Home > Credit Score > 11 Tips to Rebuild Your Credit

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Looking for tips to build your credit? Here’s a slew of them to help you get your credit back on track.

Set a date night with your credit.

Think of it as your monthly check-up, or weigh in. Or add it to your to-do list when you pay your bills. Just be sure to take a few minutes each month to review your credit scores, monitor your progress, and set your goals for the coming month. Your credit reports and scores are generated when they are requested, so as soon as negative information is no longer reported — or positive information is reported — your scores can change. Use Credit.com’s Free Credit Report Card to monitor your credit scores as you fix your credit.

Don’t overlook the obvious.

When you are trying to fix your credit, you may find yourself focusing on the “big” stuff like judgments, charge-offs or other negative information. But the personal information on your credit reports is also important. A misspelling of your name, or an address you’ve never lived at, could indicate your credit information is getting mixed up with someone else’s. So take errors here as seriously as any other mistakes you may find on your credit reports.

Mark your calendar.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act addresses how long negative information can remain on your credit reports. There are limits on how long negative information can be reported:

  • Late payments: 7 years from the date the payment was late
  • Collection accounts: 7.5 years from the date of delinquency on the original debt (leading up to collection)
  • Charge-offs: 7 years from the date charged off
  • Tax liens: 7 years after they are paid or satisfied
  • Judgments: 7 years from the date entered by the court if paid, possibly longer if unpaid
  • Repossession: 7 years from the date the repo occurred
  • Bankruptcy: 10 years from the date filed (Chapter 13 cases will be removed 7 years from the date of filing)

You typically don’t have to request that the credit reporting agencies stop reporting negative information that is too old; they do that automatically. But it’s still a good idea to check your credit reports around 30 – 60 days after this type of information is scheduled to come off your reports to make sure it’s gone.

Watch out for credit report double jeopardy.

Collection accounts that go unpaid may be sold from one collection agency to another. When that happens, both the number of collection accounts and the amount of debt you owe can be inflated. One of our readers founds that four unpaid credit card debts turned into fourteen collection accounts on her credit reports! It may take time to unravel which are legitimate, but when you do, dispute all but the most recent accounts as duplicates.

Don’t be afraid to bargain with debt collectors.

As far as your credit scores are concerned, it doesn’t make much of a difference whether you pay a collection account in full or settle the balance for less than the full amount. Just make sure that you get any deals in writing. Paying a collection account won’t immediately change your scores, but it will mean you can stop worrying about that debt and focus on other financial goals.

Kiss your tax lien goodbye.

If there’s one great tip to build your credit, this one is it: If you pay or settle a tax debt that resulted in a tax lien on your credit reports, you may be able to get that lien removed completely from your reports. The same may apply if you enter into an installment agreement with the IRS. Find out if you qualify and if you do, your credit scores may improve significantly when the tax lien is removed.

Accentuate the positive.

After running into credit problems, you may be afraid to jump in the water and use credit again. While you certainly want to be cautious and avoid getting in over your head again, getting credit is going to be essential to building your scores again. Recent, positive credit information can help your credit scores, and can make a big difference as you fix your credit.

Get a secured card.

These cards should be easy to get, even with damaged credit because you put up a security deposit for the card. (Manage the account properly and you will get your money back when you close the account.) If you choose a card that is reported to all three major credit reporting agencies, you’ll establish a new positive credit reference.

Don’t max out a credit card.

I recently talked with someone who is trying to restore his credit after a short sale and tax liens sent his scores plummeting. He opened a secured card with a $500 limit and was using it as often as possible, in hopes that would help his credit. What he didn’t realize is that his credit report listed a $400 balance on a card with a $500 limit. That made it look like he was maxxing out a card, which wasn’t helping his scores. Ideally, you want to use no more than 10 – 25% or so of the available credit on an individual card to score well for this factor.

Dispute mistakes the right way.

When you review your credit reports, you may find information that is wrong. If the mistake is a serious one, it’s a good idea to send a letter rather than filing an online dispute. You’ll need to challenge the error with each of the major credit reporting agencies that is reporting the error, since they don’t share information with each other. And if you ask a lender to correct information that it is supplying to the credit reporting agencies.

Be extra careful this time around.

One late payment can mean a big drop in your credit scores, and that’s not what you need if you are trying to fix your credit. Set bills up on autopay or set up automatic payment reminders by email and/or text message so you don’t forget a bill.

