Navigating your personal finances without any credit is difficult, but building your credit score from scratch might seem even more daunting. Good credit isn’t built overnight…but how long does it take to build credit from nothing?
Here’s why great credit is worth the effort, the average timeline for credit-building, and some actionable tips to begin your credit journey today.
If you’ve never used credit (or haven’t for a very long time), you may have no credit score at all.
Having no credit score is common among young adults, people immigrating to the US, populations without easy access to banks and other financial tools, and those going through a divorce.
Those without a credit score have difficulty being approved to rent a home, securing a loan, and even setting up utilities like gas and electricity. This is because your credit score is the primary factor that lenders and other entities use to assess how likely you are to make timely payments.
The good news is, no credit score typically means no debt. You have a clean slate, a blank canvas, a fresh start! Whatever you call it, there's no better time than now to learn about building credit.
In order to build a credit score from scratch, you have to actually start using your credit in a responsible way. Once you do this, your credit will begin growing.
However, the process still takes time. Once you start utilizing credit by making a credit card purchase or taking out a loan, it takes about 6 months to incur enough credit history to establish a FICO credit score (the 3-digit credit rating used by approximately 90% of all lenders).
It’s important to remember: the existence of a credit score doesn’t mean that it’s automatically a good one. Building a good, or even great, score can take effort. Your score will depend on the number of accounts you have open, the amount of credit you’re using, and whether you make your payments on time.
Here are some of the most effective options for building credit quickly.
While it might be difficult to gain approval for an unsecured credit card, secured credit cards are an option for those with no credit score. Secured credit cards were designed for those with low or no credit in mind, but they come with major caveats.
Unlike traditional credit cards, secured cards require a deposit. Typically, your credit limit is equal to your deposit amount, which makes it easy to unintentionally damage your credit by spending too much of your limit. Plus, tying your cash up in a deposit leaves less to cushion your budget in emergencies. Without cash to cover unexpected expenses, you risk earning negative credit as you fall behind on bills.
To get the most from a secured credit card, it is critical to pay off your balance every month. Leaving even a small balance can be detrimental to your credit.
Learn more: Why Am I Not Being Approved For A Credit Card?
If it’s too difficult to get approved for a credit card, or you have no interest in a secured card, becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account can also help your credit score grow.
As an authorized user, you will have a card and the same advantages as the primary account holder, but you won’t be held legally responsible. It’s an option to introduce yourself to the idea of using a credit card, without all the strings that come attached.
One important thing to keep in mind is that you should only become an authorized user on someone’s account that you trust, like a parent or spouse. Relationships can be strained if one party spends irresponsibly or fails to pay, because any credit consequences will affect both users.
In the past, options for building credit were limited and not always effective. Now, you can build credit just by paying the bills you already have, with no credit check or interest charges.
The StellarFi app allows you to turn bills into credit by automatically reporting payments like utilities, rent, and Netflix to the three major credit bureaus: Experian®, TransUnion®, and Equifax®. Just set up the app, link your bills to our convenient auto pay dashboard, and sit back as on-time payments build your credit fast.
We believe access to good credit should be universal, simple, and never costly.
The StellarFi blog is intended to serve as an informational resource. While StellarFi can help you build your credit, we do not provide financial, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult a trusted advisor for financial, legal, or accounting guidance as needed.