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Published: Jul 03, 2024 8 min read

While building credit always requires some patience, you can increase your score quicker than you’d think with the right financial moves and smart credit use.

Whether you’ve just begun building credit or you’re rebuilding after some setbacks, our guide below can help you build credit fast and level up your financial health.

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How to build credit fast

Whether you need credit repair or have no credit at all, one of the fastest ways to build credit is through active lines of credit that showcase responsible use. In fact, building better credit can take as little as six months of on-time payments on a credit account.

While you might not have the best credit right off the bat, you can work your way up to it by following the steps below.

1. Request and analyze your credit report

The first step to building your credit is to know where it stands right now. In order to do that, you’ll need to take a close look at your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

You can request all three credit reports for free, as frequently as once a week at annualcreditreport.com.

Once you have the reports, sift through them carefully. The goal is to find anything that may be affecting your score, whether it’s a high credit utilization ratio, frequent hard inquiries, a thin file, missed payments or, especially, erroneous or outdated information. Our guide on how to read a credit report may be useful in this process.

2. Dispute any errors in your credit report

Under the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers have the right to dispute credit report errors directly with the credit bureaus. You’ll need to contact each one to make sure the error is removed from all reports.

Common credit reporting errors can include:

  • Incorrect personal information
  • Duplicated debt
  • Mixed files – displaying someone else’s accounts
  • Inaccurate account balance and credit limits
  • Negative items older than seven years

Most negative marks in your credit report should fall off after seven years, with the one exception being Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which will stay on for 10.

Disputing information yourself can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. If you’d rather hire professionals to do it, you could contact a credit repair company. These charge a monthly fee to draft dispute letters, clean up your report and handle creditor negotiations. They work best for consumers with multiple errors who don’t have the time to file disputes with each agency.

3. Pay your bills on time

Payment history is the single most influential category for your FICO and VantageScore — the two main credit scoring models. (While both are popular, FICO is the model most lending institutions use.) It accounts for roughly 35% of your credit score, which means paying your debts on time is the most essential step to building good credit.

4. Pay down your credit card debt

The credit utilization ratio — that is, how much of your available credit limit you’re using — is the second most important credit score factor, after payment history.

The credit utilization ratio is your revolving credit debt divided by your credit limit. The resulting number, expressed as a percentage, shows how much credit you are using relative to how much credit you have.

A good rule of thumb when it comes to credit utilization is this: Keep it below 30%. Say you have a credit card with a credit limit of $10,000, and your balance is $5,000. Your balance of $5,000 divided by $10,000 is 0.50, which means that your credit utilization rate is 50%. This is higher than ideal and your credit could improve if you bring that percentage down.

If you have outstanding credit card debt, focus exclusively on reducing that debt burden before moving on to other items on this list.

Some debt-payment strategies worth mentioning are:

  • Pay more than the minimum, as your budget allows
  • Set up automatic payments and bill reminders to prevent any missed payments
  • Use a time-tested debt payment method. Some of the most popular ones include the “avalanche method” in which you tackle the debt with the highest interest rates first, while the “snowball method” involves paying off the lowest balances first.
  • Apply for a debt consolidation loan to group all your debt into a single loan with fixed interest rates and monthly payments

Note that paying off your credit card debt is a great way to build your credit, but experts advise against canceling or closing a credit card account as it may negatively impact your credit.

5. Become an authorized credit card user

If you know someone with a well-established history of good credit, becoming an authorized user on their credit card account could help boost your own score. Unlike having a co-signer or a joint account, the primary cardholder still retains the right to remove the authorized user from the card.

Becoming an authorized user does involve a significant level of trust in each other’s financial management skills. After all, maxing out a shared credit card or missing payments could impact both your credit scores.

6. Get a secured credit card

You could also consider applying for a secured credit card. These generally have very high approval rates, although it may be harder to get one if you’re within a year of a bankruptcy filing.

Secured credit cards require a refundable deposit upfront, which can typically be anywhere between $50 and $200. Once you deposit the required amount, you’ll get access to a secured line of credit.

The approved credit limit will typically, but not always, equal the security deposit. It’s important that you stay within that limit and make on-time monthly payments without fail. The card issuer then reports those payments and your credit usage to the credit bureaus helping you create a good credit history.

Over time, and with responsible use, some card issuers may allow you to transition to an unsecured credit card and refund your deposit. Make sure to check out our list of the Best Cards to Build Credit for more information.

7. Consider a credit-builder loan

A credit-builder loan is an installment loan designed to help borrowers build credit, with a relatively short repayment term, fixed interest rates and monthly payments. Terms usually range from six to 24 months and loan amounts and often don’t exceed $1,000.

Typically available through credit unions, credit-builder loans work differently from conventional loans. For one, you won’t have immediate access to the money. Instead, lenders will place the amount you borrowed in a savings account until the end of the loan period and you’ll make a payment every month. Once you pay it off, you receive the funds.

This type of loan helps you build a solid credit history as lenders report your monthly payments to the credit bureaus — however, they’re not for everyone. Check out our picks for the Best Credit-Builder Loans to learn more.

  • Builds credit
  • Loan payments are reported to credit bureaus
  • Does not require upfront payment
  • Short loan term
  • Some don't require credit checks
  • Lending institution withholds funds until repayment period ends
  • Repayment includes added interest rates
  • Late payment fees apply
  • May not be good for people with existing debt
  • Increases long-term debt burden
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How To Build Credit Fast FAQ

What is a good credit score?

The criteria for a good credit score depends on the credit scoring model, but are fairly similar for both FICO and VantageScore. In the FICO scoring model — which is the model most lenders use — a "good" score generally falls between 670 and 739. Anything above that is considered very good or excellent.

How do you build credit?

If you don’t have much of a credit history, you’ll need to start by applying for credit aimed at those who are just beginning or that are in the process of repairing their credit. This could be secured cards or credit-builder loans, both of which are tailored to borrowers with lower scores or no credit at all.

How do you check your credit score?

You can request one free credit report per week from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and Transunion) through annualcreditscore.com; however, these won’t necessarily contain your score. Some credit cards may also give you access to your credit score, and websites like Credit Karma display your score using data from one or more credit reporting agencies as well. It's normal for credit scores to vary slightly, depending on the credit reporting agencies and the credit scoring models they use.