You’ve probably heard that credit building is a long process and that it takes time to establish a good credit history. While this is mostly true, there are ways to speed up the process.
Here are seven tips outlining the fastest ways to build credit and achieve a good credit score (plus some expert advice on how to maintain good credit in the months and years to come).
Table of Contents
1. Report your rent and bill payments
If you’re new to credit and you want to establish a credit history as soon as possible, you can self-report your payments for your regular monthly expenses to get them added to your credit file.
Expenses like this don’t normally show up on your credit report, but there are services that will let you report them. They’ll let you:
- Build credit by paying rent: Rent-reporting companies like Rental Kharma and RentReporters can add past and future rent payments to your credit reports. These services claim that their users see an average credit score increase of 34–40 points. 1 2
- Build credit by paying utilities and other bills: If you make regular payments for utilities (e.g., water, gas, or electricity), internet, phone service, or streaming services (e.g., Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+), then signing up for Experian Boost is an easy way to immediately build up your credit by adding those payments to your Experian credit report. Unlike the other services mentioned above, Experian’s is completely free.
2. Become an authorized user
Perhaps the easiest way to build credit fast is to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account. Ideally, you should pick someone who has a good credit score and who you have a close relationship with, such as a family member.
As long as the primary cardholder has done a good job of paying all their bills on time, being added as an authorized user will quickly boost your credit score by adding the main accountholder’s payment history to your own credit report.
Unlike the other strategies we’ve listed, you can do this even if you aren’t a legal adult yet. This makes it one of the only ways to quickly build credit as a teenager. It’s also the best way to build credit fast with a credit card if you can’t get your own credit card for some other reason.
How fast you’ll build credit: It will take around 1 month for you to see results (at the start of the next credit-reporting cycle). Most creditors report new information to the credit bureaus every 30–45 days. 5
3. Get a credit card
There are many ways to use a credit card to build credit. If you have a limited credit history or thin credit file, then opening a new credit card account might boost your score very quickly.
Getting a credit card will be particularly helpful if you currently only have loans on your credit report. Credit scoring companies like FICO and VantageScore reward consumers who have a diverse credit mix. This refers to the different types of credit you have, so it’s good to have both revolving credit (aka credit cards) and loans.
When building credit with a credit card, be sure to keep your balance on it low. Overspending or maxing out your credit cards will have a negative effect on your credit score.
How to get a credit card when you’re new to credit
If you’re completely new to the game and trying to build credit when you have none, you might get rejected for most credit cards due to having an insufficient credit history. In this case, start with a secured credit card.
These credit cards require a (refundable) security deposit when you open them. This means they’re very easy to get, even for people with no credit history.
You can explore several of the best secured credit cards in the list below.
How fast you’ll build credit: It will take several months for you to see a positive effect. Your new credit card will appear on your credit report after 30–45 days and start impacting your score immediately, but the initial effect will actually be negative.
That’s because when you first open the card, you’ll receive a hard inquiry on your credit report (this happens when a prospective lender conducts a credit check on you). This inquiry will lower your credit score by a few points, at least at first. The card’s positive effects will outweigh the negative after a few months.
4. Take out a credit-builder loan (then pay most of it off)
Credit-builder loans are one of the most popular credit-building tools out there, and for good reason. They have a wide variety of functions—they can help you build credit at any stage of your life, repair your credit after damaging it, or give your score a quick boost for an upcoming loan application.
It usually takes a few months to benefit from paying off a credit-builder loan. However, by taking out a credit-builder loan and paying most of it off right away, you can boost your credit score immediately.
Adding a loan to your credit file will also strengthen your credit mix if you currently only have credit cards (and no loans).
How fast you’ll build credit: A mostly paid-off credit-builder loan will begin building up your credit after just 1 month or so (whenever it’s added to your credit file), and its positive effects will increase as the account gets older and you make timely payments.
5. Pay down your debts
If you have any outstanding debts, then paying them down will immediately increase your credit score. It will also make your overall financial profile look better to lenders because it shows that you can keep your balances low.
If you’re short on cash, then you should prioritize your credit card debt. All credit scoring models put more emphasis on how much you owe on credit cards than on installment loans. 8
According to data from FICO, reducing your balances on your credit cards by 25% could translate into an increase of 50+ points in your credit score. 9
What to do if you’re deep in debt
Credit counseling is a service that’s provided by nonprofit organizations. You’ll receive advice (often free of charge) on how to clear your debts, and your credit counselors may even be able to negotiate with your creditors on your behalf.
How fast you’ll build credit: Your credit will improve immediately after you pay down your debts, but the changes will take up to 1 month to be reflected in your score.
6. Delete negative marks from your credit report
If you have any derogatory marks on your credit report, they can keep you from getting credit accounts, making it harder to establish a positive credit history. They also can drag your score down significantly.
Fortunately, it’s sometimes possible to remove derogatory marks from your credit report. If you succeed, this is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to fix your credit.
How to delete illegitimate negative marks (reporting errors)
Even if you’ve never opened a credit account before, it’s possible that you have negative marks on your credit report if your credit file was mixed up with someone else’s or your identity was stolen.
For this reason, it’s important to check your credit reports with all three credit bureaus and dispute items on your credit report that shouldn’t be there. You can request your credit reports free of charge at AnnualCreditReport.com.
How to delete legitimate negative marks
Alternatively, if you’ve had trouble with your credit in the past and your credit history is stained with black marks from negative events, there are other ways to get them removed. Both of the methods below boil down to negotiating with your debt collectors or creditors.
Try one of these tactics:
- Pay for delete: This is a negotiating strategy where you propose to pay off an unpaid debt in exchange for your debt collector or creditor removing the associated mark from your credit report. You can open your negotiation by creating a letter with our free pay-for-delete letter template.
- Goodwill deletion: This is a method for removing negative marks for debts you’ve already paid off. In essence, you send a letter to the creditor that owns the account, apologize for your missed payments, and ask them to remove it from your credit report as an act of goodwill. Similarly, you can kick this off with our goodwill deletion letter template.
How fast you’ll build credit: These methods can take between 1 month to 1 year (depending on how successful you are). Sometimes you may have to send multiple letters or go through several rounds of negotiation.
Note that there’s no guarantee that these methods will work at all, but when they do, the results can be stunning.
7. Adopt good credit habits
Building your credit quickly is only helpful if the results last. No matter what method you use, the key to getting all the benefits of good credit is adopting good and sustainable habits that allow you to continue improving and maintaining your score in the long term.
Here are some tips that’ll help you build or rebuild your credit and maintain a good score once you do:
- Always pay your bills on time
- Keep your spending low on credit cards
- Pay off your credit cards in full each month
- Don’t close credit card accounts unless you need to (e.g., if the fees are too high)
- Likewise, don’t apply for new credit unless you actually need it
Also make sure that you have a good understanding of what credit is, how credit works, and what affects your credit score. Knowing this will help you build credit faster and see long-term results by helping you focus on what’s most important.