Why Your Credit Score Might Drop Unexpectedly

Why Your Credit Score Might Drop Unexpectedly

Why Your Credit Score Might Drop Unexpectedly

When you’re monitoring your credit scores over a longer period of time, you’re likely to run into a puzzling situation. Nothing much changed in how you handle your accounts, but your credit score changed for no reason. If this happens while you’re in the process of applying for credit cards, small business loans or other credit products, a credit score drop can be downright scary. 

Here’s why and how credit scores can drop, and what you may be able to do about it. 

Reasons Why Your Credit Score Can Drop

Credit scores are calculated when someone requests them — a lender, for example, or when you check your own scores. FICO and VantageScore are the two major companies that create the formulas used to calculate credit scores. These credit scores analyze information in your credit report from one of the major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, or Transunion. 

The information in your credit reports can change frequently, as lenders report new information about your accounts. When you see a change in your credit scores, it’s likely directly related to one of the five main factors that impact credit scores: 

Debt

Balances on revolving accounts like credit cards are often a key factor that affects credit scores. Most credit scoring models will compare the balance on each credit card to the available credit (or credit limit) on that card. High balances in comparison to credit limits can affect credit scores, and are a common reason for credit scores to fluctuate. This is known as “credit utilization” or “credit usage ratio.”

This factor can affect your credit scores even if you pay your credit cards off in full each month. That’s because most issuers report credit card balances shortly after the billing cycle on your account closes. (Your credit card statement lists the closing date of the billing cycle if you are unfamiliar with it.) That reporting date is often much earlier than the payment due date, and so it’s not uncommon for the balance reported to be different than the balance after you’ve made your monthly payment. 

Late payments

Payment history is an important factor that impacts credit scores. Late payments (also called “delinquencies”) that appear on your credit reports can cause your credit scores to drop significantly. Other negative items like collection accounts, charge offs or bankruptcy will also have a major impact on your scores. 

Credit age

A longer credit history is better. When evaluating the length of your credit history, FICO scores and VantageScores consider when your first account was opened, when the most recent account was opened and the average age of all accounts. Some scoring models will include closed credit card accounts when calculating credit age, but some may not. That means closing an account you’ve held for a long time could potentially impact this factor. 

Credit mix

A mix of different types of credit accounts, including both revolving accounts like credit cards, and installment accounts such as mortgages or car loans. Closing or paying off certain accounts may sometimes affect this factor, even if those closed accounts still appear on your credit reports.

Inquiries 

If you apply for credit, an inquiry will be listed on the credit report from the company the lender used for the credit check. Most inquiries have a minimal impact on credit scores (in the range of 3— 7 points), some inquiries (“soft inquiries”) don’t impact credit scores at all, and some hard inquiries (such as auto loans, mortgages or student loans) may be grouped so that similar inquiries in a short period of time count as one. 

What To Do About A Credit Score Drop

If you’re working on building and maintaining good credit scores, seeing that number drop is frustrating. The first thing to do is to take a deep breath. Fluctuations in your credit scores of 10 or even 20 points are not uncommon. 

That said, you always want to review a credit report from the company supplying the credit score to see if you can identify what’s changed. (If the credit score was calculated based on Transunion credit data, for example, then review your Transunion credit report. Each of the three major credit bureaus may have different information.) 

If nothing major happened recently— you weren’t late, or you didn’t close an account, for example— then it may be a normal fluctuation that will adjust in the next month or two. Sometimes it’s easiest just to continue to monitor your credit while paying your debt on time and keeping balances low. 

If you find information that doesn’t belong to you, it’s possible you’ve been a victim of identity theft. You should immediately look into reporting ID theft and consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit reports. 

Ways To Improve Your Credit Score

The steps you need to take to improve your credit scores will depend on what’s bringing down your scores. Each person’s situation will be different. 

When you’re trying to improve your credit scores, a great place to start is by getting your credit reports from each of the major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Transunion, and by getting a credit score for each. (Federal law requires free credit reports but not free credit scores. If you’re not already using a credit monitoring service, there are 138+ places where you can get your credit scores for free.) 

Then review the top factors influencing your credit scores to help understand what may be bringing down your scores, and then look into ways to address them:

Debt

If your debt utilization ratio is hurting your scores, the easiest solution is to pay down credit card balances. Another option is to request a credit line increase. If you’ve made large purchases and plan to pay the balance off in full, you may want to consider making your payment earlier, before your balance will be reported to the credit bureaus. Some consumers have found it helpful to refinance credit card debt with personal loans, which don’t contribute to debt utilization in the same way. 

Late payments

Fortunately, late payments don’t typically appear on consumer credit reports unless you are more than 30 days late with a payment. Pay your credit card a few days late, for example, and you’ll probably be charged interest and a late fee, but it won’t likely be reported as late unless you don’t pay before the end of the billing cycle. 

If there is accurate but negative information on your credit reports, such as missed payments, you may just have to wait it out. This type of information tends to have the greatest impact in the first 24 months. As it becomes older, it carries less weight, and building new credit references that you pay on time, all the time, can help.

Inquiries

A single credit inquiry shouldn’t cause your credit scores to drop dramatically. The impact is typically 3—7 points, and it usually evens out in a couple of months as long as there aren’t a lot of new hard inquiries posted. 

Be smart about applying for new credit. It’s fine to apply for a new credit card if it’s a good deal. But limit new credit applications to credit cards and loans you really want to avoid unnecessary inquiries.

Credit mix

If you identify this factor as a problem, you can consider rounding out your credit score in a couple of ways:

  • Get a credit card if you don’t already have an open, active credit card on your credit reports. If you can’t qualify for one, you may want to consider a secured card. 
  • Get a credit builder loan to add an installment loan to your credit reports if you don’t already have one. These accounts let you borrow a savings account, pay it off, and build credit as those payments are reported to the credit bureaus. 

Credit age

Here you may be able to “backdate” your credit history by getting added to a relative or close friend’s credit card as an authorized user. Their entire account history will typically appear on your credit reports. Keep in mind that if their credit utilization rate is high, or if they miss payments, your credit will suffer. 

This article was originally written on June 14, 2018 and updated on June 3, 2022.

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63 responses to “Why Your Credit Score Might Drop Unexpectedly

  1. Literally was just about to comment exactly what Pete said. I googled why my credit score can drop 20 points for no reason. NO REASON. If there is a reason, there is not one any one can tell me. As a matter of fact one would think after months of using credit cards and paying off credit cards and following all the general rules (under 5% utilization if at all), on time payments for years. No credit applications, inquiries, etc. etc. etc. that your credit score would go up, not down. My credit score is good, but in the last several years with nothing but on time payments and smart credit usage (i.e. using my credit cards but paying them off), my score is 20 points less than it was 2 years ago. It has randomly fluctuated down 10, up 1, up 12, down 20, up 18, down 12 and on and on and on. Is there anyone who you can call and they can explain to YOU why YOUR credit is fluctuating? The answer is no. Not the companies that give you the credit scores, not the bank, not the internet, nobody. I have tried and tried and received nothing but generic answers. How is it not a scam? Somebody, somewhere knows. It’s a SYSTEM. One that the entire country uses, and no one can tell you how your own personal stake in it works??? They don’t want you to know. Otherwise why would it be so difficult to get accurate information about why your credit is doing what it is doing. Normal fluctuations… wth is that? For reasons no one can know? What is the point of that?

  2. One star because everyone who blogs thinking they know including yourself just regurgitates the same thing, no one actually knows why the scores mysteriously go up and down 10-20 from cycle to cycle. While the reasons you pointed out are not wrong they have been over documented online and basically everywhere. So many cases where a person didn’t have any new inquiries during the last period the financial position hasn’t changed other than lower debt as a result making monthly payments not having closed any old accounts, didn’t open new accounts, credit mix remains the same yet from cycle to cycle the score will go up or go down lacking any pattern, credit score is part scam for example person will likely be penalized and see their score drop if they’ve recently paid off their mortgage as if that’s not illogical! A system for the financial industry to justify charging higher rates on the low and middle class. The less you borrow the less credit you have the worse your score. You could be a millionaire but if you don’t have a mortgage and no revolving credit your score will likely be lower than someone whose drowning in secured debt that has not missed any payments. all one can do is laugh at the non sense

  3. I want to buy a house and get the best rate. I’ve been paying everything on time and I have drastically lowered my credit card debt in the last few months. I’m seeing my balances decreasing and my available credit rising but my score is steadily going down. My credit utilization is about 22% now and my score dropped. Please explain?

    1. Unfortunately, it’s really impossible to say IsaBella without seeing what’s on your credit reports and what changed. If you are trying to get a mortgage, then I’d recommend you make sure you are checking the same FICO scores that are usually used in mortgage decisions. They may be different than the ones you are checking.

  4. What about when your credit goes down and your actual utilization hasn’t changed in terms of you have 5 cards you decrease 4 of them and increase the other but your total increase is only a fraction of decrease. In so many words I paid a total of $2000 on 4 cards and had a $200 increase on the other outside nothing is different no apps, no new accounts

  5. This does NOT say what to do if your score dropped 51 points!!!) and the ONLY changes were 4 accounts balancs decreased

  6. my credit score drops 12 -15 points every month when i pay off my credit cards for that month then in a couple days it goes up again my score is usually 810 why is this happening !!!

