Credit Cards

How long after you open your first credit card will your score be created?


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If you’re trying to get your first credit score, you may feel like you’re stuck in a loop.

You need a credit history to establish a credit score, but you need a credit score to access credit and build a credit history. If that roadblock has left you with no credit score, you’re not alone. About 45 million adults are “credit invisible,” meaning they don’t have a credit score or their files don’t have enough information to get a credit score.

While establishing good credit can be difficult, it’s not impossible. By using the tools available, you may be able to establish a useful credit score after about six months. Here’s everything you need to know about getting a credit score after opening your first credit card.

What happens to your credit score after you open a credit card?

If you’ve never borrowed money from a lender or used a credit card to make purchases, there may not be enough information in your credit report to generate a credit score. But when you start making (or not making) payments, your issuer may report it to one or all three of the major credit reporting agencies.

So where exactly does your credit score come from? “Think back to when he was in school and he did a job,” says Rod Griffin, senior director of public education and advocacy at Experian. “The paper is like the credit report, and the teacher is like the lender, and they evaluate the information in the report and assign a score. The rating is like a credit score.”

Now, imagine you have hundreds of teachers evaluating the same piece of work, because you don’t have just one credit score. Based on a variety of different scoring models, you have hundreds of different credit scores. However, your FICO scores are the most important: 90% of major lenders use them to assess your creditworthiness.

You can expect to wait at least six months to get a FICO score after opening your first credit card.

However, with new tools like Experian Go and Experian Boost, “we can capture those positive payments going back 24 months” to generate an instant credit score, Griffin says. Experian Go offers personalized tips for building your credit score, and Experian Boost lets you add your on-time payments to your Experian report. So if you’ve been paying your utility bills or streaming services on time, you may be able to get a credit score sooner. Please note that your insurer or lender may use a different FICO score than Experian Boost.

Why do you need a credit score?

“Having a credit report and credit score is really about having access to lower-cost, non-predatory lending services and really being able to reach your financial goals,” says Griffin. Your credit score affects your life in several ways:

  • Loan: “Having a credit history helps you get things like mortgages and credit cards,” says Griffin. Without a credit score, you’ll have a much harder time getting a home or car loan.
  • Job: “Many employers see your creditworthiness as a sign of responsibility,” says Bola Sokunbi, certified financial education instructor, author, and founder of Clever Girl Finance. She notes that an employer can’t actually see her credit score, but she can see some details on her credit report, including debt payment history.
  • Sure: Insurers use your credit-based insurance score to determine your premiums in most states, due to a correlation between bad credit and money paid out on claims.
  • Rent an apartment: Most landlords will run a credit check when evaluating your rental application to ensure it is financially sound.
  • Utility costs: Your credit score may affect the connection fees or security deposit required to obtain utilities, since utilities are considered a form of credit.
  • Convenience: “Every day we are leaning more and more towards a cashless society,” says Sokunbi, noting that some retailers no longer accept cash. “To have a credit card, you need to have good credit.”
  • Protections: You can get benefits like travel insurance and fraud protection when you use a credit card, and you’ll need a credit score to qualify for one, Sokunbi says.

How to increase your credit score

When building credit is your goal, there are a few healthy habits that will help you succeed in raising your score:

  • Pay on time: “Paying off your balance in full each month if you can or at least making payments on time each month” will help you maintain a good credit score, Sokunbi says.
  • Keep your balances low: Always try to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30%. If necessary, pay your balance several times a month. And if your credit card issuer increases your limit, let it go, but don’t start spending more as a result.
  • Avoid too many apps: “You don’t want to take on a lot of new debt all at once, or at all,” says Griffin. Too many difficult inquiries on his credit report make him look like he’s desperate for credit.
  • Use credit building tools: If you don’t qualify for a credit card, try a credit building loan or consider becoming an authorized user on a friend or family member’s account.

pro tip

You can use Experian Boost to get credit for your on-time telecommunications or utility payments.

How to choose your first credit card

When you’re ready to get your first credit card, keep in mind that you may not have access to the best rates and terms. “Looking at interest rates, seeing how that interest will compound” will help you understand how much it will cost to carry a balance, Sokunbi says. He will also want to factor in the fees associated with maintaining the account.

When selecting a credit card, “you’re not only looking at the costs associated with that account, but also the benefits to you,” says Griffin. Try to choose a card that aligns with your lifestyle. For example, if you’re feeding a large family, choose a credit card that earns you cash back on groceries. Or if you’re traveling abroad, choose a card with travel insurance and no foreign transaction fees.

The best first credit cards

If you don’t qualify for a traditional unsecured credit card, you may be eligible for a student credit card, which generally has more flexible credit requirements, or a secured credit card, which requires a deposit up front. Even some unsecured cards are designed for people with no credit history to start building credit and can help you work toward a great credit score. Choose the best option available to you in terms of rates, fees, credit limit, benefits and rewards. These are some of our best options.

  • Introductory offer:

    N/A

  • Annual quota:

    $0

  • ordinary APR:

    19.99% – 29.49% (varies)

  • Recommended credit:

    (No Credit History)

  • Apply Nowexterna link icon On Petal’s secure site
  • Introductory offer:

    N/A

  • Annual quota:

    $39

  • ordinary APR:

    26.99% (changeable)

  • Recommended credit:

    (No Credit History)

  • More informationexternal link icon On our partner’s secure site
  • Introductory offer:
  • Annual quota:

    $0

  • ordinary APR:

    22.99% variable

  • Recommended credit:

    (No Credit History)

Visa Petal 1

The Petal 1 Visa is an unsecured credit card that you can qualify for even with no credit history. Petal uses an alternative approval process, which evaluates more than just your credit score. Information such as income and regular monthly payments can help determine your eligibility when you provide your bank account information with your application. It doesn’t come with cash back on every purchase, but you can earn rewards at participating retailers. You may also qualify for a credit limit increase after six months of on-time payments. The variable APR is relatively high at 19.99%-29.49%, but there are no annual fees or foreign transaction fees.

Capital One QuicksilverOne

The Capital One QuicksilverOne Credit Card is an unsecured credit card that is available to people with good credit. It comes with an annual fee of $39, but you’ll get unlimited 1.5% cash back for every dollar spent. Capital One also reviews your account for a credit line increase after the first six months. There are a few other perks, and the variable APR is relatively high at 26.99%, but it’s a great starter card that gives you a chance to rack up some rewards.

Discover it® Secured Card

The Discover it® Secured Card is unique in that it offers 1% back on all purchases plus 2% back on your first $1,000 in combined gas and restaurant purchases each quarter, while many secured cards don’t come with a rewards. The variable APR is relatively high at 22.99%, but there is no penalty APR. After To open an account, you’ll need to make a refundable deposit of between $200 and $2,500, depending on what you want your credit limit to be. And after just seven months, Discover will review your account to determine if you’re eligible to upgrade to an unsecured card account. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door and start building credit.

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