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How Long Does It Take to Build Credit?

You should have a decent credit score after 6 months of on-time payments have been reported. A great score takes longer.
July 24, 2019
Credit Score, Personal Finance
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When you have no credit, working your way up to good credit scores can feel like it’s taking forever.

When you get your first credit line — maybe a student loan or authorized user status on a parent’s credit card — you’ll start building a credit history but won’t instantly have a score. This can make it tough to qualify for good-credit credit cards. If you’re having trouble qualifying for a loan or credit card, a credit-builder loan or secured credit card might help you get a foot in the credit door.

There are two main credit scoring systems, FICO and its competitor, VantageScore. VantageScore can produce a score within a month or two, while FICO takes at least six months.

Once you’ve built up several months of on-time payments and your creditors have reported them to the credit bureaus, you should have decent credit scores — though they won’t be perfect.

Get your score, know what powers it

Check your credit score for free. NerdWallet delivers personalized insights and updates your info weekly so you can see your progress.

What can I do to help my score right now?

Here are some ways you can give a thin credit file a boost:

Inherit your parents’ good credit. If your parents have good credit, ask if they’ll add you as an authorized user. (They should call the issuer to make sure it reports authorized user activity to the credit bureaus.) Being an authorized user lets you benefit from the length of their credit history and may diversify the types of credit on your report; both of which can build your credit.

Learn what counts. If you just got a credit card, take the time to learn how credit scores are calculated so you won’t make a rookie mistake, like missing a payment or going too close to your limit.

Keep up the good work. Unlike missteps like late payments, a good credit history stays on your credit report forever, as long as the accounts stay open. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward, even when no one’s pulling your scores.

Age matters for credit scores

There’s one thing that borrowers with great credit scores tend to have in common and younger borrowers lack: longevity.

If you just got your first credit card, you’re not going to have a score over 800, no matter how hard you try. Instead of getting frustrated, make building your credit a long-term goal.

Keep accounts open — even ones you seldom use — so lenders can see your good borrowing behavior over time. Pay your bills punctually and use less than 30% of your credit limit. Get started on these good credit habits and you’ll be on your way to building your credit.