Image: iStockphoto

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  • Shavonda

    Hello, I was approve for a credit card about 17 years ago with a credit line of $300 I stop paying on the card when I was sent a bill for $638. It’s been on my credit for 15 yrs..Will it ever be remove or will it be in my best interest to go head and pay it.

  • Amy Gabor

    I had a car repossessed in 2008 it is showing still on my credit and is reported monthly with a balance owed almost triple what I even bought the car for!! I haven’t had the car since 2008 and they never sent me any kind of paperwork since then of any kind no contact what so ever now I am seeing it reported every month how and when will this ever be off so I can rebuild myself! I have a fingerhut account in great standing and a capital one secured card in great standing this is the only thing hurting me!! Please help me

  • Ebony

    Helpful, but my situation is hopeless.

  • brokecollegestudent

    My credit recently went down after some missed payments after I lost my job and had SEVERAL deaths in my family along with some medical tragedies in my own life. I’ve recently paid off all of my debt aside from my car and my student loans. I’m still in school but I’m only about 20, 000 in student debt and I owe 5,000 on my car. My credit currently is still listed as very poor. Is there anything for me to do at this point to help boost my credit from where it is or is it just a waiting game for the delinquencies to come off now that the cards are paid off?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      YOu need some positive information to help offset the negative. Paying off debt doesn’t necessarily help, but paying the debts you have on time and keeping balances low will help. If you no longer have credit cards, try to get a secured card. We have more suggestions here: How to Rebuild Credit

  • Megan

    I am trying to rebuild my credit. I got a creditone card. They told me I had to mail them all kinds of personal information. Now they are sending me bills for the card. I didnt activate it or use it or anything else. How can I dispute this and gwt them to leave my credit alone?

  • robin

    i have about 7 collection accounts against me for medical bills. Most are 3-6 years old. Should i pay these off or let them fall off my credit account?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Usually not. Most mortgage lenders don’t report until you are 30 days late.

  • kali

    After 7 years all my negative accounts were removed from my credit report, which left me with an empty credit history, I got approved for a unsecured credit card with 500 limit and the following month got approved for a 3k car loan, since I paid majority in cash, it had been 8 months now, but that’s the only things I have on my credit history, what else can I do? my credit score is 707, but I want to get to at least 750 so I can get a home loan

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Are you keeping the balance on your credit card to less than 30% of your credit limit (that would be just $150)? And keeping it to less than 10% would be even better. Another thing you can do nothing to speed up is time . . . age of accounts matters. But in the main, paying on time and keeping balances low are the biggest factors. You already have both revolving (credit card) and installment (car loan) credit, so you have some diversity of credit. Do be sure you compare the same score when you monitor your progress. Here’s how to monitor your credit score for free.

  • cp

    Well in August of 2014 I decided to finally look at my credit report, scared of what I would see. You see I was sent to Iraq for 6 years, went from making 120k a year to 2200 a month. Kind of killed me, but there you don’t have access to pay your bills, so when I can back all my credit cards were in collections or charged off, well after 8 months of constant work I have gone from a 531 to a 659. I have one item left that comes off in December. So this information is awesome… Just be patient get the secured card and stay away from inquiries….

    • Heaven

      cp that’s good a 531 to 659 in a months…can you give me any advice

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Do you have an idea of what your credit score is now? You can get your free credit score from Credit.com. If your score is comfortably in the excellent range, there’s no need to rearrange the card balances. Credit utilization counts for about 30% of your credit score, and some models score it as a percentage of all available credit and others look at cards individually. But first find out what your score is. It’s possible that any gain in score won’t affect your rate.

    • Eric

      I already utilize Credit.com and my score is 734, so not quite in the excellent range. This is mostly due to a short sale 3 1/2 years ago where it says “settled for less than full balance, as everything else is excellent. Never a late pay (even on the mortgage), a good mix of credit cards/mortgages/car loans. Total credit card debt is currently 14% of credit limits, but like I said on two cards. So what do you think? Does it make sense to spread the debt, or should I just leave it alone. Keeping in mind that I will incur no interest whether or not I transfer balances, but I will incur the fees of 3% which would be approximately $390. So the potential reduction in interest rate on the car loan would have to be more than that to justify. I currently have an auto loan at 3.99% for 72 months, so not sure if I could change my score enough to secure a lower rate.

      • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

        Keeping debt to less than 10% of your credit limit may help a little. And your score can vary depending on what model is used (it even varies day to day). Another option to lower your interest rate and reduce your overall interest expense, if you can afford it, is to shorten the term. Seventy-two months is longer than most experts recommend. Also, the zero balance on the 14 cards could leave them at risk of being closed by the issuers. It’s a good idea to use them from time to time so that doesn’t happen.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Do you mean with credit cards (as in not paying your full balance and letting interest accrue)? That will not help your score, no. It could even damage your credit if it results in your using more than 30% of your available credit.

    But if you mean does having an installment loan (as for a home or car) help your credit, the answer is yes, if you’re paying it off as agreed.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    You can go ahead and apply for the secured credit card, and be sure to pay on time and (hopefully) in full so that the repayment information reflecting those habits goes on your credit report. Here’s some advice on choosing a secured card to get you started: The Best Secured Credit Cards in America. Good luck to you.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    As long as you are paying your bill by the due date, you’re helping your credit score. Paying it before the bill comes in shouldn’t affect your scores. Another reader asked about paying weekly in this article, Can Paying a Credit Card Bill Weekly Hurt My Score?, which may be useful to you.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Mrs. Eltonette — If the court has ruled in your favor twice and they’re still harassing you for the debt, you may wish to contact a consumer law attorney for help. If you have a strong case, which it sounds as though you do, the attorney may work with you on a contingency basis where the defendant would have to pay the legal fees. A good place to find a consumer law attorney in your area is http://www.NACA.net.

    You may also consider filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau here: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/

    Please do keep us posted and let us know how things go?

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Chapter 13 bankruptcies should be removed after 7 years of the filing date. For more on how long different types of bankruptcies are reported, please see: • <a href="• How Long Does It Take to Rebuild My Credit After a Short Sale?“>How Long Will A Bankruptcy Stay On Your Credit Report?

    That said, if the bankruptcy was filed in November of 2005, it should not still be reporting and you’ll want to file a dispute with the credit reporting agencies to have it removed. The following resources can help you through the dispute process:

    A Step-by-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Errors
    8 Rules of an Effective Credit Report Dispute Letter

    Regarding the repossession, paying the repo wouldn’t automatically remove it from your credit report. Instead, the record of the repossession will remain in your credit report for 7 years. It should be reporting as a “paid” repossession.

  • Erika Anderson

    Gerri, can you tell me if Bankruptcy is ever good idea? I hear different things from professionals that deal with credit on a constant basis. When I talk to real estate agents, they say that most of the time you can get a mortgage after about two years as long as you do things the right way following the actual bankruptcy. Then other people say that it’s never a good idea and it will be 7 years before you’d ever be able to get any sort of loan again.

    Thank you!

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Hi Erika – Whether or not bankruptcy is a good idea really depends on the individual. While we never advise bankruptcy as a first resort, there are cases and situations where bankruptcy may be the only option left — but it really depends on the individual’s financial circumstances.

      For help in determining whether or not bankruptcy might be an option for you, Gerri provides more detail in the following resource:

      When Should You Consider Bankruptcy?

  • Kevin

    I am close to being discharged from my Ch 13 but there are still things on my credit that need to come off, Is there a reputable company to use for this?

  • mike

    I am thinking of filing for chapter 13,or 7.I am in debt and it slightley more than my income.Would this help me or hurt me? I am a current homeowner and would like to sell my house and buy another in 2yrs.I have been delquient in 3 mortage payments,and have currently filed for a remortage with my homelender.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Filing for bankruptcy won’t help your credit, it’s considered one of the most severe derogatory indicators for credit score models. It’s also important to understand that bankruptcies can impact your credit for up to 10 years (most fall off after 7) but fortunately, the older the BK gets, the less impact it will have. Having said that, you may have difficulty qualifying for a mortgage so soon after a filing for bankruptcy. This is because credit scores place the most emphasis on the last 24 months.

      For more on bankruptcy, how to decide whether it’s right for you, and how to recover in order to buy a home, the following resources should help:

      When Should You Consider Bankruptcy?
      How Soon Can I Get a Mortgage After Credit Problems?
      Considering Bankruptcy? 4 Ways to Rebuild Your Credit

  • Ree

    Do all those pre-approved offers affect your credit? I get at least a 1/2 dozen a month. I shred them all but wonder if it goes against my credit score that I get them or can I request that I not get them?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Receiving the pre-approval offers doesn’t impact your credit unless you actually accept the offer — meaning you’d have to agree to the terms, sign and apply for the offer before it would have any impact on y our credit or credit scores.

