When your credit card issuer reports to the credit bureaus may affect your credit score if you carry a high balance. Here’s what you need to know.
If you’re monitoring your credit, you may have noticed that changes to your credit card balances don’t affect your credit right away.
It may be frustrating when you’re paying them down to improve your credit, or a relief if you come close to maxing out your card.
Either way, it’s useful to be aware when your balances are reported, as well as when credit reports get updated. Read on to find out when credit card issuers report to the credit bureaus and how the timing can impact your credit score.
When do credit card issuers report to credit bureaus?
It might have been easier if there was an exact day of the month when every credit card issuer reports cardholders’ data to the credit bureaus. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
It would make sense to assume that your credit card activity is reported at the end of each billing cycle. However, according to Experian, every lender reports to the bureaus following its own schedule. Typically, it happens every 30 to 45 days.
“This runs counterintuitive to how most people understand credit reporting,” says Ty Stewart, CEO at Simple Life Insure. “People tend to think of the big three bureaus almost like Big Brother, constantly monitoring your every financial move and immediately aware even when you swipe your card at a nearby Starbucks. This isn’t accurate. The three bureaus are completely reliant on reports generated by creditors themselves.”
Furthermore, it’s rare that creditors send out the reports to all three bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – on the same day. That means information on your credit reports regarding your credit card usage can differ, which is one of the reasons why your multiple credit scores don’t match.
See related: My credit score is 776 – and 815 – and 828?
Another thing to keep in mind is that not all creditors report to the bureaus, since it’s not required by law. Smaller lenders might not report to all three bureaus – or they might not report at all. If your goal is to improve your credit, make sure you’re working with a credit card issuer that will report your information to each of the bureaus.
How often do credit reports and scores get updated?
The next logical question is, when your credit card issuer sends the information to a credit bureau, when does it appear on your credit report?
Generally, you can count on your information to be added to your credit report as soon as the bureau receives it. According to TransUnion, “when the credit bureaus receive information regarding your accounts, they typically add it to your credit report right away.”
Your credit scores are calculated based on the data in your report every time a creditor requests them. However, you probably shouldn’t expect any dramatic changes every time your credit issuer reports your most recent payment. Building credit can be a lengthy process that requires patience, but if you pay on time every time, you’ll see the results.
“Credit scores update when the information used to calculate them changes enough to produce a different result,” Brian Martucci, credit expert at Money Crashers, explains. “In other words, your credit score isn’t guaranteed to change with every timely payment.”
That might not be the case with late payments. Whenever a delinquency appears on your credit file, it can significantly hurt your credit. The longer the debt goes unpaid, the more damage it can do to your scores.
Why timing is important
Imagine a scenario: You’ve made a large purchase on your credit card but have been able to pay it off right before the due date. However, when you check your credit, you see that the issuer has reported the high balance you had had before you made the payment. As a result, your credit score has shed quite a few points.
This is why understanding when the information on your credit card usage shows up on your credit report is important.
The reason your score has dropped in the suggested scenario is a high credit utilization ratio – the balance you carry on your credit card compared with that card’s credit limit. This ratio is expressed in a percentage and considered the second most influential factor in credit scoring after payment history.
It’s generally recommended to utilize less than 30% of your credit to avoid damage to your scores. Ideally, you want to keep the ratio in the single digits.
Reported drastic changes in credit utilization can affect your credit score immediately – and significantly. For example, if you haven’t been carrying a lot of credit card debt and then maxed out a credit card, your scores could take a hit. On the other hand, if your credit issuer has reported that you paid down a large part of your debt, you may see immediate positive results.
Fluctuations in your credit score can also be crucial when you’re shopping for a loan, such as a mortgage or car loan. If your credit score is close to a FICO score threshold, even a small negative change can push you into a higher credit risk profile, which could increase your interest rates or even hurt your approval chances.
“Credit score plays a big role in what you can be offered,” says Andrew Roderick, CEO at Credit Repair Companies. “Of course, companies will look deep into your finances, however, the credit score will show your history and how you like to spend.”
Keep an eye on your credit utilization to make sure that whenever your credit card issuer reports to the credit bureaus, your credit usage won’t affect your scores negatively. If you can’t pay off the balance right away, try and make a few smaller payments throughout the month to keep the ratio as low as you can at any given moment.
Your credit card issuer may report your credit card activity to the credit bureaus at the end of the billing cycle – or on a different date entirely. It may report to every bureau at the same time or have a different schedule for each of them.
It may be frustrating not to have a definitive answer to when your credit card company reports to the bureaus. However, making sure your balance remains as low as possible and making every payment on time can help your credit regardless of your issuer’s reporting schedule.