How long does it take to rebuild credit?
Rebuilding credit may take time, but you can start taking steps today to help improve it.
February 25, 2021 11 min read
When it comes to rebuilding your credit, there are no shortcuts. Rebuilding credit takes time. And rebuilding credit is important since healthier credit reports and scores make you more attractive to lenders. Your credit can even play a role in decisions made by employers, insurance companies, landlords and utility providers.
There may not be a quick fix to rebuild credit. But there’s good news: Understanding credit reports and the factors that influence credit scores can help you use credit responsibly and improve your credit over time.
What factors affect how long it takes to rebuild credit?
Just how long it takes to rebuild credit depends on your own unique circumstances. For example, the lower a credit score has fallen, the longer it might take to rebuild it into a good credit score. But your current scores aren’t the only thing that can affect how long it takes to rebuild credit.
The same factors on your credit reports that influence your credit scores can also influence how long it takes to improve your scores.
- Payment history: Your payment history is a record of whether you’re paying your bills on time. Consistently making on-time payments could improve your credit scores. But missing payments or making late credit card payments, for example, will slow your progress.
- Total debt: The amounts you owe and how much of your available credit you’re using—also known as your credit utilization ratio—factor into your credit scores. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), experts recommend keeping your credit utilization below 30% of your available credit.
- Length of credit history: The longer your credit history, the better it could be for your credit scores. That’s because longer credit histories might indicate that you have experience managing credit responsibly.
- New credit applications: Believe it or not, new credit applications can have a negative impact on your credit. New applications could create hard inquiries on your credit reports. And too many hard inquiries over a short period of time could hurt your credit scores. Keep in mind: Applications for credit cards typically result in individual hard inquiries. But multiple applications for financing for one automobile, for example, may be grouped together and could result in a single hard inquiry. And other types of credit applications—like those for some types of buy-now, pay-later financing—may not result in a hard inquiry at all.
- Credit mix: Having a mix of revolving credit accounts—like credit cards—and installment credit—like mortgages and auto loans—can have a positive impact on your credit. It can also show lenders you have experience with different types of credit.
Keep in mind that there are multiple credit-scoring models and credit scores. And credit-scoring companies like FICO® and VantageScore® even have different versions of their own scores. So you might see slight differences in your scores depending on what model was used.
How long does negative information stay on your credit reports?
When you’re rebuilding your credit—and then working hard to maintain it—it’s important to keep in mind that negative information like missed or late payments can hurt your credit for years.
That’s because negative information can linger on your credit reports. Exactly how long varies. As the CFPB explains, most negative information can remain on your reports for up to seven years. And certain types of negative information can stick around for even longer. For example, lawsuits and judgments can stay on your reports for more than seven years. And bankruptcies might appear on your reports for up to 10 years.
Seven to 10 years might sound like a long time. But the good news is that most negative information won’t impact your score forever. The effects of negative information might even lessen over time.
Ways to rebuild your credit
Now that you know what factors affect your credit and how long it takes to rebuild it, you can be proactive and come up with a plan for rebuilding.
The CFPB recommends these steps to practice responsible financial behavior and help you rebuild your credit:
- Pay bills on time. Your payment history is an important factor when it comes to your credit scores. So catching up on missed and late payments can be an important step in rebuilding your credit. You could even consider setting up automatic payments to help you make future payments on time.
- Stay well below your credit limits. According to the CFPB, “Experts advise keeping your use of credit at no more than 30 percent of your total credit limit.”
- Pay your credit card balances in full. Paying your balances in full every billing cycle can ensure that you stay well below your credit limits. And it can help you pay less in interest than if you carry over your balance month after month.
- Apply only for the credit you need. “If you apply for a lot of credit over a short period of time, it may appear to lenders that your economic circumstances have changed negatively,” the CFPB explains. So try to apply for credit only when you truly need it.
- Consider a secured credit card. If you’re rebuilding your credit, you might not be able to qualify for a traditional credit card. But you still have options—like a secured credit card. “With most of these cards, your credit line starts out small,” the CFPB explains. “You put an amount equal to your credit limit in an account as a deposit. As you show you can pay on time, your credit limit may grow and you may have your deposit refunded.”
And those aren’t the only steps you can take to rebuild your credit. Here are a couple of other ideas to consider:
- Build an emergency fund. Another way to avoid missing payments in the future is to have an emergency fund. Building an emergency fund could help you keep up with your bills even if you have an unplanned expense or an unexpected financial emergency.
- Become an authorized user. When you become an authorized user on a friend’s or family member’s account, you get access to that existing line of credit. And many issuers report authorized users to the credit bureaus. So if the primary cardholder has good credit and uses their card responsibly, it could help you build credit.
Monitor your credit
Another important step in rebuilding your credit? Monitoring your credit.
Whether you’re just starting to rebuild your credit or already working hard to improve it, monitoring your credit is key. Monitoring your credit reports and scores can show you where you stand and help you keep track of your progress. It can also help you spot errors and potential fraud attempts that may be hurting your credit.
CreditWise from Capital One can help. With CreditWise, you can access your TransUnion® credit report and weekly VantageScore 3.0 credit score—without hurting your score. And it’s free for everyone. You don’t even have to be a Capital One customer to enroll.
You could also get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to learn how.
Rebuilding credit takes time
Remember: Rebuilding credit takes time. And since good credit is so important, rebuilding and maintaining it is key.
Now that you understand the factors in your credit reports that influence your credit scores, you can use credit responsibly to improve your credit over time.