If one credit card is affecting my credit score negatively, and if I pay it off, how fast will my score it change?
How quickly and how much your credit scores will change after paying off a credit card account depends on a couple of different factors.
The first thing to consider is the reason that account is currently impacting you negatively. The two most important factors in credit scoring are your payment history and your utilization rate, sometimes called your utilization ratio or balance-to-limit ratio.
If Your Credit Card Balance Is Too High
Is the balance on your credit card account high? If the issue is simply that the balance on your account is too close to the credit limit, paying it off will lower the utilization rate on that account. Depending on the balances and credit limits on any other credit cards you may have, paying off the balance on that one account could significantly change your overall utilization rate as well.
Your overall utilization rate is calculated by taking the total of all your credit card balances and dividing that number by the total of all your credit card limits. The lower your utilization rate, the better for your credit scores.
If the balance is substantial, you may see a change in your credit scores as soon as the new balance is reflected on your credit report. How quickly the change is reflected on your credit report depends on when you pay it off and on your credit card company's reporting schedule. Most lenders send updates to Experian monthly. In general, you should allow 30-60 days for the change to be reflected on your report.
Once you see that the balance has been updated on your credit report, you can order a new credit score to see what impact paying off the account has had on your score. You can get your credit score for free on Experian's website .
If Your Credit Card Is Past Due
On the other hand, if your credit scores are being negatively affected because your account is delinquent, it may take longer to get them back to where you want them to be.
Late payments remain part of your credit history for seven years. The more serious the delinquency, the more negative the impact will be. If you are past due on an account, the first step to helping your credit scores recover is to pay off the past due balance and bring the account current.
If you leave the account open, paying off the balance will not only bring the account current, it will also reduce your utilization rate, which is also beneficial.
Once your payment is posted, your credit card provider will update the account to show that it's now current and the balance is zero. You should see the update reflected in your credit report within a month or two. However, your account will still show that it was past due prior to being brought current. So, while you may see an improvement in your credit scores right away, it may take time before they rebound fully.
Improving Your Credit Score
The good news is that the longer ago the late payments were, the less your credit scores will be affected by them. As long as you continue to make all your payments on time and keep your balances low, your scores should continue to trend upwards over time.
Thanks for asking,
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist
This question came from a recent Periscope session we hosted.