4 ways to rebuild credit and get a credit score

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In a Nutshell

If you’ve had credit in the past but don’t see any scores now, it may be because you don’t have any recent account activity on your credit reports. Add some, and you’ll eventually become scorable again.

Louis DeNicola is a personal finance writer and has written for American Express and Discover. Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors' opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about our team.
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If you don’t have any recent account activity on your credit reports, your credit might not be scorable (for now). Don’t worry — here are four ways to start rebuilding your credit and get yourself scored again.

Even if you’ve had credit in the past, it’s possible to not have any scores now if your reports show no recent account activity. If you don’t have any recent activity, the scoring models that compile your credit reports and calculate your scores may not be able to provide scores for you.

This could be one reason why you don’t see anything when you go to check your credit scores, even if you used to have them. It may not be a quick process, but it’s possible to rebuild your credit history. Here are four ways to get you started.

  1. Ask your creditors to start reporting your payments
  2. Apply for a secured credit card
  3. Become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card
  4. Apply for a loan

1. Ask your creditors to start reporting your payments

If you pay utility bills or a cellphone bill, credit-scoring agencies may be able to use that data to score you. But utilities and telecom companies may not be reporting your payments to the three major consumer credit bureaus — TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.

To get credit for your on-time bill payments, you can call up your utility companies and ask them to start reporting your payment history. Just make sure that you pay your bills on time.

2. Apply for a secured credit card

Making on-time credit card payments is a key way to build up your credit history. But if you don’t have credit scores, how do you get a credit card so you can start making these payments? One option is to apply for a secured credit card.

Secured credit cards, like the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, are designed for people who are trying to build or rebuild credit. When you open a secured card, you’ll typically give the issuer a cash deposit that will serve as collateral in case you miss a payment. Your credit limit for this card will usually be equal to the amount of your deposit.

Using a secured card responsibly by making on-time payments and keeping your balance below your credit limit can help you build your credit. Eventually, you might be able to upgrade to an unsecured card. And once you’ve paid off all your balances and closed your secured card account, you’ll usually get your deposit back.

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3. Become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card

Another way to build or rebuild credit is to ask a trusted friend or relative who has a more established credit history to make you an authorized user on their credit card account.

Being an authorized user can have a positive impact on factors that go into your credit score, like payment history, age of credit history and number of total accounts.

First, your friend or relative should ask their credit card issuer if it reports authorized user accounts to the three major credit bureaus (some don’t). If it does and you’re added as an authorized user, the account activity will be added to your credit reports.

But the effect on your scores can depend on the account’s history and credit utilization rate. You may want to make sure you ask a friend or family member who is responsible with the card.

Keep reading: What you should know about being an authorized user on a credit card

4. Apply for a loan

Auto loans and personal loans can both help you establish a good payment history and rebuild credit, as long as you make your payments on time. But beware of high interest rates with personal loans, and don’t get an auto loan just for the sake of building your credit.

You can also apply for a credit-builder loan, also known as a secured loan. These work like a secured credit card and involve a security deposit that serves as collateral in case you default on the loan.

Bottom line

Credit and loan account information can stay on your credit reports for up to 10 years, but credit-scoring models can require recent activity to score you. If you don’t have any recent activity, you may not be able to get a credit score, which could lead to trouble when it comes to getting a credit card or loan.

But with patience and by following these steps, you can meet the minimum requirements and become scorable again.

Still confused? Here's how to understand credit scores