Negative information can stay on your credit report for 7 to 10 years, depending on the type of information. Positive information can stay on your credit report for 10 years after a loan or credit account is closed, or indefinitely if the account is still open.
Knowing how long negative information such as late payments, delinquent or defaulted accounts, and other unfulfilled financial obligations will stay on your credit report is particularly important because such records can do a lot of damage to your credit score and your finances overall. The following table will get you started with a general sense of the shelf life for different types of credit report information.
How Long Something Can Stay on Your Credit Report, by Type of Information:
|Types of Information||Timeframe||Examples|
|Late Payments||7 Years||Missing a credit card or loan payment|
|Accounts Sent to Collections||7 Years||Defaulting on a medical bill, phone bill, or loan|
|Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 Bankruptcy||10 years||N/A|
|Chapter 13 Bankruptcy||7 or 10 years||N/A|
|Open Accounts in Good Standing||Indefinite||Checking account, credit card account|
|Closed Accounts in Good Standing||10 years||Checking account, credit card account|
|Credit Inquiries||2 years||Soft inquiry, hard inquiry|
|Lawsuits & Unpaid Court Judgments (Public Records)||N/A||Child support & tax liens|
Below, you can learn more about the various types of information that you might find on a credit report and when each is likely to leave. But before we get into further specifics, it’s important to note that there is NOTHING you can do – from hiring a “credit repair” service to even paying off amounts owed – to decrease the length of time that legitimate information will remain on your credit reports. If any information on your credit report is incorrect, however, you can dispute it with the credit bureau that generated your credit report and have it removed.
Credit reports track your payment history on different types of credit-based financial accounts, including credit cards, car loans, mortgages, personal loans and lines of credit. While records of on-time payments can help bolster your credit standing, information about tardy or missed payments will have a negative effect for years. The impact as well as the length of time that negative information will remain depend on how far past due you are/were on payment.
- Late Payments: You must be at least 30 days late on a payment for it to show up on your credit report. Information about payments that are late by 30 days or more will remain on your credit file for 7 years from the date creditors report them to the credit bureaus. People often get concerned that a payment that’s just a few days late will be noted on their credit reports, but that’s not the case.
- Charged-Off Account: When you are 120 days behind on a loan payment or 180 days late on a credit card, your lender will be required to write the debt off its books (this is known as a charge-off), and your account will be classified as “Not Paid as Agreed” on your credit reports. This information will remain on file for 7 years, starting from when the delinquency that led to the charge-off is first reported to the credit bureaus.
For example, if your account was reported as late to the credit bureaus in September 2020 and it charged-off in December 2020, the late payments and charge-off record would stay on your credit report until September 2027.
You can read more in our Q&A about how long late payments stay on your credit report.
Collection accounts remain on your credit reports for a period of 7 years, which begins on the date the delinquency that led to the collections account is first reported to the credit bureaus.
For context, accounts that you do not pay as agreed – whether they are charged-off credit accounts or unpaid medical bills, for example – are often sold to collection agencies. These accounts are classified as “collection accounts” on your credit reports. Credit accounts sent to collections should be listed as a continuation of the charged-off trade lines that have been on your reports all along (i.e. not new entries), while medical bills generally only show up once they enter collections.
You can learn more from Q&A on how long collections stay on your credit report.
The length of time that bankruptcy information can remain on your credit reports depends on the type of bankruptcy in question as well as whether or not you have upheld the terms of your filing.
- Chapter 7 & Chapter 11: Remain on your credit file for 10 years from the date filed.
- Chapter 13: A discharged Chapter 13 bankruptcy generally remains on your credit file for 7 years from the date filed, while a non-discharged Chapter 13 bankruptcy remains for 10 years.
“Interestingly, some people believe that if they file a Chapter 13 – or what they believe is a ‘medical bankruptcy’ (and legally, there is no such thing as a 'medical bankruptcy') – then their credit will be less affected. But that’s not the case,” says Dr. Deborah Thorne, an associate professor of finance at Ohio University. “Now, if folks file before they start to fall behind on their debts, then the overall damage to the credit score should be less because the only negative hit is the bankruptcy. If you don’t fall behind on your bills before you file, then those dings for late payments are not on your credit report.”
