Edited by: Juan Ruiz
& Keri Stooksbury
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Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), consumer reporting agencies can’t report negative information that’s more than 7 years old — or 10 years for bankruptcies. While 7 (maybe 10) years is a long time to have negative information on your credit report, you can move past it and improve your credit history.
Let’s find out how long you can expect negative information to stay on your credit report, what you can do about it, and how to improve your credit so the positives outweigh the negatives.
Negative credit report information, also known as derogatory marks, is any information that lenders or creditors might consider unfavorable. Generally, negative credit report information drags down your credit score and indicates you haven’t kept up with your financial obligations.
Serious credit issues such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or repossession can severely impair your credit history. Account defaults, charge-offs, collections, and late payments can also negatively impact your credit report and score. Hard credit inquiries are also negative marks but to a lesser extent than negative information that indicates you haven’t paid as agreed.
Derogatory marks on your credit report typically drag down your credit score. These marks indicate you haven’t paid bills on time and can suggest that you’re a risky borrower.
Lenders are less likely to offer credit products such as credit cards or loans to borrowers with negative marks on their credit reports. You should anticipate paying higher interest rates and costs than borrowers without adverse credit marks if you are approved for credit cards or loans.
Negative credit report items could also affect your ability to get housing, utilities, and, in some cases, employment.Hot Tip:
Judgments from lawsuits, such as being sued for debt collection, used to appear on credit reports, but they no longer affect your credit history. Tax liens won’t show up on your credit, either.
Having negative marks on your credit report can strain your financial well-being, but derogatory marks don’t last forever. Typically, negative credit report information stays on your credit report for 7 years from the date of first delinquency, though the details depend on what type of derogatory mark you’re dealing with.
A late payment can stay on your credit report for up to 7 years from the delinquency date. But there’s good news: a late payment only appears on your credit report if it’s over a month late. If you’re just a few days behind, you’ll pay a late fee and interest, but it’s just between you and your credit card company — no credit reporting involved unless you let your bill go unpaid for weeks.
Also, late payments tend to affect your credit score less as time goes on. While the late payment will stay on your credit report for up to 7 years, it will have less impact on your credit than the on-time payments you’ve made in more recent history.
What you can do about it: You can’t undo late payments, but you can do better next time. Focus on making on-time payments, even if you’re just paying the minimum.
Expect a charge-off to stay on your credit report for up to 7 years from the date you first missed your payment. Charge-offs occur when a lender deems your account an uncollectible debt. A charge-off is considered a loss for the creditor, which usually sells the debt to a collection agency. Most charge-offs happen when you’re severely late making payments on your account, usually between 120 to 180 days of delinquency, so your charged-off account also involves late payment marks on your credit report.
What you can do about it: It helps to pay the charged-off account in full or negotiate a settlement. Even if it takes you a long time to get around to it, lenders always prefer to see that you’ve paid your debts.
Collection accounts generally stay on your credit report for up to 7 years from the first delinquency. A collection account may appear on your credit report when an account becomes severely late and the creditor sends your account to a collection agency. Collection accounts often coincide with charge-offs. And as with charge-offs, you’ll likely have late payment marks associated with the collection account on your credit report.
What you can do about it: Paying collection accounts can reflect positively on your credit report even if the negative account remains on your credit report for several years. Some collection agencies may accept pay-for-delete arrangements, where the agency promises to remove the derogatory account from your credit report if you pay an agreed-upon amount.Hot Tip:
Read our guide to removing paid collections from a credit report to learn how to try to get collections off your credit file.
Expect bankruptcy to stay on your credit report for 7 years if you file Chapter 13 or 10 years for Chapter 7. The months or years leading up to bankruptcy undoubtedly include late payments, collections, and charge-offs, so you should expect those to affect your credit, too. Many people feel shame about turning to bankruptcy to manage serious debt problems, but it could be a more positive move for your long-term credit than dragging out poorly managed debt for years.
What you can do about it: Rebuilding credit should be your goal after bankruptcy. While your options may be limited, you could qualify for credit-builder loans or secured credit cards to help you build credit. Building a positive payment history and demonstrating responsible credit use with credit cards and loans can go a long way to rebounding after bankruptcy.
A home foreclosure will stay on your credit report for up to 7 years from the first missed payment. Foreclosures occur when you default on your home loan, and the bank takes your home to repay your mortgage balance. Like bankruptcy, a foreclosure is a severely negative mark on your credit report.
