How to Build Credit Fast

Although you can build credit with any credit product, credit cards are usually the easiest and quickest way to establish or improve your credit score. In fact, most of the tips for how to build credit fast revolve around credit cards. Read on for seven simple ways you can build your credit and increase credit score growth.

Building credit fast

The key thing to remember when wondering how to build credit fast is that there’s no way to raise credit score instantly. That’s because your credit score is based on your credit report. And the information in your credit report comes from what your lenders send to the credit bureau

Credit card issuers and lenders will generally only send updates to the bureaus once a month. As a result, many methods for how to build credit fast won’t improve your scores right away. You’ll need to wait until your credit card company updates your payment and balance information. 

With that in mind, here are some of the quickest ways to boost or build your credit.

1. Pay down credit card debt

After your payment history, your amounts owed are the most important part of your credit score calculation. But this doesn’t just mean how much debt you have overall. Creditors also want to know how much of your available credit you’re using (how close you are to maxing out your credit cards). This is called your credit utilization ratio

Your utilization is determined by dividing your credit card debt by your credit card limits. For example, let’s say you have a credit card with a $1,000 balance (amount owed) and a $5,000 limit. The utilization rate for this card would be: $1,000 ÷ $5,000 = 0.2 = 20%.

Credit score calculations look at both your overall utilization ratio and your ratio for individual cards. A lower utilization rate is better. In fact, an ideal credit utilization is below 10%.

When you pay down your credit card debt your utilization rate decreases. (Note: this only works if your credit limits stay the same. Avoid cancelling any of your credit cards, even if you pay them off.)

For most people, the number one way to improve credit score fast is to pay down credit card balances. Once your lower balance is reported to the credit bureau, your credit score should improve. This is how to build credit fast if you have high utilization. However, this can help build credit even with moderate utilization.

If you’re unsure how to get started, check out our guide to paying off debt.

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2. Increase your credit card limits

Another top tip for building credit fast is to increase your credit card limits. Similar to paying down card debt, increasing your card limits can help improve your utilization ratio. This can be particularly helpful if you don’t think you can pay down balances right away to lower your credit score.

As an example, let’s take the same imaginary credit card from the last section. The $1,000 balance and $5,000 limit gave a utilization rate of 20%. Let’s suppose you called the credit card company and requested a higher limit — and they said yes. If the new credit limit is $8,000, the new utilization ratio would be: $1,000 ÷ $8,000 = 0.125 = 12.5%. 

You can increase your credit card limit by requesting an increase from your card issuer, either through your online account or over the phone. Keep in mind that your issuer may perform a hard credit inquiry if you request a credit limit increase (a hard inquiry will briefly ding your credit score). Increases are not guaranteed.

3. Become a credit card authorized user

If you’re looking to quickly establish your credit history — and, thus, your credit score — being a credit card authorized user could help. In some cases, becoming an authorized user on an older account can also help improve your credit even if you already have a credit history. Not everyone looking at how to build credit fast already has a credit history.

Basically, authorized users are people who are added to someone else’s credit card account. The authorized user gets a card in their name and can make purchases with the account. Unlike the primary cardholder, authorized users are not legally obligated to make payments on the account. 

Many credit card issuers will report the credit card account activity to the credit bureaus for both the primary account holder and the authorized user. As the authorized user, your credit score may benefit from both the credit history of the account and the credit limit.

If you’re starting from nothing, this is a great option for how to build credit fast. The important thing to note is that this only works if the credit card account is in good shape. Late payments or high balances can hurt both the primary cardholder and any authorized users.

4. Dispute credit report errors

Everything from simple clerical errors to outright fraud could cause credit report mistakes. A popular piece of advice for how to build credit fast is to clean up your credit reports. If there is an incorrect late payment or high balance hurting your credit, having it removed should improve your score. 

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You can report errors in your credit history directly by filing a dispute with the credit bureau. This can be done easily online through the bureau’s website. You’ll need to report an error with each credit bureau individually. The bureau has 30 days to investigate and respond.

While disputing errors can be a good way to build credit fast, it isn’t an option for everyone. Credit bureaus will investigate your dispute before removing the items in question. If the negative items on your report are legitimate, disputing them won’t work. Don’t trust any credit repair company that claims they can get everything bad removed.

5. Open a secured credit card

Having no credit is hard. Having bad credit is harder. A secured credit card can be a worthwhile option for how to build credit fast in either situation.

For the most part, secured credit cards operate just like regular unsecured credit cards. Secured cards report to the credit bureaus the same as any credit account. In fact, the only real difference is that secured cards require a cash security deposit.

Like the security deposit for an apartment, the deposit required by a secured credit card is there just in case. To open a secured card account, you’ll be asked to put down a cash deposit. That deposit lives in a locked savings account while your credit card account is open. As long as you pay your balance in full, the issuer will return your full balance when you cancel or upgrade your secured card.

You’ll make purchases and pay the secured card off every month like any other card. But if you default on your balance — i.e., stop paying — the issuer can close the account and use your deposit to cover its losses.

While this is a common tip for how to build credit fast, going this route is hardly an instant fix. It can take 30 days or more for your new account to be reported to the credit bureaus. If it’s your first credit account, it takes up to six months of credit history to qualify for a credit score.

6. Pay on time, every time

The most vital thing you can do to build and maintain good credit is pay on time. This means every bill, every debt — every month. This is called your payment history, and it’s more than a third of your credit score. Even one payment more than 30 days late can hurt your score for years. If you think you can’t make a credit card payment, call your card company before you’re late to arrange a payment plan.

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No matter what, be sure to make at least the minimum required payment on your accounts every month. Ideally, pay in full.

If you’re struggling with remembering due dates, you can set up automatic payments. The autopay feature will make your payments for you, in the amount you decide when you set it up.

This suggestion isn’t necessarily for how to build credit fast — it’s how to build credit for life.

7. Avoid closing accounts

Although this is not an active way to build credit, any discussion of how to build credit fast should include this advice. That’s because closing a credit card account can negatively impact your credit score. 

Primarily, closing a credit card means your overall available credit decreases. If you have balances on your credit cards and your available credit decreases, your utilization rate will increase — and that’s bad for your credit score. In fact, a higher utilization rate of just a few percentage points can hurt your credit score. And a utilization increase is especially dangerous if you already struggle with high utilization. 

Can I raise my credit score by 100 points?

The best way to increase your credit score is to pay your cards on time, in full, every month. You can easily increase your credit score 100 points over six to 12 months this way.

That said, if you’re someone who’s searching the internet for “How to raise credit score 100 points?” you likely want to know how to build credit fast. In this case, the results will depend on how your credit looks when you start. 

If your score was low due to errors, disputes could increase your score up to 100 points. If you have high utilization (you’re close to maxing out your credit cards), then huge debt payments could see a 100-point improvement. How much your score actually increases will depend on your overall credit profile.

For those without credit, becoming an authorized user on a card with a long, positive credit history is the only fast way to build credit. Otherwise, it takes six months to even get a credit score.

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