How Long Does It Take To Build Credit?

Whether you’re just starting to establish your credit for the first time or rebuilding your credit after past mistakes, it’s crucial to know how long it will take you to build credit. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

If you’re new to the world of credit and do not have a credit history or credit score, it will take between three to six months of regular credit activity to establish your credit. Some examples of credit activity could be making payments on a credit card or paying off portions of a loan.

Luckily for credit newcomers, three to six months is not a long time in comparison to how long it may take to rebuild credit. If you’re wanting to rebuild your credit after a financial mishap – big or small – the time it will take varies from person to person.

Generally speaking, it takes anywhere from six months to ten years to rebuild your credit. It all depends on your unique circumstances and how much work your credit needs to get back to where it was. If you miss a payment on one of your credit cards, it will most likely take a few months of on-time payments to recover. On the other hand, recovering from a serious blow like bankruptcy can take years and years to fully recover from.

Building Your Credit From Scratch

If you’re just starting out on your credit journey and don’t have a credit score, there are numerous ways you can jumpstart your credit and reap the benefits of having a good credit score. Here are seven options to consider.

1. Take out a Student Loan

When you take out a student loan, they don’t typically require that you have a past credit history. When you pay your student loan payments on time it will reflect positively on your credit report and boost your score.

2. Get a Secured Credit Card

A secured credit card is a great option for anyone who doesn’t have a credit score. As the name suggests, a secured credit card is secured by money you deposit at the time of account opening. For example, if you deposit $600 into your secured credit card account, your credit limit will be $600.

As you make payments on the card you can count on a credit score being generated after three to six months. After a period of responsible use, most secured credit card accounts will be upgraded to unsecured accounts and you will get your initial deposit back.

3. Get an Unsecured Credit Card

An unsecured credit card is basically another term for a traditional credit card. You are granted a line of credit in exchange for your promise to pay back whatever you spend on the card. Many credit card companies send out credit card offers to college students. These offers typically start with a low credit limit and have higher interest rates.

Getting an unsecured credit card can be useful in establishing credit as long as you keep your balance low and pick a credit card that doesn’t have an outrageously high interest rate.

4. Become an Authorized User

As a young adult, one of the first things you can do to jumpstart your credit is to ask your parents or other relatives to add you as an authorized user on their credit card. Although it takes more time than having your own account, you will get the benefit of their good credit and after six months or so you should begin to see activity on your credit report and, thus, a credit score.

5. Get a Car Loan

Many automotive dealers have first-time buyers programs. If you have a job and a down payment, these dealerships work with lenders to get you approved. Your interest rate won’t be the best but you can establish your credit score as you make your payments.

6. Get a Personal Loan

This option is not always available as many banks rarely grant personal loans to people without a credit score or collateral. However, if your family has ties with the local bank, it could be an option.

Personal loans, like student loans or car loans, can help you establish a good credit score after three to six months of on-time payments.

7. Open a Department Store Credit Card

This type of credit is commonly referred to as revolving credit and is often the easiest to get. Stores give you a small credit limit in the beginning and as you make your payments the limit may increase. Your credit file will grow and you will get a credit score.

Rebuilding Your Credit After a Mistake or Hardship

Young adults starting at ground zero are not the only individuals who benefit from building their credit score. Many people go through financial hardships such as bankruptcy or divorce that damage their credit score, making it impossible for them to get home loans, rent homes, get utilities in their name, and more.

It’s vital to understand that it will take longer to improve your credit report and credit score than it does to establish credit. It can take 12 to 18 months to see a significant improvement in your credit score. It also takes dedication and hard work to rebuild your credit.

Steps You Can Take to Rebuild Your Credit Score

Some of the steps that you can take to rebuild your credit score are similar to those that a credit newbie would use to establish a score. Here are some examples:

1. Obtain a Secured Credit Card

As mentioned earlier, secured credit cards are lines of credit that are backed by collateral. As long as you make your monthly payments on time and keep your credit balance low, you should see improvements to your credit score after a few months.

