How long does it take to build credit?
September 5, 2023 6 min read
Building credit can be important to your financial health, but it doesn’t happen overnight. And even once you’ve built your way to better scores, you’ll need to show responsible credit use to maintain them.
So how long does it take to build a credit history? The short answer is that it depends on several factors. But there’s information that can help give you a better idea of the timing.
- Credit scores are calculated based on information from your credit reports.
- Paying on time every month, keeping your credit utilization low and having a mix of different credit can help build your scores over time.
- If you have little or no credit history, it may take three to six months of credit activity to get your first credit scores.
How are credit scores calculated?
Credit-scoring companies use different credit-scoring models to calculate credit scores, meaning people have more than one score out there. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), some of the most commonly used credit scores come from VantageScore® and FICO®. And their credit scores are based on information from your credit reports.
But what information is actually used to calculate your scores? Here are some of the factors, according to the CFPB:
- Payment history
- Current debt
- Credit utilization ratio
- Types of credit
- Number of lines of credit
- Age of your credit accounts
- New credit applications
How long does it take to build credit from 0?
It generally takes three to six months to get your first credit score, although the time it takes to build good credit is different for everyone. It depends on factors like what your credit scores are now, how you’re managing debt and more.
If you’ve never had credit of any kind, there are several ways you can begin to build a credit history. This could include applying or being approved for a credit card for fair credit such as a secured credit card, becoming an authorized user on another cardholder’s account or even getting a loan. FICO says it can calculate scores for borrowers who’ve had an account open for six months. It may take even less time to get a VantageScore.
Why don’t I have a credit score?
If you don’t have a credit score at all, there may be a few reasons why. Perhaps you’re new to credit, haven’t used credit in more than two years or only have foreign credit accounts that don’t count toward your U.S. credit scores.
How long does it take to get a credit score?
Experian®, one of the three major credit bureaus in the U.S., explains that “you typically need three to six months of credit activity recorded there before a score can be created.”
How long does it take to improve your credit scores?
How long it takes to improve your credit scores depends on where you’re starting and how you got there. Going from poor to excellent credit scores may take longer than if you’re starting with new credit or good credit scores.
For example, building credit from scratch may take less time than rebuilding credit. Recovering from a few recent hard credit inquiries might not take as long as working back from late payments, which may stay on your credit reports for years. The CFPB also says some types of bankruptcy filings can stay on your credit reports for up to 10 years.
Why does it take so long to fix credit?
Credit score changes aren’t instantaneous. That’s because your credit scores measure your credit activity over time. When lenders check your credit reports and credit scores, they’re looking for signs that you consistently manage debt responsibly.
For instance, paying all your credit card bills on time for one month can be good for your scores. But paying on time over months or years can have an even bigger positive impact on your scores. And that can help lenders better predict how you’ll manage debt.
The good news: If you start developing good credit habits now, the negative impacts to your credit scores may begin to diminish over time.
How to improve your credit scores
There are steps you can take right away to help improve your credit. Here are five things the CFPB says can help boost your scores:
- Make on-time payments every month. You can set up automatic payments or electronic reminders to help you remember due dates and avoid missed payments.
- Stay well below your credit limit. If you have credit cards, try not to spend more than 30% of your credit limit across all of your accounts.
- Increase your length of credit history. Part of what determines your credit scores is how long you’ve had credit. Keep that in mind if you’re considering closing a credit card.
- Apply only for credit you need. Applying for multiple credit accounts in a short period could signal to lenders that your financial situation has changed for the worse.
- Check your credit reports. Your credit scores are based on the information in your credit reports. Any errors on these reports could affect your credit, so it’s important to check them regularly. You can get free credit reports from each of the major credit bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
Fastest ways to build credit
You may find yourself looking for the fastest ways to build your credit, particularly if you’re facing a poor credit score. While improving credit takes responsible use over time, there are also some things you can do to get started.
- Round out your credit file. If you have thin credit—with few or no credit accounts—you could report rent, utilities, cellphone and even streaming service payments with a tool like Experian Boost. You can also link your bank accounts with UltraFICO®. When factored into your credit scores, this data can show your financial responsibility.
- Check on revolving credit balances. Late payments and a high credit utilization ratio carry a lot of weight in your credit scores. Catching up on late credit card bills and other revolving credit balances can help your scores and prevent further damage.
- Limit new credit line applications. With every credit application comes a new hard inquiry, which can decrease your credit scores in the short term. A new line of credit also lowers the average age of your credit history, another credit-scoring factor.
There’s no guarantee of achieving certain credit scores in a set time—it depends on your personal financial situation. If you have credit scores in the upper 600s, for example, you may have a better shot at improving your scores quickly than someone with credit scores of 500 or lower.
Building good credit takes time and responsible use, and talking to a financial adviser may help. The Federal Trade Commission cautions against credit repair scams “falsely claiming that they will remove negative information from consumers’ credit reports even if that information is accurate.”
How fast you can build credit in a nutshell
It takes time and responsible use to build good credit, whether you’re starting from scratch or rebuilding after a financial setback. But the good news is that it’s possible. And once you build up your credit scores, staying on top of monthly payments and other financial details can help you keep your scores high.
CreditWise from Capital One is a tool that allows you to monitor your VantageScore 3.0 credit score and get your free TransUnion credit report. Using CreditWise won’t hurt your scores. Plus, it’s free for everyone, whether or not you have a Capital One credit card or bank account.