What you can do about it: Avoiding a foreclosure is ideal, and foreclosure prevention programs may offer counseling and assistance to help you stay in your home. But if it’s too late and you have a foreclosure on your credit report, focus on rebuilding your credit by staying current on your accounts and maintaining low balances as much as possible.
A repossession can stay on your credit report for up to 7 years from the first late payment. Lenders may seize or repossess collateral property, such as a vehicle, if you default on your loan by missing payments. Like a foreclosure, repossessions are severe negative credit marks.
What you can do about it: As with a foreclosure, you can move on from repossession by getting or staying current on your other financial responsibilities, especially loans and credit cards.
Delinquency or default on student loans can stay on your credit report for up to 7 years. A late student loan payment can appear on your credit report after 30 days for private student loans and 90 days for federal student loans. Private student loans may go into default after 3 months, and federal student loans after 90 days.
What you can do about it: As with a foreclosure, prevention is best. The U.S. Department of Education has various federal student loan repayment programs, and private lenders may offer deferment or forbearance if you’re experiencing hardship. If you have a student loan default on your credit report, do what you can to pay the balance and stay current on your other financial obligations.
Unpaid child support may reflect on your credit report for up to 7 years. Child support enforcement agencies may report overdue child support amounts, usually when child support arrears reach $1,000 or more. The agency may agree to remove some or all negative information after you pay in part or in full.
What you can do about it: Getting current with child support can help keep the negative information off your credit report in the future.
Hard credit inquiries may stay on your credit history for up to 2 years. While hard credit inquiries aren’t particularly negative credit information like bankruptcy or serious account delinquency, inquiries can temporarily lower your credit score. Lenders may hesitate to extend credit to borrowers with several recent hard inquiries, as it may indicate that you’re getting in over your head with credit.
What you can do about it: Try to limit how many hard inquiries you get on your credit report by prequalifying for credit cards and loans before you apply. That way, you can be fairly certain you’ll be approved, and the hard inquiry will be worth it.
If you’d like negative information off of your credit report sooner than later, there are a few approaches you can try:
In general, it’s a good idea to pay down your debt, even if it’s gone negative on your credit report. According to Experian, paying a negative account doesn’t re-age the debt. An account that was past due but has been paid looks much better on your credit report than one that remains delinquent.
Be wary of anyone claiming they can fix your credit and remove negative but accurate information. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns against companies that promise to fix your credit for an upfront fee. You can dispute inaccurate information on your credit report for free.
Keep in mind that negative credit reporting limits are different than the statute of limitations on debt. Negative credit reporting limits cap how long a derogatory mark can stay on your credit report. In contrast, statutes of limitations limit how long a creditor or debt collector can sue you to collect a debt.
Most states have statutes of limitations between 3 to 6 years for debts, though some debts, such as federal student loans, aren’t subject to a statute of limitations.
The best strategy for dealing with negative credit report information is often focusing on actions you can take to build a more positive credit history. While you should remove inaccurate negative information, it can be challenging to remove accurate derogatory marks.
These are just some of the ways you can move forward and improve your credit despite negative information on your credit report:
Find more strategies in our guide to credit score improvement.
Generally, negative information can stay on your credit report for up to 7 years. Still, derogatory credit marks gradually lose their impact over time, especially when your more recent credit behavior is positive. You can dispute errors, negotiate with creditors, and replace derogatory credit information with responsible credit use, such as paying your bills on time and reducing your balances.
It’s tough to remove accurate negative marks from your credit report. You can dispute inaccurate negative entries on your credit report, but most creditors and debt collectors won’t remove accurate information. It’s possible to negotiate a pay-for-delete arrangement, where the creditor or debt collector agrees to remove the information if you pay the balance in full or a negotiated amount.
Negative credit items — other than Chapter 7 bankruptcies — fall off your credit report after 7 years. The creditor can still attempt to collect the debt, but it won’t be on your credit report.
A 10-year-old debt is too old to put on your credit report. The longest a negative mark can be on your credit report is up to 10 years, and that’s only for Chapter 7 bankruptcies.
In most cases, negative credit information can be on your credit report for up to 7 years. Positive information on active accounts can stay on your credit report indefinitely. On closed accounts, positive information can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years after account closure.
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