      To explain, the companies sending you these offers basically buys a pre-approval list of consumer names that meet specific credit requirements from the credit reporting agencies. These lists are marketing lists, used for the sole purpose of sending targeted offers to consumers who would qualify for them. It weeds out prospects that wouldn’t qualify for the offer and gives them a better return on qualified customer leads.

      Fortunately, you do have right to opt out of these offers and have your name removed from these lists.

      How to Opt Out

      To “opt out” of prescreen offers and remove yourself from unsolicited marketing mailings, visit http://www.optoutprescreen.com or call 1-888-5OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).

      To read more about pre-screening offers and opting out, the following article should help:

      How to Get Rid of Credit Card Junk Mail

  • Rick

    Excellent information presented – very helpful.

  • Edward

    I have medical bills on my credit report , whats the best way to go about taking care of them?

  • KatMat

    I purchased two homes shortly after graduating from college (2001 & 2004). My brother promised to pay the mortgage on one and my sister promised to pay for the second home. In 2008 both siblings lost their jobs and the mortgages fell behind eventually resulting in a short sale of one and a charge-off for the other and huge tax debt as a result. Needless to say, my credit has score has gone downhill consistently over time and now as a married mother of young children I find myself unable to purchase a home for myself or apply for financing of a new vehicle, etc. I have spoken with several lawyers regarding my options for filing for bankruptcy and it seems that I may not qualify due to my household income exceeding the limit. However, what I would like to know is what are the implications of a chapter 7 bankruptcy filing versus attempting to pay off my debts and trying to rebuild my credit from the bottom where it is now. Is a bankruptcy so negative that it will hurt me for the next 7 years anyway or will I be able to begin the rebuilding process after it is complete?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It sounds like you can’t file Chapter 7 bankruptcy based on what you are saying about making too much. However, you may be able to file Chapter 13 instead. Have you discussed that with them?

      As for rebuilding your credit, it’s difficult for me to say as I don’t know enough about where things stand. (Can you discharge any of the taxes in bankruptcy? Are you still on the hook for any deficiency?) but the advantage of bankruptcy is that it will put these issues behind you so you can focus on rebuilding your credit, instead of having them continue to create problems in your financial life.

  • Banjjo

    What do you know if anything about My Credit Repair University? Thank you

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Banjjo – We actually advise against using credit repair services, and do not endorse or recommend any of them for a number of reasons. The choice is yours but before you opt to pay for a credit repair service, we’d urge you to read: Do I Need a Credit Repair Agency?

  • http://mcampana0223@yahoo.com Monica

    I will like to know if forclosed to Commercial or Residential Property, does the same damage in the score report.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      A commercial foreclosure may not show up on your credit reports. If it does, there is no difference between commercial or residential foreclosures.

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  • Alex

    Fantastic article for sure!! Thank you for all of the tips and insight. My credit score has been a real priority for me over the recent years and I am certainly learning a lot as I go. One thing that was suggested to me early on was to apply for a secured credit card with a credit union. It worked! I also got caught up in double jeopardy, but was able to resolve that over time by disputing the accounts and paying back what I rightfully owed. I was also able to find some useful information relating to this sort of thing when I Googled the credit locker university. This was helpful as well. Thank you again!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Thanks Alex for the kind words and for sharing your story. I’m sure it will be inspiring for our readers who are trying to get their good credit back.

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  • beverly keenan

    It was a shock to me to realize I could borrow a pretty big chunk of money on my credit card for less than I could borrow it from my bank. Is there a way to indicate the difference between this account and real credit card charges. I can borrow $10,000 for 14 months for just the transfer charge of 2%. My bank needs 6%.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Are you asking about the impact to your credit scores? If so, whatever the balance is at the time the issuer reports to the credit reporting agencies, that is what will appear on your credit reports and will affect your credit scores.

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  • http://www.bargainrelo.com John

    Hi Gerri,
    I am in Ch. 13 w/two years left. I just received a secured card from a credit union. I understand 10-30% max utilization and will do that. I’ll need a new van for my business within a year. I think that it may make sense to borrow from the credit union to buy it (don’t have to; I can pay cash). My question is how does a auto loan affect my FICO score? It would seem that if I received a loan for $30k, the utilization is 100% and slowly drops over time. In that scenario, is it better to secure the loan, make a payment or two and then pay $15k on the balance to reduce utilization? I’d rather avoid interest, but I look at it as purchasing good credit. Does this strategy make sense? I’d be interested in suggestions if the plan should be altered. Thank you!

    • Barry Paperno

      Hi John, You’re right to be keeping your credit card utilization below 30%. Basically, the rule is the lower the better, so no need to keep it above 10% if you don’t want to.

      The good news in terms of the auto loan is that the utilization we’re speaking of only applies to revolving (credit cards) and not to installment (auto, mortgage) debt. That means the amount you’re borrowing will have no negative – or positive – impact on your credit score.

      Adding an auto loan to your current credit mix sounds like a good idea, as using different types of credit is a plus – though not a huge one – for your score. If you go that route, expect to see a slight dip initially when the loan appears on your credit report, but as long as you make the payments each month you’ll make up for the drop with the additional positive credit history the loan will be providing.

      Or if you want to avoid interest altogether and pay cash instead of taking out a loan, you can still rebuild your credit without an auto loan. However, if you do that, I would suggest getting another secured or other (department store, for example) card if you don’t have any other open credit, as it’s good to have more than one open credit account when in the rebuilding phase.


  • Chaz

    I found a few errors in this story. #1 The CRA’s do not automatically remove stuff thats betond the statute the do not have the resources to audit everyones files. so if you want something removed if you to dispute it. #2 a CH 13 Bankrutcy thats only dismissed can stay on your report for 10 years, that needed to be clarified. #3 You’re much better off using the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to have Collection Agancies Validate the accounts rather than settle or dispute them. Collection Agencies cannot report or collect any debts unless they have documentation to back it up in 30-45 days. #4 Most consumers see a less than 10% change when disputing itmes with the CRA’s and give up in an average of 90 days. The Credit Bureaus make money reporting information so they make it as difficult as possible to remove items. I have worked with a Legal and Compliance Director from Experian the last 6 years.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Chaz – Thanks for sharing your insights. I agree with some of your points, but for others my experience is different. #1. The CRAs are well aware of their obligations under federal law and they typically do not report information that can no longer be reported unless they don’t have complete or correct information to determine correct dates, The recent FTC study on credit report errors which I wrote about here: Are Mistakes Ruining Your Credit Report? has more insight into this issue. #2 Correct. #3 My experience is that it’s not that simple but that’s probably another discussion. #4: The FTC study, while a relatively small sample (1001 individuals) also shed some light on this issue.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Lewis

    Do payday loan companies report to the credit bureaus if you have an account that has went to collections? Also, I had a truck that my ex-wife drove and ended totaling.. I was unaware that she wasn’t making the insurance premium and it was considered a repossession after she stop paying on it although it still had a $14k balance owed. My question is, since thus was roughly 4 years ago, will it be removed from my credit history at the 7 year mark or will that only happen if the account is paid off or settled? Thanks!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Lewis – Most collection accounts are reported to the credit reporting agencies. You should probably assume that these will be. As for the truck repo, it will be removed seven years from the date of repossession. If there is a collection account then it should not be reported roughly 7 years after the repo. That’s true, regardless of whether it is paid. However, if you are sued for this debt and they get a judgment that will start its own reporting period. Make sure you pay attention to any notices you get about this debt so you don’t miss a notice of a lawsuit.

      You may be interested in this article: The 7 Biggest Questions About Debt Collections & Your Credit

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Lewis – Payday lenders don’t typically report but collection agencies often do so that account may wind up on your credit reports. As for the truck, the repossession should be removed after seven years whether it is paid or not. However, it’s possible (depending on state law) that you still could be sued for the balance on the truck and that could result in a judgment on your credit reports, which will be reported for seven years.

  • Miguel

    Is the credit utilaztion ratio calculated on each individual card or the total of all available debt/credit? That is, should I work on getting a card down to 25% then start paying down the next card, or should I pay one off completely before working on paying down the next one?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Miguel – You’re going to get two expert replies for the price of one! 🙂 My thoughts are as follows:

      Great question! It is calculated individually and in the aggregate. I didn’t mean to make 25% sounds like a magic number – it’s not. But getting those cards with high debt-to-available-credit ratios paid down may help your scores.

      Here’s my suggestion if you have several cards that you are tackling. Pay down the one with the highest rate to 25% then move on to the next one. Then once they are all paid down to that level, then start eliminating your balances starting with the most expensive one first. Sound good?