    1. Mike – Most issuers report balances around the close of the billing cycle (rather than when you make your payment). Have you tried making a payment a week or so before the close of your billing cycle? That may reduce the balance reported to the credit bureaus and affect your utilization in a positive way.

  7. Hi my bankruptcy dropped off and my credit score went up with TransUnion about 63 points and Experian 32 points but for some reason on my Equifax I dropped 30 points is there a common reason for that I’ve been paying my credit card on time for 17 months and there’s only medical bills no new medical bills they’re over five years old maybe somebody can help me

  8. I have recently moved and I changed my address on Experian and today my credit score has dropped by 226 points what the hell do I need to do to raise it . I have kept up repayments on everything for over 36 months now

      1. There banks with the help of the credit score companies are bending us over to pay more interest bottom line stealing.

  9. Yes I had my seventh ave for 9 months now only had a 213 balance but I paid it off

    So now my score went down 39 points dont understand iam trying to buy a house

  10. My Credit score dropped a whopping 91 points for Transunion on Credit Karma. My Equifax stayed at 700 and nor did my Experian change. When I tapped the “see what changed” button it reads, “We found no changes to your Transunion credit report.” This is totally insane. Credit scores affects peoples lives and that’s the only answer we can get. These private companies need to be regulated by the government. I hate to say it, but it’s true.

  11. My credit score was 721 on June 17. On July 6 I got an alert on Experian.com that it shows an increase of 6 points. I got another alert on July 7th that it decreased by 17 points. No one at Experian can tell me why. I didn’t have any new collections, no hard inquiries, or anything that could have impacted my score yet no one can tell me why.

  12. Hi there,
    I use Chase journey credit check..my score was 716 it dropped today to 632 for now reason I have no late payments and it doesn’t say why it dropped? I called service line waited for 1 hour and no service…I have no credit cards only 1 car loan..that’s it

  13. My friend is paying off the last of her debt that caused her a very low credit score. I told her I thought her credit score would continue to climb, after she paid off her debts, even if she had no additional activity. Is that true or does she HAVE to get a secured credit card or other reporting agency to show some positive activity? I assumed no news would be treated as good news, but maybe there had to be some indication she is building trust, not just cleaning up her past?

  14. The key phrase is “for no reason”. The article poses reasons. A disconnect. My wife’s score dropped some 25 points. There is no reason. No hidden-deep-in-the-report reason, no high balances, no breach, no incorrect reporting. No reason.

    I’ll look for answers elsewhere.

  15. Recently my credit Score Dropped 30 points. I receive government loan for my study in each term. Do you think that could be the cause? I don”t see any other reports or alerts in my account.

    Regards,

  16. My 712 point credit score dropped 55 points literally overnight . I checked it on June 5, 2020 and I checked it on June 6,2020 and the only thing different is that it showed a balance drop on a loan I have. I also have paid that loan off almost 3 weeks ago and they still only reported my payment made in April. I have not applied for any new credit and have not raised my overall debt.I actually pay for Experian Credit monitoring for myself and my minor child. I contacted customer service and the lady was extremely rude to me and actually raised her voice at me and basically called me a lair about opening an email (that I never even received). She told me to hire a financial advisor !!!! I finally hung up on her and I will call tomorrow since this is the weekend. I am literally crying because I am so upset about this. I don’t know what to do. Thank you.

  17. My credit score went down 23 points when it just recently went up after I filed my taxes. I kept my credit utilization low up to 5% No inquiries, no loans, paid on time. What seems to be the problem? Please help. Thank you

  18. My credit keeps dropping by massive points over the last 2 months (FOR NO REASON). (First time 40 points now by 16 points) I pay everything one time and keep everything at a minimum. It only raised one or two-point since then, but I am confused and PISSED. It doesn’t show hard inquiries, and it doesn’t look like I have my weird charges on my credit card… Does anyone have any advice?

  19. With no debt no payments for over 5 years both scores have dropped with no explanation no way to challenge the drop starting to think the scores are just another scam work keep everything caught up and boom your credit goes to s*** I’m just going to use cash from now on to hell with this nonsense

  20. I only have one credit card that I began using in January 2020. My monthly payments from January to April were paid on time and in full for each month

    In accordance to TransUnion and Experian, my credit score went down 5 points. I have been making my payments on time for each month. As of March 25, 2020, I had a $0 balance. I owed $63.44 for the month of April. On April 23, 2020, I paid the complete balance of $63.44.

    Why did my credit scores go down 5 points?

  21. My credit score dropped by 95 points over a several day period . No changes. I had an 812 score droop to 720. I am pissed. Never a late payment. Has been the same for last 12 months, then it fell off a cliff. I have one credit card with a minimal balance I pay off monthly and my mortgage that goes down every month.. Nothing has changed. What is up. How can they screw with your life and not be transparent?

  22. Warning! I worked for over 16 months paying off debts and watching my score slowly rise. It was time to buy my first home and I needed help to get my scores a bit higher. I made an appointment with my banker and he made the following suggestions and I went along with his advise. We opened a secured major cc and he instructed me to use the card then pay it off completely each month. I was also approved for a small personal loan and was told to pay it off over a few months and all would raise my score drastically. WRONG! My score dropped 109 points in 1 month for opening an account and charging up to the limit! I paid the balance in full when the first bill came and 12 days before the due date! I’m absolutely deviated and worked my a#* off for NOTHING! I’ve contacted credit karma via email twice and NO REPLY! So mad and worried about my future! My husband of 18 years was killed at work in 2013 and I’ve been trying to repair my credit to purchase a home pretty much since! Good luck because doing the right thing paying off debt and getting advise was all pointless! Scores are worse now than ever! Ready to contact an attorney!!!

    1. Over time it will increase your credit score. If you had no credit and opened a new line of credit and maxed it out immediately and then it registered with the credit bureau, it will reflect badly. You don’t want to utilize more than 30-33% of your total credit line at any time. Once you get it down under 30% your credit score will jump drastically. I’m sorry this was not explained to you properly.

  23. My Experian score, that I monitor using official Experian website (not Credit Karma, etc.) dropped 147 points for absolutely no reason. None. Unless it’s fraud on the part of Experian. I monitor my scores WEEKLY. It went up 8 points in Dec, and one of my accounts improved from Dec to Jan, and other accounts report as exceptional payment history. No collections, no public records, none. And there were no other changes, no dropped cards, no inquiries, none, zip, zada. There is no justification for MY Experian score to slowly go up for months and months and then to drop 147 points which will destroy my credit options for years now. The bureaus have zero oversight and accountability. I don’t have money for a lawyer and should not have to be forced to go that route. This is MY credit, not Experian’s credit. MINE. What say you, Gerri, or Connor, or anyone with insight on how credit bureaus continue to get away with this behavior (e.g., like that one commentor said about Transunion making it more difficult to monitor one’s credit by invalidating a person’s identity because Transunion won’t accept the person’s correct answers). Bureaus have no oversight or accountability.

    1. **Also, I review my reports, not just scores, the ACTUAL reports, so I know EXACTLY what is on them and know of every single change that happens. To be clear, this is NOT an instance of someone who never checks their report and suddenly there’s a change and they’re confused. This is the story of someone who is vigilant about their credit, and so, a 147 point drop is NOT a fluxuation and not normal.

  24. My credit score dropped 90 points within 7 days. CreditKarma stated that my credit card balance increased by $158 but I don’t understand why it would dropped that significantly. I’m lost!!

  25. Gerri Detweiler Has no idea why the credit scores are falling she is just giving the same canned response to everyone. Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are all private companies and they are more than likely lowing scores because of all the bad press about scores being inflated.

  26. My credit score has gone down for NO reason for the past 6 months, from the neighborhood of 787 to 711. No clue what’s going on. Can you help me?

      1. This is all a scam. Right down to the so-called person answering. My score went down 43 points over night for no reason only thing I did was file a dispute with Trans union

    1. I am dealing with the same issue. Keeps randomly dropping for no reason with no changes to my report. I don’t miss payments and keep my utilization low. Have you found I why? I’m trying to determine my next steps and I’m at a loss.

  27. I recently was approved for HELOC and knew it would effect my credit. In one month it went from 802 to 755 is this common or a red flag?

  28. My credit score dropped 91 points on credit karma all of a sudden. I didn’t open any new accounts. Balances are all at $0 on my report and my utilization is at 0%. Nothing dropped off my report and nothing was added on my report. The report even says reason for changes and I click it and it says no new changes to report from 2 weeks ago when it last updated but my score dropped 91 points it makes no sense. If nothing new is showing on my credit report but it drops 91 points what is going on?

