Prime Fico

Credit score FAQs

Improving your credit score goes beyond borrowing and repaying money; it involves understanding how credit works and what affects your score. This credit score FAQs section aims to help you navigate credit scoring complexities, from managing credit use to understanding financial impacts, by providing clear answers to common questions.

Where can I check my credit score?

For a comprehensive view of your credit, provides free annual credit reports from the three major bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Additionally, services like Credit Karma offer free access to your credit scores and reports. You can also request your credit scores directly from the credit bureaus’ websites, though there may be a fee involved.

What impacts my credit score most?

Payment history is the most important factor that affects your credit score. Late or missed payments can significantly lower your score. Other factors that impact your credit score include credit utilization, length of credit history, credit mix, and new credit inquiries.

What happens to my credit score if I make a late payment?

Making a late payment can significantly affect your credit score, especially if you have a high score to begin with. Credit bureaus are typically notified about late payments once they’re 30 days past due. For someone with a high credit score, a single 30-day late payment could lead to a drop of up to 100 points or more. While the impact may be less severe for those with lower scores, it’s still harmful to your credit health.

Does the kind of credit account matter for score increases with on-time payments?

No, the type of credit account (like mortgage vs. credit card) doesn’t directly affect score increases from on-time payments. However, a diverse mix of credit types and consistent on-time payments can improve your score over time.

How does increasing my credit limit but not using it affect my credit score?

Raising your credit limit without upping your spending can improve your credit score. This is because it lowers your credit utilization ratio, showing lenders you’re using your credit wisely.

How much can a hard inquiry lower my credit score?

A hard inquiry might lower your credit score by a few points, typically around 5-10 points. The impact can vary based on your overall credit health; if you have a strong credit history, the effect might be less.

Can consolidating my credit card debts into one loan improve my credit score?

Debt consolidation can improve your score by lowering your credit utilization ratio on revolving accounts. However, it’s important to not add more debt and to keep making timely payments on the new loan.

How do different credit score models (like FICO and VantageScore) weigh late payments?

Both FICO and VantageScore consider late payments negatively, but the impact can vary between models. FICO scores tend to weigh the history of timely payments slightly more heavily than VantageScore, which considers a broader mix of factors.

If I pay off a collection account, how soon will it reflect positively on my credit score?

Paying off a collection account can positively impact your credit score within a month or two, depending on when the creditor updates your information with the credit bureaus. However, the record of the account being in collections may remain on your report for up to seven years, but its impact lessens over time.

Does being an authorized user on a credit card with a high utilization rate affect my score the same way as if it were my own account?

Yes, being an authorized user on an account affects your credit score similarly to if it were your own account. High utilization on that account can negatively impact your score, just as it would if you were the primary account holder.

How does closing a credit card account with zero balance affect my score compared to one with a balance?

Closing a credit card account can affect your credit utilization ratio, potentially lowering your score whether it has a zero balance or not. The impact might be more significant if you close an account with a balance, as this could signal that you’re using a higher percentage of your available credit.

Can disputing inaccuracies on my credit report cause my score to drop temporarily?

Disputing inaccuracies on your credit report shouldn’t cause your score to drop. Once inaccuracies are corrected, it might actually improve your score, especially if negative items are removed.

How long does it take for a significant improvement in my credit utilization ratio to reflect in my credit score?

Improvements in your credit utilization ratio can reflect on your credit score within a month or two, depending on when your creditors report your balance and payment information to the credit bureaus.

Does the age of my credit history reset if I move to a different country and establish credit there?

Yes, when you move to a different country and establish new credit, you essentially start from scratch because most countries have their own credit systems. Your credit history from one country doesn’t transfer to another.

If I have multiple credit cards from the same issuer, does that impact my score differently than having cards from various issuers?

Having multiple cards from the same issuer doesn’t impact your score any differently than having cards from various issuers. What matters is how you manage those accounts, like keeping your utilization low and making payments on time.

How does a settled debt impact my credit score compared to a fully paid debt?

Settling a debt for less than you owe can negatively impact your credit score because it shows you did not pay the account as agreed. Paying a debt in full is viewed more favorably and can have a positive impact on your credit score.

Can frequently checking my credit score through a credit monitoring service cause it to change?

No, checking your own credit score is considered a soft inquiry and does not affect your score. Credit monitoring services use soft inquiries to provide you with updates on your credit score.

If I split my monthly credit card payment into two payments per month, does that have a different impact on my score than making one full payment?

Splitting your payment into two payments per month doesn’t directly impact your credit score differently than making one full payment. However, it can help keep your balance lower throughout the month, potentially reducing your credit utilization ratio, which is good for your score.

Does the size of a loan (e.g., a $500 personal loan vs. a $5,000 one) affect how much it can impact my credit score?

The size of the loan itself doesn’t directly impact your credit score. However, managing a larger loan responsibly can positively impact your score by adding to your credit mix and history of on-time payments.

How does a lease (like an auto lease) impact my credit score compared to a traditional loan?

An auto lease can impact your credit score similarly to a traditional loan. Making lease payments on time can positively affect your score, while late payments can have a negative impact.

If I use a credit counseling service, does that affect my credit score the same way as entering a debt settlement plan?

Using a credit counseling service does not directly affect your credit score. However, entering into a debt settlement plan through the service can have a negative impact because it may involve paying less than the owed amount on your debts.

I paid off my student loan. Why did my score drop?

Paying off your student loan can slightly lower your credit score at first because it changes the mix of credit you have and the average age of your accounts. However, this drop is usually temporary, and paying off a loan is good for your overall financial health.