2. Clean Up Your Damaged Credit File

This is where you may need to put in some hard work to improve your credit standing. If you have bad credit, you most likely have a few severe marks like judgments and charge-offs that will take some time and energy to mitigate. Here’s an overview of what the process looks like.

  • Obtain your most recent credit report from the three bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can request a free report from each bureau at AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Check the report for errors. Note any errors and report those to the bureau and/or reporting entity.
  • Verify your account history. Make sure the entries are yours. It is possible to have entries that are not yours or the balances are wrong. Be prepared to back up your claims with documentation.
  • Contact any accounts that have been closed for non-payment and make arrangements for paying the balance. Most of these will offer you a negotiated rate to get back any of the money they lost.

By putting in some work to locate errors on your credit file and making arrangements to settle debt, you will be well on your way to a better credit score. With that being said, it will take some time for your score to reflect all the hard work you’ve put in.

Depending on the severity of your credit file, it may take a few months to a few years to see a substantial improvement in your score.

3. Pay Down Your Open Credit Accounts

Next, you can work on paying down your open credit accounts, particularly credit cards, student loans, and any other revolving credit. This may seem like an impossible task, especially if you have high balances.

However, if you take a systematic approach and remain diligent, you can accomplish the task. There are several different methods out there to help you pay off debt, so take some time to do your research, make a plan, and stick with it.

Tips on Maintaining a Good Credit Score

After all your hard work and patience, you will finally have a credit score that you’re happy with. When you reach that goal, you need to grow and maintain it to ensure that you have available credit when you need it. Rebuilding credit can be a long, difficult process that can be avoided by keeping a finger on the pulse of your financial health. How? Here are a few tips.

Tip #1: Budget

Set a monthly budget and follow it. There are countless ways to do this. You can use a spreadsheet to track your expenses or you can use the envelope method. Separate all expenses into separate envelopes, including entertainment and other expendable items. When the money is gone from the envelope, that category is done for the month and you can avoid overspending.

The most important part is to find a budgeting system that works for you. This may take some trial and error, but having a solid budget can help you avoid going into debt.

Tip #2: Pay on Time

Your payment history is a huge factor in determining your credit score. FICO, the most widely used credit scoring model in America, counts your payment history as 35% of your overall score. Set up automatic payments through your bank or lender if you have trouble remembering.

Tip #3: Put the Credit Cards Away

The amount of credit you use in comparison to your income and available credit also plays a huge role in assessing your credit and computing your credit score. Avoid using credit cards and if you do, pay the balance in full every month.

Tip #4: Avoid Credit Inquiries

Don’t shop around for credit cards and loans. Credit applications automatically trigger requests for your credit report. These requests pull your credit score down and can stay on your report for up to 12 months.

Tip #5: Monitor Your Credit

Make it a point to pull your credit report on an annual basis from the three credit reporting agencies. This is free once a year on AnnualCreditReport.com and does not reflect as a credit inquiry. Verify all your information and request corrections as necessary.

Tip #6: Consider Identity Protection

The ever-changing world of technology and your online presence have increased the possibility of identity theft. Many identity theft protection services like Smart Credit monitor your credit and alert you whenever there is suspicious activity.

If your identity is stolen, it can take a long time to correct, and, in the meantime, your credit score can suffer dramatically. You can also have your credit locked to prevent inquiries without a code or other identifier ensuring that only you can request credit.

Overall, maintaining your credit score will help you catch any errors that can lead to bad credit. It is much easier to maintain credit than it is to rebuild credit.


Takeaway

How long it takes to build credit depends on your unique situation and the actions you take to improve. If you are a young adult starting fresh, you can plan on getting a credit score within three to six months.

If you have bad credit and you trying to rebuild your credit score, you should expect it to take longer. As long as you are diligent and stick to a plan, you can start to see improvements in your score in anywhere from 6 to 18 months. It all depends on the severity of your credit file and what lengths you will need to go to improve your score.

Always remember that your credit score does not need to remain bad or non-existent. There are steps you can take to improve your financial standing and reach your goals. All it takes is research, time, and lots of patience.