It can be frustrating to have your credit report marred with negative information. But sometimes, it can’t be helped. Even the most conscious of borrowers do make mistakes, whether it’s late or forgotten payment, or running into a financial problem that spiraled into collections, foreclosure, and bankruptcy.
It’s worth remembering that whatever you do with your credit accounts, they will follow you everywhere. Your credit report will certainly not define the type of person you are, but it certainly profoundly impacts the type of opportunities you get to have in life. Want a new home with a lower interest rate? Then you need to have good credit score. The same goes when you’re financing a new car, opening new credit lines, getting a rental apartment or even when you’re trying to get a job. Suffice to say, the higher your credit score is, the better opportunities you have at life.
But does that mean that when you incur negative data on your credit report, it will haunt you forever? Fortunately, credit report does not work that way. Every mistake or negative information that’s reflected in your credit report will eventually fall off in due time. The length of time these marks stay on your report depends on a variety of factors, but the most important thing is that when they are altogether eliminated from your report, you have a new clean slate to begin with.
What Goes on Your Credit Report & How Long They Stay There
1. Hard Inquiries
Hard inquiries are when you’re shopping for new lines of credit and the lender pulls out your credit report to check your eligibility for their products and services. You can’t avoid hard inquiries entirely all the time because certain events call for it. For example, if you’re buying a house and you’re applying for a mortgage, you’ll get hit with a hard inquiry. And if you shopped among multiple lenders, you might worry about how these will affect your credit standing.
Fortunately, mortgage shopping among multiple lenders is often counted as just one hit, and it can drop down your credit score by two to five points. That’s bearable. But if you try to apply for five to six new credit cards in a span of one to two months, the impact can get more painful as each one is counted as one hit.
Hard inquiries don’t linger for so long. They’ll typically appear on your credit report for just two years, and your score would have recovered after the first year.
But what about soft inquiries?
Soft inquiries typically occur when you’re pre-approved for a loan or new credit card or when a potential employer checks you out. In some cases, soft inquiries may reflect on your credit report. But fortunately, they don’t have any bearing on your credit score.
2. Late or Missed Payments
Late or missed payments can significantly impact your credit score as it takes 35% of your FICO score. So if you miss a payment by more than 30 days, you can expect for your score to go down by around 100 points.
Unfortunately, missed and late payments linger on your credit score for a while as well, from seven to ten years after your due date. If you’re late by 30 to 60 days, the impact can be tolerable. But if you exceed the 90-day mark, that’s when things get a little more painful.
Given that missed and late payments can render your credit very vulnerable to long-term negative information, it is in your best interest to keep constant tabs of your due dates. Set up reminders, automate payments, do whatever you can to pay your bills promptly. Otherwise, your account could be turned over to collection agencies which will even more severely affect your credit standing.
When a bill or debt is already past its 90-day mark and you still haven’t tried to settle it, the debtor may now refer you to a third-party company, often known as a collection agency, to try to redeem some of them or all of the debt. This event is referred to as your account going into collections. Once your account goes into collections, they will also reflect the activity to the credit bureaus.
Collection accounts can range from pretty much any type of debt, whether it’s a medical bill, credit card debt or overdue rental payments. Collection accounts can mar your credit report from seven years and six months to ten years. They start counting on the day you missed your bill, while six months is the grace period given to you before it is turned over to collections.
The unfortunate thing about collections is that your credit report will also carry the charge-off by the original creditor. That means when your account goes into collections, you get two negative marks. And if you pay off the debt before seven years, it will still hold the mark. However, the impact on your credit score lessens year after year.
4. Default or Delinquent Student Loans
Defaulting or missing your payments on student loans, whether federal or private, can blemish your credit report for up to seven years. You also start to feel the tinge of these late payments after 30 days for private loans and 90 days for federal loans. Either way, missing or defaulting on your student loan payments is never a good idea.
Private loan lenders can render your account default on the very first day you missed your payment, but it can be a legal battle before they can force you to repay. In the case of federal loans, the impact can be more damaging – you may get forfeited with tax refunds, social security benefits and even your salary.
If you find it hard to settle your student loans on time, you have plenty of options before negative marks make their way to your credit report. You may ask your lender to restructure your payment plan so it’s more affordable and manageable for you; or you could opt for consolidation or forbearance.
Foreclosure is when your property is seized due to missed or delinquent payments. You are charged with foreclosure when you miss paying your mortgages by 90 days. Foreclosure is one of the most damaging items you’ll incur in your credit report, affecting your credit score by as much as 100 points and tainting your report for seven to ten years. If you have a higher credit score, you can expect foreclosure to affect your credit score to significant degree.
While most mortgage lenders begin to report delinquent payments after 30 days your due date, they typically wait after 90 days before starting with the foreclosure process. Once the foreclosure process is completed, your credit score reflects 6 months’ worth of missed payments.
On a related note, a short sale can also impact your credit report, but it not to the extent that a foreclosure does. A short sale is when the bank waives or forgives the difference between the amount that you owe and the sale of the property. However, you still need to pay for tax incurred from the sale.
Either way, you want to avoid foreclosure and short sale by all means because they can leave very derogatory marks on your account for a long time.
6. Public Records
Public records refer to bankruptcy, tax liens and judgments found in your credit report and all of them leave negative marks on your credit report. Depending on the type and severity of the public record, this information can last from seven to ten years on your account.
Chapter 13 bankruptcies can remain on your record for seven years, but there are rare instances when it can extend to three more years.
Chapter 10, 11, and 12 bankruptcies can damage your report for ten years.
Meanwhile, judgment is when you are sued by the creditor. Judgment can appear on your report for seven years, but in some states, the judgment mark does not fall for as long as it’s an active case. On the other hand, paid off tax liens can linger on your report for seven years, and in most states, unpaid tax liens stay indefinitely.
A lot of what you do today can impact your credit report in so many ways for the long term. Missing your bills here and there, can spiral into a credit disaster if you’re unable to get control of it. More damaging items like foreclosure and bankruptcy can especially be devastating.
You can avoid negative remarks on your report by being more conscious and vigilant about how you use credit. You may be able to get away with a late payment for a utility bill or two, but never make it a habit. The more you allow yourself to become irresponsible with your finances, the more your credit report gets affected.
As for these negative reports, they’ll eventually fall off, and you just have to let time do its work. Meanwhile, you need to rebuild your credit standing by starting anew, beginning with adapting the best habits and practices for proper financial management.