Bankruptcy - how to revive your credit after hard times.

Dear myFICO,

A few years ago I fell on some hard times and missed a bunch of payments to my creditors before finally declaring for bankruptcy. Now I'm dedicated to getting my financial life back on track and have paid all my bills on time for almost three years now!

Can you tell me how long my bad history will remain on my credit report? Do different types of information remain longer than others? Is there anything I can do to remove these old items from my credit report any quicker?

Karen
Chicago, Illinois

Dear Karen,

The fact that you've been paying all of your bills on time for nearly three years is a huge step in the right direction. Your recent good payment history won't make your past payment history disappear, but it has laid a strong foundation for a better credit history going forward. Keep it up!

Different items on your credit report remain for different lengths of time. Make sure to check your credit report so you'll know when the items on your report were originally listed - then you'll know when they should be removed by the credit bureau. In general, here's how long some common negative items can remain on credit reports:

  • late payments - up to 7 years from the time the late payment was reported
  • collections (where a creditor has turned over your delinquent account to a collection agency) - up to 7 years from the time the debt was first assigned to a collection agency
  • bankruptcies - Chapter 7 bankruptcies can remain for up to 10 years from the date filed. Completed Chapter 13 bankruptcies can remain for 7 years from the date filed.

Unfortunately, if the negative items on your credit report are valid, there's nothing you can do to remove them. And don't be scammed by credit repair companies claiming to make your credit problems disappear - no one can remove a legitimate negative item from your credit report. But if you continue to pay all of your bills on time and manage your credit wisely, the impact of these past negative items will begin to have less of an impact on your FICO® score. Eventually, they will fall off of your credit report completely and have no impact on your score. The key to improving your score is to continue to use your credit responsibly.

Going forward, here are some things you can do to ensure your financial well-being. First, check your credit report at least once a year and make sure the information listed there is correct. By law, everyone is entitled to receive one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months. You can get these free credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com. Second, before applying for credit, check your FICO score. Since you may not have a great score, it's even more important that you know the rates you should expect from creditors before signing on the dotted line. Last, make smart choices regarding your credit and FICO score - this free booklet can guide you.

Remember, it may take a while to completely put your credit problems behind you. The fact that you've been serious about taking control of your credit is important - continuing to use your credit responsibly is essential to restoring your credit. From all of us at myFICO, we're glad to see you're on your way to a bright FICO future.

Sincerely,
myFICO Team

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