    1. Derek,

      A swing that large without any apparent reason is confusing. Are you monitoring your scores from another source (same bureau)? I’d encourage you to check another source. Here’s 150+ Places to Monitor Your Credit For Free. Let’s see if it’s consistent. (Keep in mind that other sources may be showing a different scoring model. Trying to get more at the substantial drop.) I’d also recommend you check in a month as it may bounce back closer to what it is.

  29. I use two sources- Creditwise through Capital One and Credit Scorecard through Discover. A month ago, my score according to Discover was 809 and Creditwise was 775. Today, I logged into both to check again. Discover is now saying my score is 781 and Creditwise is saying 776. Why did it take such a dip though one site but go up by a point on the other? I haven’t opened any new accounts, had any inquiries and I don’t hold a balance on any credit card.

    1. There could be a number of reasons Krista. First, it is not unusual for credit scores to fluctuate as new information is added throughout the month. Frustrating, I know, but VantageScore says a 20 point fluctuation is not unusual.

      As you’ll see in this article the two scores and bureaus you are monitoring are different: 150+ Places to Monitor Your Credit For Free
      Discover shows an Experian FICO 8 while CapitalOne shows a VantageScore 3 based on TransUnion data. Those are two different scoring models from two different bureaus so there could be some slight differences in the data that has been reported and/or the weighting.

      Keep in mind that even if you pay your credit cards in full, your balances are likely reported before your payment is received. So the closing balance on your credit cards could affect debt usage, which can affect your scores.

      I’d recommend you keep watching for a month and see what happens. It’s probably going to level out if there’s nothing major happening with regard to your accounts.

  30. My credit score dropped 70 points because a card was canceled by Capitol One for no activity. Never used it. is there some recourse or remedy to reset my score to the level it was before the cancellation?

  31. MY score dropped 70-90 points out of nowhere I haven’t had anything change in spending or accounts closing what should I do ! PLEASE HELP!

    1. It’s hard to say what happened here Greg. What service are you using to monitor your credit scores? What messages are they giving you for the reasons your scores are where they are?

  32. Hi, my husbands credit drop 35 points and we are freaking out, we bought a car on January and he got sone inquiries and of course the balance of the car but I checked the score after the purchase and it was only like 7 points down. We are doing all the payments on time and have nothing different, is this normal after a big purchase? Please I will really appreciate your help.

    1. It’s not unusual for a credit score to drop when you take out a new loan. But if the loan appeared on your credit reports in February and you’re seeing a change in July then I wouldn’t necessarily think that would be the reason (though it’s possible). Are you checking your credit report and score each month through the same service each month?

      1. I monitor my credit score it was 720 Then last night a drop 33 points,…. WHY There has been no changes , Now my score is 687 And I just don’t understand I will call to keep my credit score up and every few months they drop it with no changes to my accounts.

  33. Hi,
    Me credit score dropped 41 points. From 700 plus to 696 points! I do not see the reason why this would do it. My balance actually decreased since i’m paying it off. On time payments. Looking at all the changes in my credit report, it should have gone up. I checked my official transunion report too. Nothing in there told me as to why my credit score went low

  34. My credit score dropped 20 points! I went from 764 to 744, I just paid off one credit card and I have one more that I can start when I get my tax refund.

    1. Jasmine, I understand your frustration. It’s not unusual for credit scores to fluctuate by 20 points in a month. That’s actually not considered significant. If you can hang in there for a month and see what happens you may see it level off. You didn’t close the account you just paid off did you? Generally it’s best to keep credit cards open if you can.

  35. My Experian report shows a credit limit increase alert and right after a 14 pt drop with no explanation. I’ve looked over and the only change I see is actually the last credit card with a balance being paid off. All other credit bureaus are increasing. What could this be?

    1. Daneshea, I know it’s frustrating to see a drop rather than an increase but credit scores fluctuate and a 14 drop isn’t generally considered significant. Unless you’re trying to get a mortgage or something important I’d just recommend you monitor it another month and see what happens. If it goes down again, let me know.

    2. Can a change of address cause one’s credit score to drop from excellent 15 pts to very good? The only 2 changes to my Experian file were paying off a 1yr old car loan, and changing to a p.o.box while I build on my land. Since the car loan pay off would lengthen my average age of accounts, I can’t see anything but changing addresses as cause for the drop? Very frustrating!

  36. What if your credit score drops 25 points in a two month period, but there are zero changes to the reports you can access? I have never been able to access my TransUnion due to their “inability to verify my identity”. Despite sending multiple disputes, copies of my Social Security Card, Drivers License, etc this issue has never been resolved. I just spoke to a lawyer who wants $20,000 to figure out what’s going on, but I know there must be a way for me to fight this (effectively) myself. If you can offer any help, I’d greatly appreciate it.