At a Glance
Building your credit score is essential to becoming financially secure and can open up many opportunities for you. However, it is not a fast process and requires consistent effort over a period of time. With the proper steps, like paying off existing debts, avoiding missed payments, and responsible use of credit cards, your credit score will increase gradually over several months. It varies from individual to individual, depending on their financial behavior. Still, in most cases, it should take around six months to build a favorable credit score that creditors look for. Keeping an eye on your credit reports during this time is essential to reflect all changes accurately.
In this article, you’ll learn:
is the minimum duration typically required to get your first credit score.
What is a credit score?
A credit score is a numerical representation of a person’s creditworthiness based on their credit history. Credit scores are typically generated by credit reporting agencies, like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, using a credit scoring model.
Credit scores consider various factors related to a person’s credit history, like payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, types of credit used, and any derogatory marks or negative information, like missed payments, bankruptcies, or collections.
The most commonly used credit scoring model is the FICO score, which ranges from 300 to 850. A higher score indicates better creditworthiness and a lower risk for lenders or creditors, while a lower score suggests higher risk and may make it more challenging to be approved for credit products or qualify for favorable interest rates.
Lenders use credit scores, credit card companies, landlords, and others to evaluate a person’s ability to manage credit and repay loans or debts. Maintaining a good credit score can improve your chances of being approved for credit products and qualify for better interest rates and terms.
Related: Credit Score Ranges
When can you not have a credit score?
There are a few situations in which you may not have a credit score:
- Limited credit history: If you have not used credit products like credit cards or loans, you may not have a credit score because there is no credit history to base it on.
- Inactivity: If you have not used credit products for an extended period of time, your credit score may become inactive or “stale.” Credit scoring models require recent credit activity to calculate your score, so if you have not used credit in a while, your score may not be up to date.
- Identity issues: If there are errors in your credit reports or if someone has stolen your identity and opened fraudulent accounts in your name, your credit score may be affected. Sometimes, your credit score may be temporarily unavailable while you work to resolve these issues.
- Age: If you are under 18, you may not have a credit score because you are not legally allowed to enter into credit agreements.
What does it mean to build credit?
Building credit means establishing a positive credit history by demonstrating that you are a responsible borrower who can manage credit responsibly.
Creditors and lenders use your credit history and score to determine your creditworthiness or how likely you are to repay any borrowed money. By building good credit, you can improve your chances of being approved for credit products, like credit cards or loans, and may also qualify for lower interest rates or better terms.
To build credit, you typically need to use credit products, like credit cards or loans and make on-time payments consistently. Your payment history is one of the most critical factors impacting your credit score, so always paying the minimum amount due on time is important.
How can you build credit?
1. Open a credit card
Using a credit card responsibly and making on-time payments can help you build credit by establishing a positive credit history, improving your payment history, keeping your credit utilization low, and demonstrating your ability to manage different types of credit.
2. Take out a credit-builder loan
Taking out a credit builder loan can help you build credit by establishing a positive credit history, improving your payment history, diversifying your credit mix, and helping save money on interest.
3. Become an authorized user
Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account can help you build credit by establishing a positive payment history, keeping your credit utilization low, benefiting from an established credit history, and taking on any financial risk. However, it’s important to note that if the primary account holder does not use the credit card responsibly, it could also negatively impact your credit score.
4. Get a loan with a co-signer
Having a loan co-signer can help you build credit by improving your chances of getting approved for a loan, getting lower interest rates on loans, establishing a positive payment history, and building a credit history. However, it’s important to remember that failing to make payments on the loan could negatively impact both your and your co-signer’s credit scores.
Learn more: Personal Loans with a Cosigner
How long does it take to build credit?
Building credit is a process that takes time and requires consistent and responsible credit behavior. There is no set timeline for building credit, as the time it takes to establish a good credit history can vary depending on a variety of factors, including:
- Starting point: If you have no credit history, establishing a credit profile and building a good credit score may take several months to a year or more.
- Credit utilization: Maintaining a low credit utilization ratio (the amount of credit you use compared to your credit limit) is important for building good credit. If you use a high percentage of your available credit, it can take longer to build credit.
- Payment history: Making on-time payments consistently is one of the most important factors in building good credit. The longer you make on-time payments, your credit score will improve.
- Types of credit: A mix of credit types, like credit cards, loans, and a mortgage, can also help build credit, but this may take longer to establish if you have a limited credit history.
Why does establishing good credit take time?
Factors that influence your credit scores, like your payment history, credit utilization, and length of credit history, are all based on long-term behavior. For example, consistently paying your bills on time over the course of several years demonstrates that you are a trustworthy borrower who will continue this good behavior.
Something else that will help is diversifuing your credit portfolio by taking on different types of credit, like credit cards, car loans, or a mortgage, and managing them responsibly. This will expand your diverse credit history and show that you can handle different types of credit responsibly.
Typically, if you have not established any credit history, you will not have a credit score at all. Credit reporting agencies generate credit scores based on the information in your credit reports, which are created when you start using credit products like credit cards or loans.
A good credit score matters because it can affect your ability to get approved for loans, credit cards, and other types of credit. It can also impact the interest rates and terms you receive on these loans, resulting in significant savings over time. A high credit score is also important when applying for rental housing, insurance policies, and certain job positions. In short, a good credit score can open up opportunities and save you money in the long run.
Related: What is a good credit score?
There is no set time frame for building credit, as it can vary depending on individual circumstances. However, there are some steps you can take to start building credit and potentially see improvements in your credit score within a few months:
- Get a credit card: Using a credit card responsibly is one of the best ways to build credit. You can start by applying for a secured credit card, which requires a deposit and typically has a lower credit limit.
- Make timely payments: Paying your credit card bill on time monthly is crucial to building credit. Late payments can harm your credit score.
- Keep your credit utilization low: Keep your credit card balance below 30% of your credit limit. High credit utilization can lower your credit score.
- Monitor your credit report: Check your credit report regularly to ensure that all the information is accurate. If you notice any errors, dispute them with the credit bureau.
- Build credit history: The length of your credit history is also important in building credit. Keeping your credit accounts open and in good standing over time can help improve your credit score.
There are several things that you should avoid doing if you want to build your credit. These include:
- Missing payments: Paying your bills on time is one of the most important factors in building good credit. Missing payments can have a negative impact on your credit score and make it harder to get credit in the future.
- Maxing out your credit cards: Using too much available credit can also hurt your credit score. It’s a good idea to keep your credit utilization rate below 30% to show lenders that you can manage your credit responsibly.
- Applying for too many credit cards: Applying for multiple credit cards within a short period can also damage your credit score. Each time you apply for credit, the lender will perform a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can lower your score.
- Closing old credit accounts: Length of credit history is another important factor in building credit. Closing old credit accounts can shorten your credit history and lower your score.
- Co-signing for someone else: Co-signing for someone else’s loan or credit card can also put your credit at risk. If the other person misses payments or defaults on the loan, it will show up on your credit report as well.