      I also checked with Credit.com’s credit scoring expert Barry Paperno, and he had these thoughts:

      While the 25% utilization ratio is not carved in stone, it’s proven to be a good general rule of thumb for most people. However, the best percentage for any individual will depend on their overall credit picture, e.g. payment history, length of credit history, etc.

      And while Gerri’s strategy for reducing balances is a good one that makes the most sense from a financial standpoint, I’ll add some food for thought. If you are more focused on trying to raise your score at the moment – buying a house or car soon – you may want to start paying down your most highly utilized cards first, even if it’s not the most cost effective method.

      Hope that helps!

      • http://att. arnold n solis

        i have one late payment about 14 months old how can i get it deleted it really hurt my credit file

        • Gerri Detweiler

          If the late payment is accurate then about the only thing you can do is to appeal to the creditor to ask them to remove it. If you’ve been a good customer otherwise, they may be willing to accommodate you.

  • Caroline

    I have student loans that have changed ownership several times. The original student loan shows up on my credit report 5 different times, although each is the same lender, same account number but with different dollar amounts. There are a couple of late payments that show up on each of these 5 reportings. The accounts show as transferred, but still negatively affecting my credit. Is there anything that I can do to combine these or get them taken off?

  • deb page

    Can an account show both late payments AND being included in a (ch7) bankruptcy? I am already getting dinged for the bankruptcy (due to a failed business…my credit was great before that). Am I also getting dinged for late payments. I don’t think that an account that was included in a bankruptcy (that has been discharged…about 6 months ago) should also show as having a current status of being 120 days late. And that shows as being sold or transferred. I disputed it with equifax (the only of the three CRAs showing this), but they say they have researched it and that it is correct. Obviously they didn’t do a very thorough job. What is my next step and why is there no incentive for this data to be correct? Is it because the furnishers of the data (i.e. banks) get to charge higher interest rates when we have lower scores because of their incorrect info? Please help.

    • Barry Paperno

      Hi Deb,
      Yes, an account can show as both included in bankruptcy and having some late payments prior. But when it does, as long as those late payments occurred before the bankruptcy filing, they will be ignored by the credit score. Only the bankruptcy and the date the account took on that “Included in Bankruptcy” status are going to impact your score in terms of the payment history associated with that account.

      As for why Equifax refused to change it, was a new account opened after this one was “sold or transferred”? And if so, is the bankruptcy showing up on that newer one? Also, is a balance still reporting (on either), or has it been changed to $0, as it should have? Either way, when it comes to your credit scores, the description of “Included in Bankruptcy” is no better for your score than “120 Days Delinquent,” so even with the proper reporting of this account I wouldn’t expect any improvement in your credit scores. Basically, an account in which the balance was discharged through bankruptcy must reflect that, as well as a $0 balance, on the credit report – although, again, any prior delinquencies can remain.

      Next step: If you haven’t done so already, my suggestion would be to provide the lender reporting the account and Equifax with a copy of your bankruptcy documentation, showing that the balance on this account was discharged, and request that it be updated to “Included in Bankruptcy” with a balance of $0.


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  • eugenio alvarex


    I want to fix my credit but i own a lot of credit cards. Should i get a financial attorney to help fix my credit?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      What kind of help are you looking for? Do you have lots of credit card debt you need to settle or…??

      • eugenio alvarez

        yes I have quite a few, I wanted to know which road I should take to clean my credlt

        • Gerri Detweiler

          Eugenio –

          Your question is very broad so it is hard for me to answer specifically, but it sounds like you have two issues you are dealing with:

          – The debts you owe and
          – The damage to your credit reports that has ensued due to these debts.

          My view is you take one at a time. The first is to figure out how you are going to resolve these debts. Assuming that you owe them and they aren’t too old (outside your state’s statute of limitations) then you can either look at paying them back with the help of a credit counseling agency, negotiating a settlement or even bankruptcy. I wrote about these in this article: 5 Ways to Get Out of Debt – Which One Will Work for You?

          Once your debt is resolved then you can start to focus on better credit. I don’t know why you’d need an attorney unless there are mistakes you aren’t able to get the credit reporting agencies to correct.

          Make sense?

  • Dave

    How do I get a fraudelent home loan off my credit report; my exwife has been found guilty of this crime and I have a civil suit against the bank for this fraud…the court system is terrible in helping

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Dave – Have you disputed it with the credit reporting agencies? If not, I would send them a certified letter and include a copy of the lawsuit. (This is not legal advice.) I would be interested in how they respond.

