Building good credit (or any credit at all) doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, you may need to have an open credit account for around three to six months before you first get a credit score.
From there, a good credit profile and good credit score can take awhile to build up. In reality, it’s much easier to lower your credit score, which is why it’s vital to aim to make solid financial choices, like consistently paying your bills on time. Building and maintaining good credit isn’t always easy, but by following a few simple steps, you can put yourself on solid ground.
How Long It Can Take to Build Credit From Scratch?
The exact length of time it takes to build credit from scratch varies by credit card issuer. That being said, it’s usually around three to six months from the time you first open a credit account.
Even though establishing and building credit can take time, it’s worth it as a way to improve your overall financial situation. Having good credit can make it easier to get approved for loans and secure lower interest rates.
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4 Ways to Build Credit
If you’re hoping to begin building credit, here are some tactics you might consider.
Become An Authorized User
One way to help build your credit is by becoming an authorized user on an account of someone who already has good credit. This might be a trusted friend or family member. As they make on-time payments, that can have a positive impact on your credit score as well. Just know that if they miss or make late payments, that can also negatively impact your credit.
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Apply For a Credit Card
If you’re getting a credit card for the first time, know that it is possible to apply for and get approved for a credit card with no existing credit history. However, you do need to be selective about which card you apply for. You’re unlikely to get approved for a premium or luxury credit card if you don’t already have excellent credit.
Still, there are credit cards that are marketed toward those who have no credit or a limited credit history. You might also consider a secured credit card, where you put down a refundable security deposit that then serves as your credit limit.
If you can get approved for a credit card, using that card responsibly, such as by making on-time payments, can help you build up your credit.
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Get a Cosigner
If you aren’t able to get approved for a loan on your own, you might consider applying for credit with a cosigner. Using a co-signer with good credit can help improve your chances of getting approved for a loan.
Then, if you reliably make on-time payments, that will get reported to the major credit bureaus and hopefully help you start building your credit score.
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Maintain Good Credit Habits
Once you have opened a credit account like a loan or credit card, it’s important to practice good credit habits. This includes paying your statement off in full, each and every month. Demonstrating a pattern of reliably paying your bills over time shows potential lenders that you’re likely to repay your debts.
Factors That Affect Credit Score Calculations
There are five major factors that affect your credit score:
• Credit utilization: Your credit utilization is the amount of the credit you’ve used compared to your total available credit. It’s recommended to keep this ratio to 30% or less.
• Payment history: This indicates how reliably you make payments on your existing accounts.
• Types of credit accounts: Having a good mix of different types of credit accounts has a positive impact on your credit score, as it indicates to lenders that manage multiple types of accounts.
• Your average age of accounts: Having a lengthy credit history is a positive sign. This shows you have experience in responsibly managing accounts.
• New credit: Opening a number of accounts or making a number of hard inquiries in quick succession can suggest to lenders that you’ve overextended yourself and are in need of funding to bail you out.
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Things to Keep in Mind Before Building Credit
If you’re looking to build good credit, here are some tips on establishing credit to keep in mind.
Have a Solid Financial Plan
The first thing you’ll want to do is set up a budget. Getting a new credit card should not be viewed as a way to fix your budget or dig yourself out of a financial hole. Instead, the best way to use a credit card is as a tool of convenience for money that you already have. Make sure that you have the financial ability and discipline to pay your bills in full, each and every month.
Watch Out For Scams
Usually building credit is something that you do over a period of several months or years. If someone tells you that they can build or repair your credit quickly, it could be a sign of a credit card scam. There aren’t many shortcuts to the simple rules of just regularly paying your bills on time.
Don’t Open Too Many Accounts At Once
You might think that since opening a credit account can help build credit, opening many accounts will help build credit even faster. However, that is usually not the case. Many lenders view a high number of credit inquiries in a short period of time as a negative indicator. They may see it as a potential red flag that someone is in a bad financial situation.
If you’re just starting out and have no credit history at all, you generally start without an actual credit score. It can take a few months after you open a credit account to start establishing a score. As you continue to show that you’re responsible for the credit you have, your score will likely increase. Building credit can take time, and you should be skeptical of any people or programs that say they can build your credit fast.
If you’re in the market for a new credit card, you might consider a cash-back rewards credit card like SoFi’s credit card. If you’re approved for a credit card with SoFi, you can earn unlimited cash-back rewards. You can use those rewards as a statement credit, invest them in fractional shares or put them toward other financial goals you might have, like paying down eligible SoFi debt.
Apply for a SoFi credit card today!
What credit score do you start with?
There isn’t a starting credit score for those without any credit history. While you might think that you start with the lowest possible credit score (like 300) and have to build your way up, you actually don’t start with any credit score at all. As you open credit cards or other accounts, you’ll start to establish a credit history and score.
How long does it take to build a good credit score?
It usually takes anywhere from three to six months to start building a credit score after you’ve opened your first credit account. You’ll then continue to build and improve your credit by continually making on-time payments. You can always check your credit score periodically to see where you’re at on your credit journey.
How long does it take to recover from a hard inquiry on your credit?
Usually when you apply for a new credit card or other loan, your potential lender will pull your credit file. This is known as a hard inquiry. Since the number of recent hard inquiries is one factor in determining your credit score, applying for credit cards can lower your credit score. However, these inquiries typically only lower your score by a few points and drop off your report after a few months.
How fast can you build your credit in 3 months?
How fast you can build your credit depends on a number of factors. Generally, it takes a few months after you’ve opened a credit account to even establish any credit. Your credit score will improve as you continue to use your credit responsibly. It’s best to think about building credit as more of a marathon than a sprint.
Photo credit: iStock/YakobchukOlena
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .