Chris Bridges, Founder and CEO, VITAL Card Inc.
Everywhere you look, you can find advice telling you how to build your credit score. However, you’ll rarely see any real advice on how long it takes to build your credit.
While there is no universal timeline to get to your credit score goal, there are some patterns and trends that can help you estimate how long it will take.
Here is a look at what can affect how long it takes to build credit and what you can do to take control of your credit timeline.
What Is Building Credit?
Credit is essentially a loan. When a lender or credit card company loans money to a business, person, or government, they are extending credit. However, credit isn’t free — oftentimes, the balance must be repaid with interest.
Credit bureaus like Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are in charge of assigning each individual and business a credit score, which indicates how likely a person is to repay their debts. The better a person’s credit rating, the more likely they are to pay back their loans without defaulting or missing payments.
Building credit is the process of demonstrating a strong track record of responsible debt management, which makes you more attractive to future creditors. Doing so can show creditors that you are financially prudent and able to handle taking on additional debt. This can make it easier and less expensive for you to obtain loans if you need them in the future.
While your credit score can feel like some number made up by intangible credit bureaus, it can have a very real impact on your life. It can affect your interest rates, your ability to purchase a home, and even your ability to rent an apartment.
How Long Does It Take To Build Credit?
Unfortunately, there’s no way around it: it takes time to build credit. Depending on exactly what your credit goal is and where your starting place is, building your credit can take weeks, months, or even years.
That being said, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your credit today and start taking steps toward a better credit score.
How Are Credit Scores Calculated?
Your credit scores (yes, you have multiple) are calculated using complex algorithms provided by the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Each bureau uses its own credit scoring model that is based on a few key factors.
These main factors are payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, and total credit accounts. You can also approach these bureaus for a free credit report using common scoring systems like VantageScore and FICO Score.
1. Payment History
When it comes to your credit score, nothing is more important than your payment history. Your payment history takes into account how regularly you make payments, if payments are made on time, and how many negative items such as late fees, charge-offs, missed payments, and other delinquencies appear on your report.
These factors all affect the amount of trust that lenders may have in you as a borrower, and can ultimately impact your ability to access favorable loan terms or flexible financing options.
Paying attention to your payment history is a vital part of personal finance and credit-building. Knowing when payments are due and ensuring your credit card balances are paid on time can help improve bad credit or maintain an excellent credit score.
2. Credit Utilization
The amount of debt you have compared to your available credit limit is a major factor when it comes to calculating your credit score. Credit utilization, or the percentage utilization of your available credit limit, is important because it indicates how much risk lenders are taking on if they extend you more credit.
Aim for a low credit utilization ratio — ideally, below 30 percent — and you can send financial institutions and credit card issuers a strong signal that you’re an excellent borrower. Even small changes in your spending habits can lead to big results when it comes to improving your credit score.
3. Length of Credit History
Having a good credit history can be beneficial when it comes to your credit score. A long credit history shows lenders that you have been consistent in avoiding late payments on your accounts, managing different types of credit accounts, and maintaining a good overall track record.
The longer your history is, the greater trust you can build with potential lenders and creditors. This may increase your chances of getting approved for loans and lines of credit. While credit history takes time to establish, it’s never too late to start using healthy credit habits to build up a good score.
4. Total Credit Accounts
Keeping several active lines of credit in good standing can be beneficial for your long-term financial profile. Plus, having a good credit mix that features both revolving lines of credit (like credit card accounts) and installment loans (like a car loan) is a great credit-building tool.
When shopping around, make sure to get financial advice from a trusted professional and avoid too many hard inquiries. While it’s not generally recommended to open multiple accounts at once, increasing your total number of accounts over time can help improve your overall credit score.
Many people who have bad credit or incomplete credit histories find it hard to open any accounts at all. In these cases, many people start off with a secured credit card or credit-builder loan. Secured cards use a prepaid security deposit as your source of credit, while credit-builder loans only release funds after you’ve paid the balance.
As you expand your portfolio, it’s important to make sure that you make any payments on or before their due date. With diligence and patience, managing multiple credit accounts responsibly can show future lenders that you are a responsible borrower.
How Long Does It Take To Build a Credit History?
Now that you understand what goes into your credit, we can take a deeper look at exactly how long it takes to optimize each element of your credit.
There are some things you can do to build your credit right away. Others may take years but can ultimately make a massive difference.
Here is a closer look at what your credit-building timeline may look like.
How Many Years of Credit History Do You Need?
Building credit is a long-term investment, not a short-term game. It may take many years to fully optimize your credit score.
As mentioned earlier, one of the major factors determining your credit score is the length of your credit history. All other things being equal, the longer your credit history, the higher your score will generally be — but just how many months or years do you need to build a great score?
The length of your credit history is determined by the average age of all the accounts on your credit report. This means that many brand-new accounts can easily drag down an account that is ten years old.
The key to maximizing your credit history in as short of a period of time as possible is keeping your average age of credit high.
According to information from FICO, those with the highest credit scores have an average credit account history of 128 months, i.e. at least a little over ten years.
However, not having a whole decade of credit history doesn’t mean you’ll be penalized too severely. With a younger history, you just need to focus on other elements like on-time payments and credit utilization.
How Long Do Closed Accounts Stay on Your Credit Report?
Many people believe that closing a credit account will cause their credit score to fall because it will come off of their credit history. This is not quite true, although it is true that your credit score may drop due to its impact on your credit limit.
Closed accounts that have a positive impact on your credit will stay on your report for ten years. Meanwhile, closed accounts with a negative impact can come off sooner if you contact the credit reporting bureaus.
That being said, keeping accounts open for longer can help your credit — so don’t rush to close accounts without a reason, especially without seeking professional financial advice.
VITAL: The Future of Cashback
If you are looking for a new credit account to build your credit and financial health, consider VITAL Card.
With VITAL, you will be rewarded for sharing and spending responsibly through cashback rewards. By sharing VITAL Card with your friends and making responsible financial decisions, you can grow your VITAL Score to earn more and more cash back each month.
Building Credit: In It for the Long Haul
Building your credit score can take as little as a few minutes to years. Either way, maintaining an excellent score requires a lifetime of healthy financial decisions.
The truth is that building credit is not a one-size-fits-all concept, and each person’s financial goals will impact how long it takes to reach financial success.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take action every day to improve your credit. All you have to do is continue to make smart decisions, and your credit score can grow over time. By making on-time payments, managing your utilization, and exercising patience, you can repair and maintain your credit.
VITAL Card blog posts are intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial or any other type of advice.