by John Ulzheimer, Credit Expert for CreditSesame.com
A reader writes in looking for a clear answer on how often his credit score changes and how often he should check this all important three-digit number. John Ulzheimer, credit expert for Credit Sesame, answers.
"John, I've been working very hard at improving my credit scores. I've made all of my payments on time for years and I've paid off almost $10,000 of credit card debt. Unless I'm grossly mistaken, I believe my credit scores have improved because I addressed those two items that caused me to have lower scores in the first place. When do you think I should check my scores? Are they updated once a month? Or are they constantly changing as my credit reports are changing?"
First off, congratulations on all of your hard work to improve your credit reports. There's no doubt your hard work has paid off in a variety of ways, including a higher credit score. The answer to your question regarding how often your credit score changes is going to be hard to believe. Your credit score never changes, not in the way your question suggests.
Your credit scores are not a permanent part of your credit reports. They do not change daily, monthly or annually like the accounts that are a part of your credit reports. Credit scores are a product that is often sold alongside your credit report to any entity that requests it.
When you apply for credit, insurance or anything else that generally results in a credit report being delivered, your credit score is calculated, delivered along with the credit report and then discarded. The next time you apply for credit the lender will re-pull a new credit report and a new score will be calculated at that time. The difference between the two numbers is often mistaken as the number of points your score changed over the period of time between the two credit reports being pulled.
If your credit score was 700 a month ago and 750 today it doesn't mean that it improved 50 points over that period of time. It just means that 30 days ago your credit report scored out at 700 and today it scored out at 750, and nothing more. Still, as with your scenario, you would expect the more recent scores to be higher than the older scores given that you're cleaning up the information on your credit reports.
If I were you I wouldn't focus so much on the changing of the scores as much as I would focus on the changing of the credit reports. Credit reports change multiple times every month, depending on how many of your lenders update their accounts. What that means is every 30 days your credit reports will go through a full cycle of updates and will look different than they did the prior month.
If you want to see what your scores look like today versus what they looked like last month that would make the most sense. Plus, with your Credit Sesame account you're able to see your score for free every 30 days so the calendar lines up with the best practices. Looking at your scores more often would be akin to watching grass grow.
This post originally appeared on CreditSesame.com. John Ulzheimer is a nationally recognized expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. He is twice Fair Credit Reporting Act certified by the credit industry's trade association and has been an expert witness in over 140 credit related cases to date. Since 2004 John has been interviewed and published over 3,000 times on the topics of personal finance and consumer credit. Formerly of Equifax and FICO, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.