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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.
March 4, 2020
Credit Score, Personal Finance
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When you have no credit, working your way up to a good credit score 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.

The two main credit scoring systems vary on how soon they’ll show a score: 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. Here are ways to establish a score and nurture your credit.

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:

Use credit-building products

Getting a credit-builder loan or a secured credit card can help you bulk up your credit history. More lines of credit means you have more opportunities to show the responsible financial behavior that leads to a good credit score.

Become an authorized user

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. Being added as an authorized user can also reduce the time it takes to generate a FICO score, assuming the account you are added to is older than 6 months.

Learn what counts in credit scoring

If you just got a credit card, take the time to learn the factors that influence credit scores so you won’t make a rookie mistake, like going using too much of your credit limit.

Keep up the good work

Unlike missteps like missing a payment, 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.

Time matters in credit scoring

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.

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