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.
While monitoring your credit, you may have realized that lowering your credit card balance typically won’t affect your credit right away, and neither will any growing balances on your credit cards. Not seeing a score change shortly after paying down your credit card balance can be frustrating if you’re trying to improve your credit, or it can be a relief if your balance is high enough to affect your credit score.
The reason that payments or increases to your credit card balance don’t affect your credit score right away is because credit card companies typically only report to credit bureaus at certain points during the month. As such, it can be helpful to understand when credit card balances are reported and when credit reports get updated. If you’re wondering when credit card companies report to credit bureaus and how the timing can impact your credit score, we have the answers to your questions below.
When do credit card issuers report to credit bureaus?
So when do credit card issuers report data to credit bureaus? Well, it depends. There isn’t a specific day of the month when every card issuer reports cardholders’ data to the credit bureaus. However, Experian says that card issuers commonly report a cardholder’s data at the end of each billing cycle.
In actuality, every lender reports to the bureaus following its own schedule, according to Experian, and it typically happens every 30 to 45 days. Further complicating matters is the fact that it’s rare for creditors to send out the reports to all three bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — on the same day. That means the credit card usage information on your credit reports can differ, which is one reason why your three credit scores don’t match.
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’s important to note, though, that late payments only get reported once you’re at least 30 days past your due date. This means your late payment won’t show up on your credit report unless it has reached a 30-day mark. If it has, you can expect it to appear on your credit report within a month or two.
Another thing to keep in mind is that not all creditors report to the bureaus, as issuers are not required to do so by law. For example, some smaller lenders might not report to all three bureaus — or they might not report to any 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?
So, when your credit card issuer sends the information to a credit bureau, when does it appear on your credit report? You can generally expect that information to be added to your credit report as soon as the bureau receives it. According to TransUnion, “When information is received by the credit reporting agencies from your lenders, it’s typically added to your credit reports immediately.”
But while your credit scores are calculated based on the data in your report every time a creditor requests them, you probably shouldn’t expect dramatic changes to occur every time your credit issuer reports your most recent payment. Building credit can be a lengthy process, and it requires patience. But if you pay on time every time, you’ll see the results over the long term.
Late payments, on the other hand, are a different story. Whenever a delinquent payment appears on your credit file, it can immediately and significantly hurt your credit. The longer the debt goes unpaid, the more damage it can do to your scores.
Why timing is important
The timing of when you make your payments is important in terms of reporting. Let’s say you make a large purchase on your credit card that nearly hit your credit limit but pay it off right before the payment due date. However, when you check your credit you see that the issuer reported the high balance on your card account, prior to making the payment, because your issuer reported your current balance on your statement date (the day your billing cycle ends). In turn, your credit score goes down.
The reason your score dropped in this hypothetical scenario is due to high credit utilization ratio, which is the balance you carry on your credit card compared to the 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 percent of your credit to avoid damage to your credit scores. Ideally, you want to keep the ratio in the single digits.
Another scenario is if you make the same large purchase, but instead of letting that high outstanding balance roll over to your statement, so that it becomes your statement balance, you pay most of your current balance off before the statement date. That way, when your credit card issuer reports your data at the end of the billing cycle, they’d only report the unpaid balance you have leftover, after the payment. In this situation, your credit utilization would be relatively low. In turn, your credit score likely wouldn’t go down because of your big purchase.
As you can see, the timing of your payments and the timing of when credit card companies report balances to the bureaus can hugely affect your credit utilization ratio. Keep in mind that drastic changes in credit utilization can affect your credit score immediately — and significantly. For instance, if you haven’t been carrying a lot of credit card debt and then suddenly 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.
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.
Credit card companies all handle reporting to credit bureaus differently. 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. And, it may report to every bureau at the same time or have a different schedule for reporting to each of them.
It can be frustrating not to have a definitive answer as to when your credit card company reports to the bureaus, especially if you’re trying to increase your credit score and keep your credit utilization low. 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.