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How Long Does It Take to Build–or Rebuild– Credit?

Published June 19, 2023
5 min read

Table of contents

Key points about: helping your credit score

  1. There is no quick fix to build or rebuild your credit. It’s a process that takes time and is influenced by multiple factors.

  2. To establish your credit score, consider using a secured credit card or becoming an authorized user.

  3. To stay on top of your credit score, always pay your bills on time and in full, if possible.

Whether you’re looking for your first credit card, want to take out a home mortgage, or require a car loan to buy a vehicle, having access to credit is an important part of a healthy financial life.
 
Your credit score helps to determine whether you get approved for credit, how much credit you can access, and at what interest rate. If you have no credit history, you might wonder how long it takes to build credit. If you have a poor credit history, you might want to know how to rebuild it.

How long it takes to build credit varies between people, and there’s no quick fix. It’s a process that takes time and is influenced by many factors.

Factors that determine how long it takes to build credit

Everyone has a unique credit history that can impact how long it takes to build credit. For instance, a college student with no credit history will take a different amount of time than someone with years of credit history who has had a recent dip in their score.

To calculate your credit score, different credit bureaus use different scoring algorithms, also called scoring models. One of the most common is the FICO® Score; 90% of top lenders use FICO® Credit Scores, including Discover.1 A FICO® Score is composed of five components, and they have varying levels of importance. (Other scoring models may calculate scores differently.)

The five components that make up a FICO® Credit Score include:

  • Payment history (35%): Do you consistently pay all your bills on time? Your payment history accounts for the largest portion of your FICO® Credit Score. Even one missed or late payment can impact your credit score.
  • Current debt (30%): How much of your total available credit are you using–this is also referred to as your credit utilization ratio. If you’re always maxing out your credit limit or carry a high credit card balance month to month, this can hurt your credit score. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), experts recommend  you should aim to use as little as possible of your total available credit.
  • Credit history length (15%): How long have you had access to credit and how have you used it? A long history of responsible credit use can positively impact your credit score. A short history can result in a lower score or no score.
  • Credit Mix (10%): Do you have different types of credit? Creditors like to see that you can successfully manage a mix of revolving credit (credit cards) with installment credit (car loan or a mortgage).
  • New credit applications (10%): How often are you applying for credit? Too many hard inquiries can negatively impact your credit score.

How long negative information impacts credit scores

When trying to build up, or rebuild your credit, it’s important to consider how negative credit information can impact your credit score.

Did You Know?

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), some negative information, including late and missed payments, can stay on your credit report for seven years. A bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to ten years.

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Methods that may help build or rebuild credit

While there is no quick fix for building or rebuilding your credit, with patience, consistency, and the right strategies, it is possible.

Building credit history

If you’re just starting on your credit journey, you have a few good credit-building options.

  • See if you qualify for a secured credit card. A secured credit card functions like an unsecured credit card but requires you to put down a cash security deposit before you’re able to open an account. Secured cards are typically one of the easiest credit cards to get approved for. As you demonstrate responsible credit card use and build your credit, your credit card issuer may upgrade your secured card to an unsecured credit card and return your security deposit.

    With Discover, get your deposit back after six consecutive months of on-time payments and maintaining good status on all your credit accounts, and if you qualify, we will increase your credit line.2
  • Become an authorized user. As an authorized user, you can make purchases using someone else’s credit account. The owner of the credit card, known as the primary user, is entirely responsible for the card, but as an authorized user, you typically get your own credit card that is linked to the primary cardholder’s account. You can use it to make purchases, but you have no authority to make changes to the account.

    You can use your status as an authorized user to establish your credit history as long as the credit card issuer reports authorized user activity to the credit bureaus. You can ask the primary cardholder to reach out to their credit card issuer to confirm if they report to the credit bureaus. Before becoming an authorized user, ensure the primary cardholder has a good to excellent credit score and a history of paying their bills on time. If they have bad credit habits, that could impact your score.

4 ways to rebuild your credit

If your score has recently declined or you have poor credit, and you want to work on rebuilding, there are methods you can use to influence your credit score, including:

  • Pay bills on time. To improve your credit you must consistently pay your bills on time. Even one late or missed payment can have a negative impact on your credit score.
  • Pay down credit card debt, in full if possible. Paying your credit card off in full each month demonstrates you can manage your credit and can help keep your credit utilization low.
  • Only apply for credit that you need. Applying for credit requires a hard inquiry, which can negatively impact your credit score. Having credit available that you don’t need can also create a situation where you might spend beyond your means.
  • Get a secured credit card. Just as a secured credit card can help someone who wants to establish credit, it can also act as an effective way to rebuild your credit.

Building credit may be important for your financial future, and it takes time. By understanding what factors can influence your credit score and methods that can help it, you can take the first steps toward a positive credit history.

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