Will a Personal Loan Build Credit?

By Janet Schaaf · May 07, 2024 · 6 minute read

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Will a Personal Loan Build Credit?

One factor lenders look at during loan processing is the applicant’s credit score. It’s a good idea to review your own credit reports before applying for a loan to see if there are any errors that can be corrected and possibly increase your credit score, if needed.

If your credit score is not as high as you’d like it to be, it may seem counterintuitive to consider taking on debt to increase it. But it’s a method that has some merit. Making timely payments on a personal loan may have a positive effect on a person’s credit score. Let’s take a look at what factors go into calculating a credit score and how taking out a personal loan can affect it.

Do Personal Loans Help Build Credit?

If a borrower makes on-time, regular payments on a personal loan — or any loan, for that matter — that information will typically be reflected in their credit history and can be one way to build credit. It’s a good idea to ask the lender if they report payment history to the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. If the lender doesn’t report the information, it won’t affect the borrower’s credit positively or negatively.

💡 Quick Tip: A low-interest personal loan from SoFi can help you consolidate your debts, lower your monthly payments, and get you out of debt sooner.

When Does a Personal Loan Help You Build Credit?

Someone who doesn’t have much of a credit history or wants to improve their credit score because they understand the importance of good credit might wonder if a personal loan will build credit. It certainly can be one method to do so, but only if handled responsibly. A personal loan to build credit can be an effective tool if the payments are made regularly and on time.

The terms “credit” and “credit score,” while closely related, are not the same. Generally, when the term “credit” is used, it’s referring to a credit report, which is a summary of a person’s financial history. The information contained in a credit report is what affects your credit score. So, while the two are different, they’re used together in lending and other credit matters.

To find financial areas needing improvement, you can review your credit report for individual elements that figure into the calculation of your credit score. Credit score updates can happen every 30 to 45 days, depending on when lenders report payment information to the credit bureaus, and small fluctuations are normal.

Recommended: 11 Types of Personal Loans

Your Payment History

The way you handle debt is the most important factor in determining your credit score. It accounts for 35% of a person’s FICO® Score. How you’ve repaid — or not repaid — debt in the past is considered a good indicator of how likely you are to repay future debt and is something lenders look at closely.

Missing payments or late payments on a personal loan might hurt your credit score.

Your Credit Utilization Ratio

Second only to payment history, having a large debt-to-credit ratio, also called your credit utilization ratio, can damage your credit score. It accounts for 30% of the total FICO Score and takes into account both revolving debt (e.g., credit cards) and installment debt (e.g., personal loans).

This ratio is calculated by dividing how much you currently owe by the total credit available to you. Credit cards offer a good example: If you have a monthly limit of $10,000, and typically carry a balance of $9,000 on your card each billing period, your utilization ratio would be 90%.

The Age of Your Credit History

Since the age of your credit history is a factor in your credit score, the ideal situation is to start building credit early. That’s not always feasible, though. If you don’t have much of a credit history yet, a personal loan to build credit can be useful.

As long as the loan’s payment history is positive, the longer a loan is listed on your credit report, the more likely it is to have a positive effect on your credit score.

Adding Different Types of Credit

An additional factor that can impact your credit score is the mix of different types of credit you might have, such as credit cards, student loans, and mortgage loans. In general, your credit score will benefit from a healthy mix of different kinds of debt on your credit report.

Having both revolving debt, like credit cards or lines of credit, as well as installment debt, such as a personal loan, can have a positive effect on your credit score if you’re making regular, on-time payments on the debts.

If you currently have only credit cards, adding a personal loan to your credit mix can go a long way in establishing multiple types of credit and potentially boosting your credit score.

Recommended: Personal Lines of Credit vs Credit Cards

When Doesn’t a Personal Loan Help You Build Credit?

We’ve covered some of the ways a personal loan can help build credit, but there are situations in which a personal loan might have a negative effect on your credit.

Late Payments

Making late payments on any type of debt, including a personal loan intended to build credit, will likely have the opposite effect. Lenders place a great deal of importance on a person’s payment history. If a lender sees a lot of late or missed payments on your credit report, they are probably more likely to see you as a credit risk.

Short-Term Loan

Short-term loans can be predatory loans. They are meant to help someone make ends meet until their next paycheck, but they can be next to impossible to actually pay off because of the extraordinarily high interest rates typically charged.

Lenders of these types of loans may not report payments to the credit bureaus, essentially negating any effect your responsible repayment might have. If you’re thinking of taking out a personal loan to improve your credit score, a short-term loan is probably not the best option.

💡 Quick Tip: Just as there are no free lunches, there are no guaranteed loans. So beware lenders who advertise them. If they are legitimate, they need to know your creditworthiness before offering you a loan.

The Takeaway

Personal loans have many direct benefits, such as access to cash, predictable payments, and consolidating high-interest debts. But can a personal loan help you build credit? Possibly. A loan’s secondary impact on your credit score can be meaningful for your borrowing future. Making your personal loan payments on time may help you improve your credit score and your future borrowing options.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.


Do personal loans raise credit scores?

If repaid on time with regular payments, a personal loan is one financial tool that might have a positive effect on a person’s credit score. There are a variety of factors that go into the calculation of a credit score, though, and it’s wise to pay attention to all of them.

How long does it take to build credit with a personal loan?

Building credit means building a history, which doesn’t happen overnight. It might take about six months to see results from diligently making on-time personal loan payments.

Is taking out a personal loan bad for credit?

Taking on new debt can have a temporary negative effect on your credit score. But over time, as long as you make regular, on-time payments, a personal loan has the potential to help your overall creditworthiness.

Which types of personal loans typically help build credit?

There are many different types of personal loans you can use to build up your credit. If you have no credit history, you may want to explore a credit builder loan or secured credit card. Both can help you establish a positive credit profile. But keep in mind, the type of loan you take out is not as important as how you manage the debt.

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