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Credit scores are dynamic, and can change frequently based on your activity borrowing and paying back debt on accounts including loans and credit cards. The information in your credit reports makes up the foundation of your scores, and that information is reported by lenders and other companies that manage your debt accounts. Credit card payments typically get reported to the credit bureaus shortly after the end of a card's monthly billing cycle. Your credit report typically reflects the information from your last billing statement, so it is unlikely to match your current balance when you check it.
How and When Are Credit Card Payments Reported to Bureaus
Commonly, credit card issuers report cardholder activity to the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax—at the end of every billing cycle. Billing cycles can vary between 28 and 31 days, and reporting schedules vary by lender. Your lenders may also report to each bureau at different times, only report to specific bureaus or not report your payment history at all. This means you could theoretically check your score every week and see a different number each time—especially if you have multiple credit cards or other forms of debt that are all reported at different times each month.
Because changes to your account aren't reported immediately, you may check your credit report and think it doesn't look current. Your credit report may show a different account balance than what you see on your credit card statement, but that's typically not anything to worry about. Because credit card issuers don't constantly report your account status, the balance you see there will reflect what it was the last time it was reported to the bureaus.
This can be frustrating if you've recently paid off a credit card or loan and don't see it reflected on your credit report, but bear in mind that it'll be refreshed in due time. If a few months pass and your credit report still hasn't been updated, the best course of action is to contact your lender and make sure your payments are recorded and reported properly. If they can't resolve it and you believe there is truly an error on your credit report, however, you should dispute it with the credit bureau.
How Long Does It Take for a New Card to Show Up on Your Report?
When you open a new credit card account, it doesn't appear on your credit report immediately. The new account typically won't show up until 30 to 60 days after you've opened the account, though the exact timeframe can vary by lender, your card's billing cycle and when the account is reported to each of the three bureaus.
There are also some situations where a new card may not show up at all on your credit report. That can happen if:
- It's not showing up how you expected. It's possible the new card is on your credit file, but it's not showing up as you expect. For example, a new retail credit card may not show under the name of the store where it was opened, but instead may appear under the name of the bank that manages the store's credit card program.
- There was a glitch. Flukes can happen; for example, if the credit card issuer you applied with is merging with another company, new account activity might not show up during the consolidation period. Typically, this is temporary and will resolve on its own, but if several months pass and it's still not there, it's worth calling your issuer to inquire.
- The company doesn't report to the credit bureaus. Many credit card issuers report account activity to all three major credit bureaus, but some don't. Some issuers may report to one or two bureaus instead of all three. If your goal is to build or improve your credit, check to make sure the card issuer reports your account activity to all the credit bureaus.
- There's an identification mixup. It's rare, but if information such as your name or Social Security number was incorrectly entered either by you or the card issuer, that account may not be tied to your credit file. If this happens, call your credit card company and make sure they have your accurate identification information.
How Do Credit Card Balances Affect Your Credit?
Credit scores are complex calculations, and your credit card use and balances can impact them in a few ways. Your payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO® Score☉ calculation—more than any other factor. When you make at least your credit card's minimum payment by your due date each month, it can help improve your credit score. On the other hand, making just one payment 30 days late or more can drag it down.
The next most important factor is your credit utilization, which measures how much of your available credit you're using. Carrying hefty balances on your credit cards increases your risk, so your credit score may take a dip if you carry a balance, and can suffer an even larger drop with balances greater than 30% of your credit limit. The further below that 30% mark you can keep your balance, the more your credit score will benefit.
How Often Are Your Credit Scores and Reports Updated?
Credit scores are calculated only when your credit report is accessed and will reflect any changes in your credit history since the last time it was viewed. Credit reports are updated frequently, and credit scores will change as the information does. If you check your score often, you may notice small changes in either direction.
Why is your credit information updated continuously? Even though an individual credit card issuer may only report your account history to each bureau once a month, they may report it to different consumer reporting agencies at different times. If you have multiple credit card accounts or loans, they may all get reported to the credit bureaus at various points throughout the month. Other items can pop up on your report and impact your score as well, such as late payments, collection accounts and hard inquiries when you apply for new credit or services.
Little fluctuations in your credit scores aren't anything to lose sleep over. It's more important to stick to consistent, smart credit habits, and over time, your score will gradually climb in an upward trajectory. Things you can do to encourage score improvement include:
- Pay every bill on time, every time.
- Keep credit card balances low.
- Get current on past-due accounts as quickly as you can.
- Avoid unnecessary applications for new credit.
Another thing you can do to increase your credit score is to get credit for bill payments that otherwise wouldn't be reported to the credit bureaus. You can do this by signing up for Experian Boost®ø, which links to your financial accounts and identifies on-time bill payments that can be used to lift your scores. With Experian Boost, a free service from Experian, you can get credit for the bills you've already been paying, such as your cellphone bill and streaming service subscriptions. Boost users who saw their credit score increase added an average of 13 points to their Experian FICO® Score.
Get Familiar With Your Score
Because credit scores can change so frequently as new data gets added or removed from your credit reports, checking yours daily or weekly isn't necessary. Free credit monitoring from Experian can alert you to changes in your credit report and scores, so you can more quickly take action if necessary. These regular updates will give you a chance to look over what has been reported recently, see bigger-picture trends and help you understand how your credit habits help shape your credit score.