How long does it take to build credit?

If you’re just starting out on your credit journey, you’ll need at least one credit account open. That account must be reported to at least one of the major credit bureaus for at least six months to generate a FICO® Credit score*.

Having enough credit history to get a credit score is just the beginning. While your credit score is an important indicator of credit health, having a thin credit file—a credit report with few credit accounts—can still make it challenging to get approved for favorable financing terms.

As you add more credit accounts over time and use them responsibly, you’ll likely see an increase in your credit scores, and your credit file will grow. Depending on the factors discussed below, it can take several years to build an excellent credit history.

How a credit score is calculated

A credit score is a three-digit number that uses the information that appears on your credit report to provide a snapshot of your overall credit health. Lenders refer to this score to help them determine their level of risk in lending you money.

There are many credit scoring models, but most lenders use the FICO® Score, which usually ranges from 300 to 850. Higher scores indicate you are less likely to default on a loan.

Here are the main factors that are considered when calculating your score:

  • Payment history: On-time payments are crucial in establishing a positive payment history. If you miss a payment by 30 days or more, even just once, it can have a significant negative impact on your score.
  • Amounts owed: The total amount you owe is considered, but the most influential factor is your credit utilization ratio. This represents the percentage of the available credit on your credit cards and other lines of credit that you’re using at a given time. A low credit utilization ratio is better for your score.
  • Length of credit history: In addition to how long your oldest account has been active, scoring models also consider the average age of your credit accounts and when they were last used.
  • Credit mix: Having a good mix of credit—including installment loans such as car loans and revolving credit such as credit cards—shows that you’re capable of managing different types of credit.
  • New credit: This factor focuses on how often you apply for credit. Each hard inquiry a lender makes on your credit report impacts your score, but if you apply for a lot of different types of loans and lines of credit in a short period of time, it can have a compounding effect.

Reasons why you may not have a credit score

There are a few different reasons why you may not have a credit score, even if you’ve used credit in the past:

  • You’re a young adult and haven’t entered the world of credit yet.
  • You’re an immigrant to the U.S. Even if you’ve used debt in your home country, it won’t be listed on your credit reports from the three major U.S. credit bureaus.
  • You’ve never used traditional credit accounts that are reported to the credit bureaus.
  • You’ve recently opened one or more credit accounts but don’t yet have enough history to generate a score.
  • You haven’t had a credit account report to the credit bureaus recently. FICO® Scores require accounts to report at least every six months.

For more information about understanding and building your credit, see the following articles:

Barclays offers card customers online access to their FICO® Credit Score at no cost. Follow this link to log in and view your score.**

*FICO® is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries. Barclays and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Barclays and Fair Isaac do not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history or credit rating. FICO and “The score lenders use” are registered trademarks of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

A credit score is a 3-digit number calculated using information on a credit report that serves as a numerical representation of a person’s creditworthiness. A credit report is a summary of your credit activity such as the payment history and status of your credit accounts which potential lenders use to offer you credit and on what terms. Your FICO® Credit Score and key factors are based on data from third-party providers who are not affiliated with Barclays. Barclays does not guarantee the accuracy of any credit information that is provided to you by these third parties.

**FICO® is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries. Barclays offers FICO® Score access at its sole discretion. Not all accounts will have a FICO® Score available. FICO® Score access is not a permanent feature of your account and may be removed at any time. To view your FICO® Score, your account with us must be open, active (having activity within the past 150 days) and in good standing.