One of the more general questions we get asked is how often credit scores get updated. The short answer is it happens each time it's calculated — whenever an inquiry is made into your credit report. On the surface, that seems very simple. But based on the dynamic nature of credit scores, we need to dig a little deeper to see how the simple can become complex.
Let's say it's Wednesday and Cecil is shopping for a car. He's going to finance his purchase so he fills out the loan paperwork when he arrives at the first auto dealership. His credit scores come back in the neighborhood of 765. Not too bad. Confident, Cecil continues shopping. The next day he stops at another dealership and repeats the process. This time his credit scores come back at around 700. What could have caused his credit scores to dip so much in just one day? Plenty.
Your credit scores are a snapshot of how you're managing your financial obligations at a specific point in time. They're based on information provided by your creditors, which is then distilled into three-digit credit scores (your FICO® Score powered by Experian is between 300 and 850) — the higher, the better. FICO® Scores, such as a FICO Score from Experian data, are used by 90 percent of top lenders. Creditors report updated account information to credit bureaus like Experian on a regular basis, usually monthly. These updates typically include balance updates critical to the credit scoring model. Whenever this new information is provided to Experian, your FICO® Score using Experian data can go up or down. You could even have two different FICO Scores within the same day if information was added to your profile during that day to impact it enough to register a change.
Your FICO® 8 Score is a living number. Let's go back to the example of Cecil. On Wednesday his profile received no updates. But on Thursday, maybe one of his creditors reported he was a month late with his payment. He also opened a new credit card account that day. Those updates changed Cecil's credit profile, resulting in a FICO® Score that was different from the first time it was calculated.
Don't drive yourself crazy trying to figure out how to time payments and purchases to build pristine credit scores. Since they're derived from a variety of data and each carries different weight in the scoring model, it would be impossible. Your credit scores can consider many types of information. Your FICO ® 8 Score powered by Experian specifically takes your payment history into account, the amount of money you owe overall, how long you've been using credit, how much new credit you've applied for and the types of credit you use. Each one of these categories factors into the calculation of your Score at any moment.
FICO is a registered trademark of the Fair Isaac Corporation.
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This article was originally published on September 27, 2016, and has been updated.