How Fast Can You Build Credit and What Should You Focus On?
Can you build your credit score quickly? Find out here.
Contributing Writer at Tally
September 19, 2022
Credit reports, credit histories and credit scores — at times, it’s all very confusing. A little guidance can go a long way when you're trying to build credit from scratch or rebuild from past missteps. Especially when looking to rebuild fast.
But how fast can you build credit? Can you make noticeable credit score strides quickly? Below, we outline how fast you can build credit and share some tips to help speed up the process.
How does a credit score work?
Credit may seem like an unsolvable puzzle, and in some cases, it can be. For example, understanding how exactly the FICOcredit scoring model uses each scoring variable remains unclear. Fortunately, FICO provides enough information on how credit works for consumers to work towards building good credit.
Here’s how your credit score works.
What is a credit score for?
Length of credit history
Within these variables are numerous factors FICO uses to determine a credit score.
Lenders and other organizations — such as utility companies, landlords and automobile insurance — use your credit score and overall credit history to help determine how risky it is to enter into a financial relationship with you.
The lower your credit score or the more negative information on your credit history, the higher the risk. This can result in higher interest rates or refusal to do business with you.
What credit score do you start with?
If you’ve never used credit, what is your credit score? Is it a 300? Do you start from a perfect 850 and work backward? Or do you start somewhere in the middle?
None of the above.
You start with no credit score. When pulling your credit report, the lender learns there’s insufficient data to calculate a score. This means you have a clean slate, but it also means lenders can’t calculate the risk of doing business with you, which could result in rejection.
Where does your credit score come from?
Your credit score is calculated from the data on your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. The credit bureaus get this information from your creditors, who generally report things like balances, available credit and payments monthly.
Then, the FICOcredit scoring algorithm gets applied to the information on your credit report to produce your credit score. Because each credit report may have slightly different information, your FICO score will likely vary between the three credit bureaus. Many lenders will pull all three credit reports and use the middle score for approval.
How fast can you build credit?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all time frame for building credit. For some, it may take a month or two; for others, it could take six months to a year.
However, building a credit score is about responsible credit usage and positively impacting the five main FICO scoring factors. These factors are weighted in importance, including:
Payment history: 35%
Amounts owed: 30%
Length of credit history: 15%
New credit: 10%
Credit mix: 10%
Of course, the fastest way to a good credit score is to improve upon the highest-weighted factors. So how can you move the needle quickly?
Improving payment history
Payment history is the most important part of a credit score. If you're wondering how fast you can build credit, good habits on your payment history are key. Here are ways to improve that history.
Become an authorized user
If you have no credit or low credit, you can still be added as an authorized user on a friend or family member’s credit card. An authorized user is permitted to use the credit card, but they have no authority to access the account or make changes to it. Sometimes, the credit card company will also mail authorized user cards.
The benefit of becoming an authorized user is some credit card companies will report the credit card account history on an authorized user’s credit report. If the account has always been in good standing, this could help get an immediate positive payment history.
Before becoming an authorized user, have the cardholder contact the credit card company and verify they report account information to the authorized user’s credit report. If they do, this is one of the quickest ways to establish and build a credit score.
Get a credit card and make on-time payments
When you get a credit card, use it to pay for daily expenses that are already a part of your monthly budget, then pay them off in full by the due date. This not only leverages the credit card grace period, avoiding interest charges, but it also builds a strong payment history.
You can apply for a secured credit card if you can’t get approved for a traditional credit card due to your credit score. Secured cards work like any other credit card, but you must send the credit card company a security deposit equal to your credit limit. If you default on the debt, the credit card company uses the security deposit to offset its losses.
If you have any late payments, you could get a late fee, and if the missed payment goes over 30 days past due, you can get a negative mark on your payment history. This negative mark can severely hurt your credit score.
Take out a credit-builder loan
A credit-builder loan is a specialized financial service where a lender issues someone with bad credit or no credit a personal loan. Instead of giving the borrower the loan proceeds, the bank places them in an account. The borrower makes payments to the lender according to the loan terms. Once the borrower pays off the loan, the lender releases the funds to the borrower.
As you make on-time payments to the lender, it reports them to the credit bureaus, improving your payment history and FICO score.
Improving amounts owed
You can also build your credit score by reducing the amount of debt you owe and limiting incurred debt. Positively impacting amounts owed is a slower process unless you have a sudden windfall, but certain actions can affect how fast you can build credit.
Take out a debt consolidation loan
Taking out debt to pay another debt may seem counterintuitive, but there’s a reason for this.
Within the amounts owed variable is the credit utilization factor. This looks at the total balances of your credit cards and line of credit relative to your total credit limits. For example, if you have $10,000 in total credit limits and $3,000 in total credit card debt, you have a 30% credit utilization ratio.
The lower the credit utilization ratio, the more positively it impacts your score. You'll dramatically lower your credit utilization ratio by paying off these revolving debts with a fixed installment loan, like a debt consolidation loan. This may boost your credit score and could improve the amounts owed factor.
Debt repayment plan
You can also lower your amounts owed by establishing a sound debt repayment plan, such as the debt avalanche or debt snowball. This is typically a long-term credit-building plan, as you can only afford to pay off so much monthly debt and still afford your monthly bills. However, as your debt balances fall, your amounts owed variable will improve, and you should start seeing incremental credit score improvements.
You can make even bigger strides by allocating any larger windfalls to your debts. For example, applying your yearly bonus or tax refund check to your debts. Combining this with your debt repayment plan will accelerate how fast you can build credit.
Improving length of credit history
The length of credit history is generally a longer-term variable, so improving it quickly can be challenging. Let’s look at a few tips to help this variable.
Being an authorized user
Becoming an authorized user mainly helps your payment history, as we mentioned earlier. However, if the account is older, this can also improve your length of credit history and give your score a boost. This is because you suddenly get an established credit account on your credit file, extending the average age of your credit accounts.
Keep your old accounts open
While keeping your old accounts open won’t necessarily improve your credit score, it’ll support it. So, resist the urge to close these older accounts. Also, make sure you use your oldest credit cards too, as some credit card issuers will automatically close accounts that remain idle for too long.
Improving new credit
The new credit variable isn’t something you can improve. Instead, it’s more about avoiding negative factors that can slow down how fast you can build credit. Here are some tips to help you keep this variable in check on your credit-building journey.
Limit credit applications
Each time you apply for credit, the company performs a hard credit inquiry. This credit inquiry negatively impacts your new credit variable, which can lower your score by five points or less. Limiting the number of credit applications you submit will ensure you’re building credit as quickly as possible.
No more new accounts
Opening new credit accounts, such as credit cards or loans, will also negatively affect your new credit variable. So, open only the accounts you need to help build your credit. If you have existing credit accounts to help you build credit, use those instead of opening a new one.
Improving credit mix
You can improve your credit mix by adding more balance to the type of credit on your credit report. If you have all revolving debt, adding an installment debt could improve this variable and help your credit score.
However, this will require a new account, which leads to a hard inquiry and a new credit account showing on your credit report.
How fast can you build credit? It varies
Building credit is not a one-size-fits-all process, as each person may take a different path. The speed at which their credit rises will vary too. Things like your existing credit history, available credit accounts and other variables come into play here. However, with responsible credit usage, on-time payment and limiting new accounts, you can speed up the credit building process.
Is credit card debt affecting you? The Tally† credit card debt repayment app may help. Tally helps you manage your credit card payments, and offers a lower-interest personal line of credit, allowing you to efficiently pay off higher-interest credit cards.
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 to $300.