150.00 dollars on the credit card. Never been late never missed. So Why is that?

    Donald at 11:27 pm on September 24, 2013
  26. Jenna

    Hi Donald, as we pull the scores you see directly from TransUnion, we unfortunately don’t have further insight into why your score dropped. You can learn more about common reasons for score drops here: http://blog.creditkarma.com/credit-101/credit-scores/why-did-my-credit-score-drop/

    Jenna at 7:56 am on September 25, 2013
  27. why does credit karma show my score at 599 when I know its at 645 also it shows a balance on a credit card when I know theres not

    Daniel at 9:04 pm on December 27, 2013
  28. Jenna

    Hi Daniel,

    Contrary to popular belief, you actually have many scores, not just one. These scores can vary due to the different bureaus having different information about you, the dozens of different scoring models that can be used, and the fact that scores change constantly. You can learn more here: https://www.creditkarma.com/article/differentscores

    As for the balance on your credit card, please keep in mind that creditors typically only report to the bureaus once a month, so even if you’ve paid your credit card, the creditors (and so, Credit Karma) may not get that updated information right away. If you have any other questions, please feel free to email support@creditkarma.com.

    Jenna at 7:38 am on December 30, 2013
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