If you're in the habit of monitoring your credit score often or you signed up for credit score alerts, then you've seen how your credit score changes over time. While you're excited about an increase in your credit score, you'd be equally alarmed about a drop.
The credit score calculation is very complex and it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for a credit score drop. Since your credit score is based on information in your credit report, an unexpected decrease in your score can typically be traced to a change to the information in your credit report. And, it doesn't have to be a big change for your credit score to fall. Here are a few possible reasons your credit score could drop.
Your Payment Was More Than 30 Days Late
Payment history has the most significant impact on your credit score. Credit card and loan payments more than 30 days past due are reported to the credit bureaus and are reflected in your credit score. Once the late payment hits your credit report, your credit score will most likely drop.
You Made an Expensive Purchase
Another important factor in your credit score is the amount of available credit you're using, or your credit utilization ratio. It comes as a surprise to many people but, if you make a big purchase on your credit card one month, you could see a credit score drop even if you pay the balance in full on your due date.
This happens because credit card issuers typically report the credit card balance as of the last day of the billing cycle. The balance on your credit card statement is often the balance that appears on your credit report.
It's relatively easy to correct the impact of a high balance. Simply pay down the balance promptly, avoid making other credit card purchases, and wait for the updated balance to show on your credit report. This will help you recover the lost credit score points.
Your Unpaid Account Was Sent to Collection
To protect your credit score, it's important for you to pay all of your accounts, not just your credit cards and loans. If you fall behind on the payments on your non-credit accounts (such as your monthly phone bill), the defaulted balance could be sent to a collection agency and included on your credit report. Once a collection shows up on your credit report, it will almost certainly cause a drop in your credit score.
Your Last Collection Dropped Off Your Credit Report
When calculating credit scores, credit scoring models place people in different buckets, known as scorecards. Your credit profile is compared to other people in your scorecard to come up with your credit score. While you may have been at the top of one scorecard with the collection on your credit report, you may fall to the bottom of a different scorecard if any negative information falls off your credit report.
This type of credit score drop is outside of your control. Fortunately, as long as you keep paying your bills on time and keep your debt low, your credit score will improve.
You Made a New Application for Credit
Any time you put in a new application for credit, an inquiry is added to your credit report. Because inquiries make up 10 percent of your credit score, applying for new credit can affect your credit score.
Though inquiries stay on your credit report for two years, they're only factored into your credit score for one year. After just a single inquiry, your credit score should steadily increase and recover in 12 months, provided you make no other credit mistakes.
One of Your Credit Limits Was Lowered
A lower credit limit has the same impact as charging an expensive item. If you have a balance on a credit card with a low credit limit, your credit utilization goes up, and your credit score goes down. You may not have control over whether your credit card issuer reduces your credit limit, but if this happens, paying down your balance can improve your credit utilization and your credit score.
You Closed a Credit Card, or One Was Canceled
Closing a credit card can hurt your credit score, especially if the card has a balance or more available credit than your other credit cards. Credit card issuers can also cancel your credit card, which will impact your credit—not necessarily because it was the creditor who closed the account, but because the account was closed at all.
Closing your only credit card or your oldest credit card can also impact your credit score.
Your Bankruptcy Fell off Your Credit Report
When bankruptcy falls off your credit report after seven years (ten years for Chapter 7 bankruptcy), you'll likely move to a new credit scorecard, similar to what happens when a collection drops off your credit score. You could see a drop in your credit score because now your credit performance is being compared to other people who haven't filed bankruptcy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does my credit score go down when I check it?
Checking your own credit score or credit report is a "soft" inquiry. It has no effect on your credit report or score, unlike when a potential lender checks because you've applied for credit.
How many points does my credit score go down for a hard inquiry?
The impact of a hard inquiry on a credit score isn't the same for everyone. It can vary based on individual factors, but it shouldn't be more than five points.