Your credit score is among your most important financial yardsticks. A good credit score can mean the difference between loan approval or denial, and borrowers with the best credit scores get the best interest rates. A strong credit profile can even help you qualify for an apartment or land a job.
“Checking your credit report and credit scores regularly is one of the best ways to protect your financial health,” says Rod Griffin, senior director of consumer education and advocacy at Experian.
Every purchase and on-time – or late – payment on your credit card will likely be reported to at least one of the three major credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. After these agencies receive the information, they will use it to update your credit score.
But when exactly does your credit card issuer report your account activity to the credit bureaus? Here are more details about credit reporting.
When Are Credit Card Payments Reported to Credit Bureaus?
The precise timing of when credit card payments are reported to credit bureaus varies by issuer, says Aparna Shah, senior vice president and general manager of Equifax’s direct-to-consumer business.
Still, issuers that report to one of the national credit bureaus must follow specific guidelines, Shah says. Typically, this includes reporting monthly, usually on the billing cycle date.
“For credit card issuers, this is usually the day that they issue charges for the most recent billing cycle,” says Shah, adding that it is also known as your statement date.
Most issuers spread their statement dates throughout the month to avoid having to issue every customer’s statement on the same day, according to Equifax.
Generally, you can expect credit card activity to be reported to the credit bureaus every 30 to 45 days, Griffin says. The end of the billing cycle typically will determine when these updates occur.
“Many people think credit report updates happen at the end of the month, but this isn’t always the case,” Griffin says.
Updates can occur at the beginning, middle or end of the month, he says. Also, companies don’t have to report your account activity, Griffin says, or they may not report it to all three credit bureaus.
If you are curious about when your payment information is reported, ask your creditor, Equifax suggests. You can also sign up for credit-monitoring services that will alert you when activity is reported.
When Will a New Card Show Up on Your Credit Report?
No hard-and-fast rules apply to when a newly issued card will show up on your credit report, Griffin says. Usually, you can expect to see the card appear 30 to 60 days after you open the account.
“The exact time frame can vary by lender, your card’s billing cycle and when the account is reported to each of the three bureaus,” Griffin says.
If you are eager to see your new card on your credit report, contact the issuer and ask when the card’s billing cycle ends and when the account will be reported to the bureaus. Reach out to your issuer again if your new credit card still hasn’t appeared on your credit report after a long period.
A number of problems can prevent the card from appearing on your credit report. Perhaps the card has not been properly associated with your name or Social Security number, or maybe another glitch has occurred. Also, remember that the issuer is not obligated to report your account activity to the credit bureaus.
How Often Are Your Credit Score and Credit Report Updated?
At a minimum, expect your credit report to be updated once monthly, Griffin says. “If you have multiple accounts, it’s possible that updates to your credit report could occur throughout the month,” he says.
When the national credit-reporting agencies receive new information, Shah says, they generally update accounts promptly.
Thinking of credit scores as being “updated” is a mistake, Griffin says. “They don’t reside on a report and tick up or down like (a speedometer) on a car,” he says.
Your credit score reflects the information in your credit report at the moment the credit report is compiled, Griffin says.
Adds Shah: “Credit scores are typically calculated based on the information in a consumer’s credit file at the time of calculation, meaning a consumer’s credit score can change fairly often.”
Overall, knowing when your credit report and credit score might change is important. Lenders use your credit score to predict how likely you are to pay back a loan on time. That means your score plays a large role in whether you are approved for a mortgage, a credit card or an auto loan, and it determines the rate you will pay.
How Timing Can Affect Credit Utilization
If you will be applying for a loan or credit card, you may want to pay off your credit card balance to help your credit utilization ratio. Plan to pay the debt entirely and then put away the card for a bit.
For your credit report to show a $0 balance, “You must pay off any existing balance and then not make any charges for a full billing cycle,” Experian says on its website.
Avoid charges in the weeks before you apply for credit or your zero balance won’t show up on your credit report when you need it. Also, check your credit report to prevent surprises.
“I encourage consumers to get a copy of their credit report a minimum of three months before a large purchase or before they plan to apply for credit,” Griffin says.