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Negative credit report entries—events that can hurt your credit scores, and that lenders may see as signs of imperfect credit habits—remain on your credit report for up to seven years. The one exception is Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which expires after 10 years. Positive entries—those that promote credit score improvement and that lenders view as signs of good credit management—last at least 10 years and may remain indefinitely.
How Long Negative Items Remain on Your Credit Report
The start of the "countdown clock" on expiration of negative credit report entries differs by entry type. Most negative entries expire seven years after the first missed payment, or delinquency, that led to the entry. Expiration of bankruptcy entries date from the day the petition for bankruptcy protection is filed with the court.
- Defaults: Seven years from the original delinquency date. A default is typically recorded if you go 90 days without making a scheduled payment on a loan or credit account.
- Accounts in collections: Seven years from the original delinquency date. Accounts are typically turned over to collection departments or agencies after several months of missed payments.
- Foreclosures: Seven years from the original delinquency date. Mortgage lenders typically can initiate foreclosure after 90 days without receiving a scheduled payment, and property seizure typically can occur after no fewer than 120 days without a payment.
- Late payments: Seven years. Missed payments, or delinquencies, that don't lead to more serious negative events expire from your credit report after seven years.
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy: Seven years after the date it was filed. Also known as reorganization bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy calls for full or partial repayment of creditors.
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy: Ten years after the filing date. Also known as liquidation bankruptcy, Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to keep exempt property, sell certain property to repay debts and then discharges the remaining debts.
How Long Positive Items Remain on Your Credit Report
Positive entries—information that tends to benefit your credit scores—remain on your credit scores for at least 10 years. Examples include:
- Closed, positive accounts with no negative history: Ten years from closure date. Installment loans that are paid off as agreed remain on your credit reports for 10 years, as do credit card accounts in good standing that you choose to close.
- Open accounts in good standing: May remain indefinitely. The payment history on credit card accounts that remain open can stay on your credit reports indefinitely, contributing to the length of your credit history and your record of timely payments.
How to Improve Your Credit
If your credit reports contain some negative entries, your credit scores may be suffering, but there are time-tested steps you can take to improve your credit scores:
- Pay your bills on time. Your record of paying on time is one of the most important factors in your credit score. Even one delinquency—a payment made 30 days or more after it is due—can do serious harm to your scores. Getting in the habit of paying your bills on or before their due dates is a great tactic for improving your credit.
- Avoid high card balances. Credit utilization—the percentage of your credit cards' borrowing limits compared to their outstanding balances—plays a significant role in determining credit scores. Utilization that exceeds about 30% of your available credit limit can hurt your credit scores.
- Apply for new credit only as needed. Hard inquiries—when a lender checks your credit in connection with a loan or credit application—are not negative events, but they can cause short-term dips in your credit scores. (Hard inquiries fall off your credit reports after two years.) Applying for multiple credit cards or loans in a short period can generate multiple hard inquiries with a cumulative negative effect on your credit scores.
- Cultivate a healthy mix of credit accounts. Lenders and credit scoring systems tend to value individuals who can manage multiple debt types successfully. A combination of revolving accounts (credit cards or lines of credit) and installment loans (mortgages, auto loans and student loans, for example) will favor credit score improvement.
- Stay the course. As we've seen here, negative entries eventually expire, or "fall off" your credit reports. What's more, the longer your history with specific cards or loans, the greater chances for score improvements, all other factors being equal. So, if you maintain good credit habits and avoid additional missteps, eventually your credit scores will rebound and increase.
The Bottom Line
Seven years (or 10 years for Chapter 7 bankruptcy) may feel like a long time to wait, but it's not forever. In many cases, an event's negative impact on your credit scores will dwindle long before its entry disappears if you focus on building good credit habits in the meantime. If your credit is bouncing back from negative events, you can track your scores' recovery by checking your credit score from Experian for free each month.