There are no shortcuts to building excellent credit. However, you can certainly do things to speed up the process and build your credit faster.
When it comes to building your credit from nothing, you need to have at least one account active for six months. This means you won’t see a credit score until about six months.
If you have a bad credit score, building your credit score up won’t be difficult if you follow the steps below.
Boost your credit quickly using these 10 steps:
1. Pay your bills on time
You’ll never reach the glorious 700+ club if you don’t pay your bills on time. That’s because your payment history makes up a massive 35% of your credit score. In other words, if your payment history is anything other than 100%, you’re probably feeling the effects of it on your score.
To make matters worse, late payments stay on your credit history for seven years. That’s why it’s important to prioritize paying your bills on time to avoid this headache altogether.
One way to almost guarantee you’ll never accidentally miss a payment is to automate your bills. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Use an app, such as Mint
- Have your bank automatically pay your bills
- Set up automatic payments with the company itself (utilities, rent, etc.)
- Use your credit card’s autopay feature
If you do find yourself in a situation where you forgot to pay a bill, you may still have time. First, pay your late bill immediately, then contact the creditor. Some creditors will give you a break by not reporting your late payment to the credit bureaus.
2. Become an authorized user
Good credit habits are the best way to build your credit quickly. However, there are other ways you can boost your credit. For example, you can take advantage of someone else’s good credit by becoming an authorized user.
Becoming an authorized user is one of the easiest ways to improve your credit score.
An authorized user is someone who has permission to use another person’s credit card. The advantage of that? Your credit will improve even if you aren’t personally using the credit card.
The primary cardholder can continue using their credit card like before. However, every time they get a credit boost, you will too.
If you have a relative or friend who you know uses their credit cards responsibly, consider asking them to add you as an authorized user on their account.
3. Get a secured credit card
A secured credit card is like a credit card on training wheels. It’s still a real credit card, but with limitations. For example, secured credit cards are backed by a cash deposit that you make when opening the card. The cash deposit acts as your credit limit. If you deposit $200, your credit limit is $200.
This is unlike an unsecured credit card, where the credit is not backed by anything other than the creditor’s faith that you will pay your balance.
You can use secured credit cards for anything. You make purchases on it the same way you would with an unsecured credit card. If you fail to pay off your balances, you’ll still be hit with fees and potentially a credit score decrease.
It’s important to mention that some unsecured credit cards do not report your credit activity to all three credit bureaus. When opening a card, be sure to verify with the issuer that they’ll report your usage. Otherwise, you are spinning your wheels.
4. Apply for a credit-builder loan
Another safe way to build your credit from nothing (or improve your bad credit score) is by applying for a credit-builder loan.
Credit-builder loans work differently from regular loans. When you apply for a regular loan, such as a personal loan, the lender gives you a lump sum of money. You must then pay back that lump sum over time in smaller payments.
When you are approved for a credit-builder loan, you don’t receive any money. Instead, you make small payments every month that go directly into a special savings account. Once you’ve finished the loan, your money is returned to you, minus any interest or fees.
You can find credit-builder loans at most banks and credit unions.
5. Pay down large balances
Large credit card balances typically mean that your credit utilization is high, which will negatively affect your credit score. Credit utilization is the total percentage of your credit limit being used at once.
For example, let’s say you just got a new credit card with a $1,000 limit. You then go out and buy a new flatscreen for $700. You are now using 70% of your credit limit, which is a red flag to creditors. Ideally, you want to keep your credit utilization below 30%. At MayoFi, we recommend you keeping your utilization even lower—as low as 10% or less.
One trick you can use to keep your credit utilization lower is to increase your credit limits. If you had a $5,000 credit limit and bought a $700 flatscreen, you’d only be using 14% of your credit limit—much lower than the 70% on the $1,000 limit.
6. Request higher credit limits on your cards
Requesting higher credit limits does not mean you will use the entire line of credit. Instead, the purpose of requesting an increased limit is to decrease your credit utilization.
As you just learned in the last point, credit utilization is the total percentage of your revolving credit being used at any given time. If you have a lower limit and your balances are always high, you will have a higher utilization, which will lower your credit score.
An easy remedy for this is to request a credit limit increase. Most credit card companies give you an option to increase your limit from their mobile app or website. Alternatively, you can call or email your credit card issuer to request an increase.
In most cases, requesting a credit limit increase will not affect your credit score, as only a soft credit check is being performed. However, the issuer may have to pull your credit for larger increases, which will add a hard inquiry to your credit report.
7. Keep old credit cards open
Contrary to what you may have been taught, closing old credit cards will hurt your credit score, not improve it.
When you close an old credit card, your credit score is getting hit in two ways:
- Your total credit limit decreases
- Your total age of accounts decreases
Your total credit limit affects your credit utilization. The higher your total credit limit (of all your credit cards combined), the lower your credit utilization tends to be. However, if you close a credit card, you lose some of your limit, which inevitably increases your utilization.
Similarly, your total age of accounts is the average age of all your credit accounts combined. If you close your oldest credit card, your total age will decrease, along with your credit score.
8. Get credit for paying your Netflix subscription
Believe it or not, by using Experian Boost, you can build your credit by watching Netflix. In addition, you can give your credit score a boost by paying other bills you are required to pay regardless, such as your utilities.
Your utility bills are what’s called open accounts. Open accounts are one of three types of credit accounts that appear on your credit report—the other two being revolving accounts and installment accounts.
If you are continually paying your utility bills on time (and other open accounts, including cellphone bills) you should be rewarded for that. Most utility companies will report your payments to the credit bureaus. However, not all do, and you may sometimes need to give them a nudge.
When you sign up for a free Experian Boost account, you can get credit for bills like Netflix, phone, and utilities.
9. Get a co-signer
Getting a trusted friend or relative to co-sign on your credit card application can give you the jump you need to grow your credit. Keep in mind that when someone co-signs for you, they are putting their credit on the line.
If you were to start missing payments, running up your credit limit, and being irresponsible, your co-signer would be negatively affected. If you go this route, be sure that you will use your new credit card responsibly. Otherwise, opt for a safer option, such as a secured credit card.
10. Sign up for free credit monitoring
It’s impossible to hit a goal if you don’t know where to aim. That’s the principle behind signing up for free credit monitoring. If you track your credit score and keep tabs on the growth, you’ll be more inclined to keep going.
Now that you know how to build your credit score fast, you can get out and start taking action.
Remember, building your credit score will take time. There are no shortcuts or tricks, just consistency, and diligence. If there were another way around it, we would all have 850 credit scores.
The first thing you should do is sign up for a free credit score app, such as Credit Karma. Check where your score currently is, and start applying these steps to build your credit score.