How to build credit fast
Building credit is usually a long-term game, but there are ways to speed up the process.
Building a positive credit history to boost your credit score requires patience, good money management and planning. But if you’re just starting out, a few months of good payment history can do wonders to build your credit fast.
6 of the fastest ways to build credit
If you’re a new borrower, building credit is a faster process than if you were starting out with a less-than-perfect history.
1. Add an account to your credit reports
Establishing a positive repayment history is a quick credit-building tactic — but you need something with payments to build your payment history. If you don’t have any active accounts or you’re a brand new borrower, you may have a low credit score as a result.
Adding something to your credit reports starts a payment history, adds to your credit mix and starts adding age to your credit reports. After adding your first reported account you’ll likely see a major, positive impact on your credit score within three to six months.
Often, the first types of accounts added to someone’s credit report are things like an auto loan or a no-credit credit card. You can also have someone you know add you as an authorized user to their existing credit card.
2. Lower your credit card balances
FICO considers your amounts owed to be 30% of your credit score. Lowering your credit card utilization is one of the fastest ways to build a better credit score.
For example, if your credit card has a $5,000 credit limit and you owe $4,000, you have an 80% utilization, which hurts your credit score. Lowering your owed balance to below 30% — or to at least $1,500 in our example — will do wonders. FICO recommends that keeping credit utilization below 30% is ideal, because you’ll be considered overextended if it’s higher, which will negatively impact your credit score.
If you want to start your credit history with a credit card, we highly recommend paying off the card every month to avoid interest charges and keep your credit utilization low.
3. Request a higher credit limit
This is a different approach to helping your credit utilization ratio — you can request to have your credit limit increased on your existing credit cards.
Using our same example as before, if you owe $4,000 on a credit card but request to have your limit increased to $10,000, your credit utilization ratio would become 40%. That’s still over the 30% recommended ratio, but it’s significantly better than 80% with the $5,000 limit.
Keep in mind that credit card companies may not always approve your request to increase your credit limit, and many require a positive repayment history with them to qualify. Also, be careful with this approach, as we don’t recommend this credit-building method if you’re prone to impulse spending or are at risk of maxing out your credit limit.
4. Get bills you already pay reported
We love this method because it doesn’t require taking on new debt. By using a credit-reporting service, such as Experian Boost, you can start building credit history for bills you already regularly pay such as rent, subscription services, utility bills, phone bills and more. Several rent reporting services are available, such as Boom Pay, Rental Kharma and Rent Reporters.
Before you choose one of these services, check which of the major credit bureaus they report to and what bills they can report. For example, Experian Boost only reports to Experian, and Rent Reporters only reports to TransUnion and Equifax. Many of these services cost monthly fees, but a fast credit score improvement can more than make up for the cost.
5. Fix errors on your credit reports
If you’re not frequently reviewing your credit reports, now’s the time to change that mindset if you’re looking to build credit quickly. You can get free weekly copies of your credit reports from all three bureaus, either by heading to the bureau’s site directly or through AnnualCreditReport.com.
By checking your credit reports regularly, you can review them for errors and work to correct them. For example, if one of your credit cards shows you’ve been late on a payment, but you’ve always paid on time, you can dispute the late payment with the credit bureaus and remove that negative mark. You can also scan your credit reports for signs of identity theft, such as accounts you didn’t open or changes in your name.
Most creditors update your credit accounts monthly, so checking your reports every month is a good habit to work toward.
6. Credit-building debit cards
A bit of an alternative way to build credit, credit-building debit cards are similar to secured credit cards, but they lack a security deposit.
Also called debit-credit cards, these cards are linked to an existing bank account. The amount in your bank account sets the credit limit, so you can only spend what you have available. Each time you use the card, you’re borrowing, but the amount is repaid with your linked bank account — usually automatically.
A major perk with these cards is most don’t charge any interest, lack monthly fees and don’t check your credit score when you apply. But they’re not suited for emergencies because your credit limit is tied to your linked account balance.
Compare debit cards that build credit
Narrow down top credit-building debit cards by monthly fees, APR and features. For a better comparison, tick the Compare box on up to four providers to see benefits side by side.
How long does it take to build credit?
It depends on where you’re starting out, but it’ll likely take a few months to see a marked improvement in your credit score with active credit-building efforts.
New borrowers who take on a new loan or credit card can often see an increase in their credit score in months with an on-time payment history and low utilization.
If your credit reports have older accounts with late or missed payments, it can take several months or even years to bounce back fully. Negative marks typically stick around for seven years.
Most creditors update your credit accounts monthly, so you’ll likely see a month lag in reporting action if you’re frequently reviewing your reports.
While working to improve your credit score, remember that payment history makes up the most important piece of your credit score. No matter your situation, pay all your bills on time: rent, utilities, loans, credit card minimum payments, phone bill and everything else. While not every bill and on-time payment is reported to the credit bureaus, late or missed payments do have the potential to be reported — or worse, sent to collections if they’re extremely overdue.
If you’re looking to rebuild your credit history for the long haul, see more tips on how to build credit.
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