This is maybe one of the top 3 questions asked daily on these forums, so I wanted to write a quick post to try to give folks a link to read when they ask it again.
Many of us are rebuilding, so we pay $30-$40 a month for a monitoring service such as the one MyFico provides. Part of the monitoring service is the ability to pull 3B (Three Bureau) credit reports monthly or quarterly -- these reports include very up-to-date (but sometimes a day late!) reports and scores. Those scores are based only on those specific reports.
Triggering Credit Alerts
The other part of the credit monitoring bill is getting alerts when something changes on your report. Maybe a balance went up, or a balance went down, or a new inquiry showed up, or a brand new account posted. You can see what triggers an alert by visiting this page after logging in. I believe it only affects Equifax monitoring.
Not every report change will trigger an alert. In fact, MyFico provides this chart to tell you what type of change on which report triggers an alert:
You can visit this chart at this MyFico support page.
As you can see, all 3 bureaus have different alert triggers. A name change will only trigger an alert on Equifax, but new employment will onl trigger an alert on TransUnion. Regardless, you can always get the latest bureau reports when your monitoring allows a fresh 3B, but it makes sense to print your new reports individually and compare them to your last printed report. HIGHLIGHT changes so you can understand what changed and you'll start to understand scoring changes better.
An alert shows up but my score changed the wrong way!
Sometimes you'll pay off a credit card balance (or pay it way down) and you'll hope that your FICO score will go up, but then you get an alert that your payment posted but your score dropped! What the heck, FICO???
Here's the rub: MyFico provides you with a new score whenever you get an alert. That new score may change, and the change may have NOTHING TO DO WITH THE REASON FOR THE ALERT. It's just a new score pulled from a new report that MyFico needed to pull once it had an trigger-worthy alert to tell you about.
If you paid off some debt but your score dropped, the alert was only made because MyFico sensed you paid down debt, so it pulled a brand new report (you can't see the report from alerts) and recalculated your new FICO score based on that new report. Something else may have changed on your report, but it wasn't something MyFico used to trigger an alert in the past. Because of other information changing, your score may have dropped. The alert gave you a notification on a change, and the alert includes a fresh FICO score.
Some folks pay down a card from say 30% utilization to 10% utilization and they get an alert that their score dropped. Other folks make a payment on an auto loan or mortgage and they get an alert that their score dropped.
The score drop likely had nothing to do with the alert reason -- something else happened on their report that they can't see, so they got a score drop. Maybe you paid one card down from 30% to 10% to get an alert, but your score actually dropped because a different card reported a higher balance, or maybe your overall utilization went up! Maybe your mortgage payment trigger an alert, but your mortgage inquiries finally started scoring (there's a buffer of 30 days for some inquiries before they count) so it dropped your score. Maybe your AAoA dropped, or any such thing that doesn't trigger an alert, so the new alert triggered gives you a fresh FICO score, and the changes you didn't get an alert for previously caused your score to drop.
The best thing you can do to figure it out is also use a free monitoring service like Credit Karma or WalletHub in addition to MyFico or CCT (Credit Check Total) monitoring. The scores provided by the free services are useless, but pulling fresh reports can help you track down what it was that may have caused your FICO scores to drop.
Reasons for scores dropping here
I will update this section with reasons for FICO score drops
Reasons for scores going up here
I will update this section with reasons for FICO score increases
Basically, just remember that an alert and a fresh score may likely NOT be connected. You just get a free FICO score updated whenever there's a trigger-worthy alert, and that's a nice thing to stay on top of FICO score changes in-between your granted 3B pulls.
Thanks for the post! I've just recently caught on to this . A few days ago I got a CR change alert and logging in, the alert stated a new inquiry was added to Ex w/ a FICO increase of 14 pts... Now obviously the inquiry wasn't the cause for the increase, but it is confusing to those of us new to MyFiCO because it gives the appearance of correlation between those 2 actions.
Yeah, it's an annoying topic especially on some other forums I'm active on. I think it gets posted 10x a week on a Facebook rebuilder group I'm on.
I'm am GLAD we get the free FICO pull with the alert, but I wish they wrote the verbiage better. Something like "You have an alert because of an new inquiry. Because of this alert, we are going to pull a new FICO score for you. Note that the FICO score may have changed for reasons other than the alert."
We recently changed our alerts chart - new alerts were added to TransUnion. See here - https://www.myfico.com/Products/FAQ_Alert-Matrix.html
Your URL link has a space at the end which broke the URL.
Here is the corrected one: https://www.myfico.com/Include/Store/Legal/FAQAlertMatrix
I'll update my post, thanks for letting me know that you updated it!