How Long Does It Take to Build a Credit Score?

How Long Does It Take to Build a Credit Score? loading="lazy"
Dear Experian,

My husband and I recently purchased a used car. He makes an annual income of $63,000 and I am a full-time, unemployed student. Because he had zero credit and I had student loans and a low credit score, we were only able to sign jointly for the car. He was told being the cosigner would be a great way to start earning credit. He's tried to get a credit card but continues to be denied for lack of credit. We've had the car now for a few months and all payments have been on-time. We just ran his credit looking at refinancing the car to a lower interest rate and the account is there, but he still does not have a credit score. Our bank suggested contacting you to see how long it takes before he will begin earning a credit score.

- CJF

Dear CJF,

Cosigning for a loan means both the primary loan holder and cosigner share equal responsibility for the debt. So, the loan will appear on both your credit report and his. As a result, it will help him build a credit history. However, it takes time for that credit history to develop sufficiently enough that credit scores can be calculated.

How Long Before a Credit Score Can Be Calculated?

Most credit scoring systems require at least three months of history in order to calculate a score, and some may require more. So, you probably just need to give it some more time.

However, a credit history with only one account is considered a "thin file" and probably won't result in high scores. That's because you lack sufficient account history to demonstrate that you can manage credit well. That will change with time.

How to Further Build Your Credit History

In addition to cosigning for the car loan, here are some other steps you and your husband can take to begin strengthening your individual credit histories:

  • Open a credit card account. If you and your husband aren't able to open a traditional credit card account right away, we suggest that you each talk to your respective bank or credit union and see if they will open secured credit card accounts for you. This type of card requires a security deposit that guarantees the amount you can charge on your credit card. You could also ask a family member if they would be willing to cosign for you or to add you to one of their credit card accounts as an authorized user.
  • Make payments on time and keep balances low. Once you have a revolving account in your name, use it to make small purchases each month and pay them off in full so that you aren't paying interest charges and are keeping your credit utilization low. Using a credit card responsibly can be the best type of credit to use to help build positive scores.
  • Sign up for Experian Boost . Experian offers a free service that could help you lift your FICO® Score by adding your on-time utility, cellphone and streaming service payments to your Experian credit report. This can be especially beneficial for consumers with thin files or those with credit scores below 680.

Keep in mind that applying for a lot of new accounts at once may be seen as a sign of risk by lenders and credit scoring models. For that reason, it's a good idea to minimize your credit applications and read up on credit score requirements before applying to avoid rejection. Getting prequalified or preapproved can also help you in this regard. If you're unsure of what credit cards you may qualify for, Experian CreditMatch™ can match you to cards suitable to your unique credit profile.

If you don't have a cosigner and you aren't able to qualify for a secured credit card right away, continue making your loan payments on time and wait a while before trying again. Eventually, your husband will have enough credit history to calculate a credit score. It just takes patience, time and consistent payments on that car loan.

Thanks for asking.

Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist

How Good Is Your Credit Score?

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