I paid off my credit cards and my score hasn't changed.  Which give?
I paid off my credit cards and my score hasn’t changed.  Which give?
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Credit score updates don’t always happen immediately.

Key points

  • Paying off some debt could boost your credit score, but updates don’t always happen immediately.
  • If it’s been over two months, you might want to check your credit report to make sure everything is recorded correctly.

As someone who usually maintains a pretty decent credit score, I was surprised to see my score drop almost 20 points at some point last year. The reason? I had accumulated a huge balance on one of my credit cards, partly because of an unexpected home repair and partly because I had to pay a few other larger than usual expenses at the same time.

I managed to pay that credit card bill in full by its due date, so I did not incur any interest on those charges. Fortunately, I had enough money in my savings account to make this possible. But because my credit utilization ratio temporarily increased, my credit rating took a hit.

I figured that just as my score had seemingly dropped overnight, it would also go up once that bill was paid. But that didn’t happen. In fact, it took a few months for my credit rating to return to its previous level.

If you’ve recently paid off some of your credit card debt, you may be expecting immediate results from a credit score perspective. But unfortunately that may not happen, as I have learned from my own experience.

Why the heist?

In an ideal world, paying off a credit card balance would immediately reflect on your credit report. In reality, it may take a few months for your credit score to adjust after paying off or reducing a balance. So if you clear a balance and don’t see an immediate improvement in your credit score, don’t panic.

It takes time for credit card companies to report your new balance to the credit bureaus that compiled your credit report. And it’s only once your credit report is updated with this positive activity that you can expect your credit score to go up.

But it may take a few billing cycles, even if you think it would happen right away. So there’s probably no need to take action if you pay off your credit card debt but don’t see a change in your credit score in the same week or even month.

That said, if it’s been more than two months since you paid off your credit cards and your credit score hasn’t budged, it’s worth digging a little. First, you’ll want to access your credit report and see what balance is reported there. It could be that for some reason the correct information was not reported to the credit bureaus.

From there, you may need to provide documentation proving that your credit cards have been paid off. But it should be fairly easy to do – either with a paper statement (if you get them in the mail) or by finding the information in your online account.

Avoid a credit score hit

Building up a large balance on your credit card, even temporarily, could cause your credit score to drop. As a general rule, it’s best to keep your credit utilization ratio at 30% or lower if possible.

If you exceed this threshold, your credit score may drop, but once you pay off your balance, your score should improve. It may take a little longer than you would like to see your paid balance reflected in this score.

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