Debt settlement affects your credit for up to 7 years, lowering your credit score by as much as 100 points initially and then having less of an effect as time goes on. The events that typically lead up to debt settlement will affect your credit score, too. Most creditors will not consider debt settlement until the debt holder is severely delinquent on payment or already in default. Missing payments and then defaulting, or charging-off, on debt can cause your credit score to drop by as much as 110 points even before debt settlement negotiations begin.
In other words, the extent to which debt settlement will impact your credit standing depends in large part on your current payment status: