Imagine you’re about to apply for your first mortgage. You’ve worked hard to improve your credit — but updates to your credit profile seem to happen on a mysterious timeline. It can take weeks or even months for a change to appear. Other times, new activity registers almost immediately.
So, just how long should it take for an update to appear on your credit report? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer.
The timing varies because credit reports aren’t updated in real time. Rather, the reports provide a snapshot of your credit at a given moment — and what’s included in that snapshot depends on the reporting timelines of the lenders and the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian), all of which can vary considerably. Since different creditors, including credit card companies and loan providers, follow different reporting timelines, it’s difficult to predict exactly when an update will appear.
What’s more, when updates are slow to surface — say, when that mortgage application you filed in October finally posts as a credit inquiry in December — you may wrongly interpret them as fraudulent activity.
Understanding the credit reporting process can help you better manage your own score and eliminate confusion. So, let’s take a look at how information travels from credit lenders to the credit bureaus and, finally, to your credit profile.
How often do credit issuers report to the bureaus?
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, businesses are not required by law to report your loan activity to the credit bureaus. Small businesses, for example, may not meet the reporting requirements set forth by TransUnion and the other bureaus.
But the vast majority of your accounts probably do file reports with the bureaus. Since lenders rely on consumers’ credit scores, it’s in their best interest to make sure the credit reporting system is as accurate as possible.
Most lenders report to the credit bureaus once per month, though that can vary. Some businesses report more frequently, while others report every 45 days. There are costs associated with this process, so some lenders may make financially motivated decisions about how often to report — daily, weekly, or monthly — and whether to report to one credit bureau or to all three. The process of shipping and processing all of this information can also differ, which helps explain why some updates appear on your credit report more quickly than others.
It can be helpful to know when your lenders report to the bureaus so you can pay down your accounts in a strategic manner. This can help your credit score because your credit report will show a lower credit utilization. While timelines vary, lenders’ reports often coincide with the closing date on your statement. Try checking with your individual creditor to confirm.
How often do the credit bureaus update your report?
According to TransUnion, when the bureaus receive information about your accounts, they usually report it right away. Experian confirms that a consumer’s credit report can change daily, or even multiple times a day.
These frequent updates don’t always translate to dips and waves in your score. If you’re usually punctual about paying your bills, another on-time payment might not have a significant impact. A sudden missed mortgage payment, on the other hand, could do serious damage to your score.
Once the credit bureaus roll out updates, the information is sent to credit monitoring services, like the one we offer to our members. If you’ve opted in for credit alerts, we’ll then alert you about changes to your report.
Keep in mind that the credit issuer’s name might appear differently on your alerts. For example, Best Buy may appear as “BBY,” while Chase appears as “JPMCB Card Services.” Terminology can vary across agencies, too — that’s why one of our credit alerts might say “delinquent,” while another might say “derogatory.”
It’s worth noting that some transactions generate multiple credit alerts.
If you’re a PrivacyArmor member and you apply for a new credit card, you may receive two alerts: one when the lender is looking at your profile to determine your credit worthiness, and a second when your account is officially open. This is expected, and not a reason for concern. But if you receive an alert and it seems unfamiliar, log in to the portal for more information or reach out to one of our Privacy Advocates for help.
How long does it take for something not-so-great to roll off your report?
Now that you know a bit about how and when information appears on your credit report, you may be wondering how long some information remains there — especially the not-so-great stuff, such as a missed payment or a tax lien.
Most negative information will remain on your credit report for up to seven years, including the following:
- Late payments
- Collection accounts
- Student loan defaults
Some information takes longer to roll off your report. Bankruptcies, for example, can remain on your report for up to ten years from the date you file. If your state has a debt statute of limitations that’s longer than seven years, lawsuits or judgements may remain on your report for even longer.
Is there any way to speed things up?
The best way to improve your credit score is to practice healthy financial behaviors over time. If you’re paying your bills on time, keeping credit card balances low, and routinely monitoring your score, you’re on the right track!
If you’re trying to turn around a poor credit score, though, some actions can have a greater impact than others.
Reducing your credit utilization rate — that’s your balance-to-limit ratio — is a solid place to start. Experts generally recommend a credit utilization rate of 30 percent or less. If you’re able to drastically reduce any high credit card balances, you may see a spike in your score.
If you’re a PrivacyArmor member, you can arm yourself against identity theft by logging into the portal to keep an eye on your TransUnion credit score and enable features like dark web monitoring. If we find your information up for grabs, we’ll notify you right away — because knowledge is power, and every second counts when it comes to stopping identity thieves.