Unfortunately, there is no way to minimize the credit score damage that results from bankruptcy. However, you can (and must) take the opportunity to right your financial ship, rather than reverting back to the mistakes that helped get you into trouble in the first place. “Bankruptcy on a credit report isn’t great, but what is even more damaging is to go through a bankruptcy and then come out and get over-extended all over again,” says Mary Jo Wiggins, a professor of bankruptcy law and vice dean at the University of San Diego School of Law. “This can happen fairly easily since a lot of credit issuers actually deluge people who have gone through bankruptcy with credit offers because they know that a significant portion of their personal debts may have been discharged.”
For more information, you can consult our guide about how long bankruptcy stays on your credit report.
Both hard and soft credit inquiries stay on your credit report for two years. Only hard inquiries can affect your credit score, and the impact lasts for one year.
With that being said, credit inquiries on your credit report are more informational than anything else. As long as you avoid making multiple inquiries at once, your credit score should only drop by about 5-10 points. If you’re interested in learning more, we have a page specifically about how long inquiries stay on your credit report.
Tax liens have been removed from all credit reports, as of April 2018. Before that, unpaid tax liens remained on credit reports indefinitely. Paid tax liens remained for 7 years from the date of payment (known as the “release” date).
Civil judgements no longer appear on credit reports, either. Before the law changed, records of judgements remained on credit reports for 7 years from the date filed in court. This was regardless of whether the amount owed was paid.
Exceptions Based on State of Residence
In some cases, state law will limit the length of time that certain types of negative information can remain on your credit reports. For example, paid collection accounts remain on your credit report for 5 years from the date of last payment in New York. Most other states follow the standard 7-year timeframe. To find out which state’s laws have precedence in your case, look at the agreement you signed with your lender.
How to Minimize the Impact of Negative Information
When you consider just how important the information on your credit reports is to your overall credit standing as well as the fact that negative information can cost you a lot of money, it’s clear that you should not take the presence of such information in your files lightly.
There’s only so much you can do when records are listed and removed correctly, but that’s far from guaranteed. There are also many “credit repair” companies out there that will promise miracle fixes to your credit woes (for a fee, of course). You should therefore keep the following tips in mind:
- Review Your Credit Reports.
In many cases, consumers aren’t even aware of negative information on their credit reports until a lender sends them a disclosure noting that their application was denied, or they were given a higher interest rate because of its presence. What’s more, various studies have found that up to 30% of all credit reports contain errors serious enough to warrant a denial of credit.
You don’t want to be punished undeservedly, so it’s best to take advantage of your right to a free copy of each of your major credit reports once every 12 months. By requesting one of your three major reports every few months, you’ll increase your chances of spotting inaccuracies as well as fraud before they can have serious consequences. You can also access your TransUnion credit report for free through your WalletHub account. We provide daily updates to this report as well as free credit monitoring, so you can get a heads-up about any suspicious activity.
- Pay Extra Attention to How Collection Accounts are Classified.
Debt collectors aren’t always the most ethical bunch, believe it or not, and they have been known to report information as a new trade line rather than a continuation of an existing charged-off account in order to intimidate you into paying them.
- Call If You Have a Question.
People tend to hide from financial problems, but if you aren’t sure about something, it definitely doesn’t hurt to call your creditor or a credit bureau for an explanation. You might find that an error has been made or the organization in question will be willing to work with you toward a mutually beneficial solution.
- Remember, Regulators Are There for You.
Consumers have a new ally in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can take advantage of this watchdog’s regulatory power by reporting illegal debt collection activities or unresolvable situations that you might encounter with a given creditor/credit bureau.
- Don’t Forget About SOLs.
While the length of time that negative information can remain on your credit reports tends to be capped, the timeframe in which you are legally liable for amounts owed can reset when you make a payment (or in certain other situations). It’s important to be mindful of what can reset the Statute of Limitations (SOL) clock when dealing with negative information on your credit reports.
Positive Information From Accounts in Good Standing
Your credit report will always show any open loans and lines of credit, which is good news for your credit score. As long as you keep your accounts in good standing, this positive information will boost your credit score throughout the lives of the accounts. To help keep your accounts in good standing, we recommend that you check out our guide on tips for never missing a due date.
Once you close an account that was in good standing, it will remain on your credit report for 10 years. While it may be frustrating to see an account that benefits your credit score disappear, you can easily balance out the credit score impact by having more than one credit account. You can read more about the benefits of multiple credit cards in our guide about how many credit cards you should have.