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Building your credit – how to do it, and keep doing it.


Looking to build your credit? We LOVE THAT FOR YOU.

You may be at a point in your life where you’re looking to take big financial steps, and having a good credit score is essential to achieving those goals.

The thing is, good things take time and that can include building good credit.

OK, but – how long does it take to build your credit?

The answer isn’t simple. The length of time depends on a number of things, including whether you’ve had credit before and/or whether you need to repair it.

Credit reporting agencies usually look at your credit behaviour over time to calculate your credit score, which is generated from your credit report. They’re interested in knowing how often you make your payments on time, how long you’ve had credit, how much of your total available credit you're using, among other things.

Any negative information, like missed payments or previous bankruptcies, can remain on your report for six years or more. That said, even if you have negative information on your report, you don't have to wait six years to start making improvements.

OK, but – how do you build your credit score?

A little warning – we’re really passionate about this question, but we’ll try not to get too carried away. We promise, it’s worth your time to stay with us.

Here’s what you can do to build your credit. And (inspirational quote ahead), remember, this is a marathon, not a race.

Step 1: Learn about credit scores.

As mentioned above, credit reporting agencies are interested in your credit behaviour over time. Therein lies the key to building it. In general, there are a number of things that are taken into account when calculating your score – from your payment history, to the various types of credit you have on file. Note that your credit score may vary between reporting agencies as they each use a different scoring model.

Step 2: Get credit.

Building your credit is sort of like building your resume. Gaining professional experience can open doors for new opportunities – the challenge is getting your foot in the door first. That’s why we love our Guaranteed Secured Mastercard® – you’re guaranteed to be approved1 and it works like any other credit card, except that security funds are required as collateral.



Step 3: Build your credit.

Building your credit is not a temporary thing. Once you put in the work to achieve a good score, you’ll want to keep things that way.

Stick with these golden rules for building good credit:

  • Pay your bills on time:
    Lenders will report any missed payments to credit reporting agencies, so you’ll want to ensure your payments are consistent and on time. Setting up payment reminders on your phone, or alerts through your banking app will help give you that extra nudge.

  • Stay below your credit limit:
    Credit reporting agencies will compare the amount of debt you have to how much credit you have available. So, aim to make more than the minimum payment each month, or pay off your balance in full (if you can) before the payment due date.

  • Apply only for the credit you need:
    Did you know that applying for a credit card results in a hard hit on your credit report, which could affect your credit rating? Applying for several credit cards at the same time can negatively impact your plans to build your credit. If you’re unsure whether you’ll be approved for a card, we can help with that too. Quick Check®, our credit card eligibility tool, tells you which Capital One credit card you’ll be approved for before you apply, and using it won’t impact your score. Conditions and limitations apply.

  • Focus on a long history:
    It’s probably pretty clear at this point that you can’t fast track your credit history. Consistency is best measured over time. Whichever point you’re starting from, incorporating these habits early can set you up to have a strong credit history.

  • Monitor your score:
    As you’re creating positive credit habits, you may be interested in knowing how your hard work is paying off over time. Credit Keeper® from Capital One gives you quick access to your credit score for free, and you don’t have to be a Capital One customer to use it2. Credit Keeper is not available to residents of Quebec.


Read about the importance of checking in on your credit score while you’re working on building it!

¹ With this offer, you’re guaranteed to be approved for a Capital One Mastercard – as long as you:

  • Are at least the age of majority in your province or territory of residence;
  • Don't have a frozen credit profile and your eligibility for credit is not prohibited for legal or regulatory reasons;
  • Don’t have an existing Capital One account or a pending application for one; and
  • Haven’t applied for a Capital One account more than once in the last 30 days, haven't had a Capital One account that was not in good standing in the last year, and aren't in legal recoveries with Capital One.

The credit score and report information by Credit Keeper is intended for educational purposes only. Lenders and other commercial users may use a different type of credit score and other information when making credit decisions.

Credit Keeper is a service offered by Capital One and is powered by credit information provided by TransUnion. Availability may vary depending on our ability to verify your identity and obtain your information from TransUnion. Credit Keeper might be unavailable to some Quebec residents.

TransUnion and associated names and logos are trademarks of TransUnion, LLC or an affiliate.