Most people who file for bankruptcy are looking to build healthier financial futures. So, it’s only natural that bankruptcy filers often worry about how bankruptcy affects their credit. One of the most common questions a bankruptcy attorney hears is “How long will the bankruptcy stay on my credit report?”
How long bankruptcy stays on your credit report depends on which type of bankruptcy you file. Chapter 13 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven years, which is the same amount of time that most other public record and creditor-reported items remain on the record. According to Experian, one of the three major U.S. credit reporting agencies, Chapter 13 doesn’t stay on your credit as long because at least some debts are paid through the Chapter 13 repayment plan.
In a Chapter 7 case, unsecured debt can be discharged with no payment required. So, credit reporting agencies treat this type of bankruptcy a little more seriously. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing will remain on your credit report for 10 years.
Although many people believe that the seven-year or 10-year clock begins on discharge, the countdown actually starts the day you file your bankruptcy case. In a Chapter 7 case, this usually only makes a difference of a few months. But, a Chapter 13 filer who completes a five-year repayment plan will be most of the way through the reporting period by the time they receive a discharge.
Rebuilding Credit after Bankruptcy
Your credit score affects many areas of your financial life, from access to credit to the interest rates you pay. Many people see a credit score increase almost immediately after bankruptcy, and most can rebuild credit in a year or two. But, you can’t take these improvements for granted. To get the full benefit of your bankruptcy filing, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to improve your credit score.
In this article, you’ll learn when and how a bankruptcy case is removed from your credit report. You’ll also learn that you probably shouldn’t worry too much about your bankruptcy case showing up on your credit history.
Can you get a bankruptcy removed early?
There is no official way to get a bankruptcy removed from your credit report early. The credit reporting system depends on consistency. If some people could remove bankruptcies early and others who filed at the same time still showed those filings, credit scores and credit reports would be less useful.
However, some credit repair companies claim that they can remove bankruptcy from your credit reports. And, sometimes these efforts are successful. A credit repair agency will look for any small error in the way your bankruptcy is reported and file a dispute. Even if there is an error, there’s no guarantee the bankruptcy will be removed. The credit reporting agency may get the correct information and change your credit report. But, occasionally, they can’t verify the information or don’t want to make the effort. In those cases, the bankruptcy may be removed.
If an accurate entry is removed from your credit report because of a dispute, it may be added back at a later date. So, the long-term effect of a successful dispute is uncertain. If a bankruptcy case you really filed is removed, the credit reporting agency may verify it later and start reporting it again.
Will my credit score improve once the bankruptcy is gone?
It might seem obvious that your credit score will improve when a bankruptcy drops off of your credit report and out of the calculation. But, it doesn’t always play out that way. Credit scores are calculated using many different factors, and bankruptcy is just one of them. By the time bankruptcy drops off of your credit report, the bankruptcy filing will be old news compared to other items on your credit report. So, its impact may already be low.
While many people do report a significant increase in their credit scores when the bankruptcy is removed, others see a drop. By that point, what you have done in the seven or ten years since your bankruptcy filing will carry more weight than that one entry.
Fortunately, your credit score may already have improved quite a bit since your bankruptcy. In one study, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that credit scores increased by 40 to 80 points after filing for bankruptcy. That initial bump is only the beginning. Between the bankruptcy filing and the time bankruptcy drops off of your credit report, you have seven to 10 years to build a solid payment history. You may start as small as opening up a secured credit card with a low credit limit, then graduate to a higher-limit credit card. Making payments on time and keeping your balances well below your credit card limits can help build a stronger credit history. Many people have very good credit scores long before a bankruptcy case is removed from their credit reports.
Are bankruptcies automatically removed from my credit report?
Your bankruptcy should be automatically removed from your credit report when it “ages off,” or reaches the seven-year or 10-year mark. But, credit reporting errors are common, so don’t just trust that the bankruptcy will be removed. Check your credit reports with TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax shortly after the date your bankruptcy should have been removed.
If your Chapter 13 bankruptcy is still appearing on your credit report more than seven years after you filed, or your Chapter 7 bankruptcy is still reported after 10 years, you should dispute the entries. You will have to file a dispute separately with each of the credit reporting agencies that is still showing your bankruptcy case. Although the credit reporting agency has an obligation to investigate after you file a dispute, you can help the process along by providing documentation, such as a date-stamped copy of your bankruptcy petition.