How to Build Credit Fast

Building credit can take years. And if you’re one of the 26 million Americans that are credit invisible — consumers who don’t have a credit record — building your credit from scratch can feel overwhelming. But there are tangible steps you can take that will catapult you in the right direction.

How Long Does It Take to Build Credit?

There are two main scoring models in use: FICO and VantageScore. But more specifically, there are actually 16 versions of FICO. While that number may cause you to do a double take, don’t worry. Most lenders use FICO Score 8 and FICO Score 9, according to Experian.

The minimum requirements for a FICO score are:

— You need to have one account open for at least six months.

— Your account needs to be reported to the three major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Experian and Equifax — within the past six months.

— You need to make sure there’s no sign that you’re deceased.

OK, the last bullet point might seem a little outrageous, but it happens. If you shared an account with someone who died and who was reported as deceased, then this could affect your credit. If possible, try to open an account in your own name.

With VantageScore, it’s possible to generate a credit score in about a month or so. But you have no control over which score a lender will request. There’s always the chance you’ll get lucky, and your lender will use VantageScore. But be prepared for a six-month wait since 90% of lenders use FICO scores.

This variation in what scoring model and what version are being used by what lender is the reason you’ll see different credit scores across platforms. It’s a flawed system, but one U.S. consumers are stuck with, unfortunately.

Ways to Build Credit Fast

Here are four ways you can build your credit as quickly as possible.

Become an Authorized User

If you have a family member or close friend with a good credit score, it’s worth checking whether they’re willing to add you as an authorized user to one of their credit cards. By doing so, that positive payment history also becomes your history.

You don’t even have to use the credit card to benefit from being an authorized user. But since how that person manages their account will impact your creditworthiness, make sure you ask someone you trust.

Get a Secured Credit Card

You can apply for a secured credit card in the same way you would any other credit card. The only difference is you’ll need to make a cash deposit, which generally will then become your credit limit. Most credit cards require a minimum deposit of $200, but the maximum can go as high as $2,500, depending on certain factors like your income.

However, since this will more than likely be your first credit card, I recommend keeping that initial credit limit low. Doing so will teach you good money habits — especially if you pay your card in full every month.

But always pay more than the minimum amount due. Otherwise, you can get swallowed by the interest, making your attempts at good credit pointless.

[Read: Best Secured Credit Cards.]

Apply for a Credit-Builder Loan

A credit-builder loan is different from a traditional installment loan in that its sole purpose is to help you build credit.

With traditional installment loans, you receive a lump sum upfront that you then pay back over a period of time. With credit-builder loans, the lender usually sets aside the amount you applied for in a savings account or certificate of deposit. You then make monthly payments toward that account and only receive access to the full balance after you’ve paid the loan off in full. Your monthly payments will be reported to the credit bureaus so you’ll see that positive bump in your credit report.

It’s worth noting that you will pay interest on this loan — like any other loan — but some lenders may return a portion of that interest to you at the end of the loan term. So keep an eye on interest rates, fees and the lender’s interest policy when applying.

Credit-builder loans typically range from $300 to $1,000, and the loan term is usually anywhere between six months and two years. It may be necessary for you to use a co-signer, however.

Try Experian Boost

One last thing you can do to quickly pick up your score is sign up for Experian Boost. It’s a free program from Experian that lets you add alternative data to your credit profile. Bills like rent, utility and phone payments aren’t normally considered when assessing your credit, so Experian Boost lets you add that positive payment history to your profile.

Speaking from experience, I used Experian Boost when I first started my credit journey. I went to the Experian Boost webpage (on my phone, no less), provided some personal information and created a free account.

I then entered my bank information, and less than 10 minutes later, I saw the impact of signing up for the program. My credit score went up 44 points in real time. It was amazing to see my score jump in such a short amount of time. Now, not everyone’s score will go up that much. Unfortunately, Experian says that not everyone will even see a boost. So if your score does go up, there’s no telling by how much. The program is best for consumers with FICO credit scores below 620, as they tend to see the biggest jump.

Once you’ve done all this, make sure to continuously check and monitor your credit. Building credit isn’t just a one-time endeavor; it requires patience and dedication. But the rewards are well worth it.

More from U.S. News

Everything You Need to Know About Credit Scores

How to Create a Monthly Household Budget Worksheet

Does Settling Credit Card Debt Affect Your Credit Score?

How to Build Credit Fast originally appeared on

Update 06/28/24: The story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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