How to Build Positive Credit History

Published on April 25, 2019 by CreditFresh

Tiles with alphabets joined to make the word Rebuild

Do you want to increase your credit score by 200 points in only 12 months? The first step is to ignore any company or individual who guarantees that they can help you do this or any similar claim. Once you start to understand how to impact credit and build positive credit history, you also begin to see that credit scores are too dynamic and complex to say that you can go from X to Y in 12 months.

How long does it take to build credit history? We would love to give you a firm timeline, but there are simply too many variables.

Building credit history depends on several factors, such as:

  • How many credit cards you have and their balances
  • Your payment history
  • Your spending behavior
  • Many, many other things

Today we’ll help you to understand the scope of the work that may help you build positive credit history. We can only provide very rough timelines for these steps, in no particular order, with no guarantee of how long any of these recommendations will take. How much time any of these things take to have any impact on your credit score will depend on many things, including where you’re starting from, where you’re looking to go, and how diligent you are along the way.

Step 1: Find and Dispute Any Errors on Your Credit Report

Man looking at a screen displaying his credit report

This is really the only step where we can estimate any sort of potential timeline for how long it may take.

The first step is to make sure your credit score or history is not being impacted by something unfairly. Too many people just assume their credit report is accurate. However, as many as 1 in 5 people have found errors on their credit reports. This means that their score may have been inaccurately lower than it should have been.

Here is a suggested process for reporting an error and a rough timeline of how long it should take:

Get Your Credit Reports

You will need credit reports from the three major agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The good news is you’re entitled to one free credit report every 12 months, and there is no need to contact all three agencies individually.

You will need to verify your identity by providing your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. You may also have to provide your previous address if you have moved in the last two years.

Timeline: 5–20 Minutes to request your report and 15–30 days for delivery, depending on the method you used to request it.

Review Your Reports for Errors

Now, you will want to take a deep and thorough dive into your credit reports. There are a number of errors that may show up, but generally speaking, be on the lookout for:

  • Incorrect personal information, such as your name, address, employment information, or marital status.
  • Incorrect public records information about lawsuits you have/have not been involved in. There may also be incorrect information about a bankruptcy that you, a spouse, or ex-spouse may have filed.
  • Incorrect accounts listed in your name that have wrong or outdated information or balances. You will also want to keep an eye out for fraudulent accounts set up under your name.

Be as thorough as possible when reviewing your credit reports for accuracy, because these details are important parts of your credit score.

Timeline: 1-3 hours, depending on the length of your report and your general familiarity with credit reports

Prepare Dispute Letter(s) and Supporting Documentation

If you do find any errors, you may want to start the process of formally filing a dispute to have them resolved.

Begin by gathering any supporting documents, which may include invoices, bank statements or court documents.

Once you have gathered them, the Federal Trade Commission has provided two helpful dispute letter templates and you will need both. One letter will be sent to the credit reporting agency you’re filing the dispute with, and the other is for the information provider (the person, company, or organization that provided the incorrect information to the credit bureau).

Make sure you provide copies of the relevant supporting documents and never send the originals. You may want to consider sending your letters by certified mail, with “return receipt requested,” so you can track everything and confirm when each respective party has received your letter.

Timeline: Disputes can generally take up to 30 days, however this may vary depending on the provider.


If a credit bureau removes any errors from your report, it may impact your score. Whether your credit score changes depends on the nature of your dispute.

Total Timeline: The entire process may take a few months, depending on the length of your report and the number of disputes you have. But the time and effort are worth it if you’re able to remove inaccuracies and impact your score.

Step 2: Look at Your Spending and Create a Budget

Cellphone and a pen on a paper with pie chart budget

Now, it’s time to sit down and take a frank look at your financial habits. Learning how to build up positive credit history also means learning how to build good spending habits. Begin by taking a close look at your bank statements from the last few months to see exactly how you’re spending your money.

You may notice that you’re buying your lunch at work twice a week. This may not seem terribly wasteful when you’re hungry. However, now you can see that this is costing you $15 a meal, which is $30 a week, and $120 per month. You can now see that this $120 a month could be better spent paying down your debt or on your bills.

The numbers above are actually a pretty conservative example. According to a 2017 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spent just over $3,000 a year eating out in 2015. That works out to just about $250 per month.

Add up ALL of Your Monthly Charges

How much money do you think you’re spending every month on subscriptions like Netflix, Spotify or Amazon Prime?

A recent survey revealed that 84 percent of Americans grossly underestimate how much they spend on their monthly tech services, devices, and subscriptions.

This is why you need to go over your bank and credit card statements to see exactly where your money is currently going. It’s easy to overlook how much you spend if you only work with guestimates. Tracking your spending carefully will help show a more accurate picture of your finances.

Create a Realistic Budget

Now, you need to create a budget that you can live with. This means you need to set realistic goals when creating a budget, or you’ll have a hard time keeping up with it when you put it into practice.

If you need help figuring out how you should be allocating your money, there are a number of free guides available online, for people in all stages of life, including:

Once you have a solid budget and plan in place, try to ensure that you stick to it. It may be helpful to download a mobile budgeting app, such as:

Timeline: This is highly variable and will depend on a number of factors. Creating a budget may only take a few hours, but integrating it into your day-to-day life could represent a major adjustment that takes you weeks to get used to. However, the more realistic you are with your financial goals, the easier the new budget will be to follow.

Step 3: Commit to Paying Your Bills on Time

This step goes hand-in-hand with setting your monthly budget. If you’ve created a sustainable and achievable budget, you should have accounted for all your monthly bills and you should be able to comfortably afford them.

The act of paying your bills on time may not significantly impact your credit score, as many of the companies you’re paying may not report your payments to credit agencies.

However, there are some strategies that have helped people build their credit history by paying their bills.

Rent Reporting Services

Less than 1% of FICO credit reports ontain rent information. However, you can pay a service to report your rent payments to credit agencies, which may help you build your credit score.

These services include:

Most of these services will charge you some sort of sign-up fee, and then a monthly charge to report your rent payments. However, if you’re looking to build your credit history, this may be an option you want to explore.

Can I Hire a Company to Show Me How to Build Credit History? Can They Speed Things Up?

When you first start to ask, “How long does it take to build credit?” you might start to wonder how you can speed up this process. Maybe you’ve seen credit repair companies that promise they can help you build your credit score by X points in 12 months. They may offer you services that may help you rebuild your credit. For example, some might offer credit counseling to help settle your debts, or handle your credit report disputes.

However, there is no way to pay a company to fast-track building your credit history in the same way you pay an extra $15 to get a package shipped faster. So, don’t be fooled by marketing that sounds too good to be true, because it more than likely is.

It’s very important to know that any time you learn how to build credit history, you are the one doing most of the work. You’re the one carrying out good habits, sticking to a budget, and making your payments on time.

As you can see, there is no simple answer to, “How long does it take to build my credit history?” However, after reading this, we hope you have a better idea of what you need to do to get there.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information only and does not constitute financial, legal or other professional advice. For full details, see CreditFresh’s Terms of Use.