  • Holly

    I had student loans when I was in college, which I have been steadily paying off over the years. I noticed that the company handling my loan had changed. When I got my credit report at the end of the year, I now see it showing the “old company” as paid off and the new company as new loans. :/ Is this affecting my score negatively? Because it is 5 seperate “loans” throughout the years of school, which now has compounded into 10 accounts. Thanks ahead of time for your input! 🙂

  • Nancy


    Several years ago I had a Judgement for a car I bought for my daughter. She was the co-signer so as to get a better interest rate. The car was totaled and I was sued. I had a judgement for 7000 dollars. Because of divorce I had to file bankruptcy and the judgement was discharged in July of 2011. County records show the judgement has not been released yet. What should I do to get this released? I am trying to rebuild my credit so I can qualify for a house. Thank you for any help you can give me. Nancy

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Nancy – Have you talked with your bankruptcy attorney? He or she should be able to walk you through the procedure for getting the judgment released.

  • Ann M Teague

    Could you put me on your mailing list….I need alot of advice…Thanks

  • Anjupit

    I singed a parent loan for my son’s college in 2000 the balance is $13,000 and has not gone down even though I had been paying the bill. Due to other expenses I havent paid on it for about 2 yrs now they have recently started calling asking for a $260.00 payment why have they reappeared after not even sending me any bills for all this time?

  • Queens~Place

    I would like to know ……what is the difference between charge offs v/s write offs?
    also, given was the statue of limitations with the 7.5 and then they now have( a time barred debt)?

    I would like to know if the orginal date of the orginal debt or loan is charged off and then the created collection agencies buy or is paid a certain % to collect,located, and be able to get some type of payments off these debts or loans,,,,,Why? is these still considered to be legal? when the note was already either written off by the orginal company due to their liablility secured bonded insured for any losses or documented as some type of written expense for their records…Why? do these created collection agencies or companies try to target or prey many of the elders or co-enherce many of the debtors who have tired to work or contact the orginal lenders or companies to let them know of their needed payments arrangements due to the decrease in what they once use to pay or can no longer pay…..but yet they take most of all these people income taxes and now I am hearing placing tax, real property liens and judgements on these same pepple without even notification of them even going to court or have them sent the notification, once its been verified by the IRS of the current contacted data that their amt will be on hold until you contact whom ever, due to needed court appearence, so this way they can be able to come to court and be heard or bring sufficcient proof infront of the judge ..so that way something can be determine or resolved..A lot of people will be target due to the depression that affected their financial arena, I think their should be more done, not to take these same people and target them and place limitations into turmoil or a position they are not to come out of or can afford before they have to chapter out or just go back into a blocked situation of red again..

    Again, If a loan or debt by a orginal company or lender is charged off or written off , due to their FDIC insurance of protection, do thi means that these same companys; sell your debts to collection company’s or other lenders’ who (pays/buys) these debts and charge them for what they want with intrest on concurrenance until they forced these people who fall into some type of hardship additional fees? Owen Liens and Judgements? and Blocked Tax Refunds? …………I believe they should only working or try to work out new payments arrangements with these same people or acknowledge their current set income affordable guidelines, so they wont have this as a continuous hardship, due to how much these companys’ may have paid out to purchase these debts that was paid off by them to these people orginal lenders or company’s…..

    What is the best solution in preventing such double scrutony and invisible greed of additonal intrests or such administrative locations or search fees that is said to be added on the orginal balance…………They need to set guidelines for this one ……………STOP THE TARGET ..ESP….DURING ANY DEPRESSION AND HIGH LAYOFFS OF THE UNEMPLOYED WHO ARE BEING TARGETED.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Lenders must often write-off unpaid debts after a certain period of time (usually after 180 days of delinquency) to comply with banking regulations. That doesn’t mean they can’t try to collect, however. How long they have to try to collect the debt depends on the statute of limitations. We wrote about this in this story: Creditor gets a judgment against you, now what?

  • http://credit.com/GerriDetweiler Jim Erlemeier


    I have a credit card that has a limit of $3000.00. Every month I paid on this debt for a year with 3 times the minimum monthly payment on a zero interest loan. I was then informed that I had too much debt so the limit was reduced to $1950.00 even though I never missed a payment. Now I pay off the card in full every month yet I use this card for all my expenses due to travel. Does this loading the card back to the limit and pay it off every month really count as if I have a high balance to debt ratio or does this act as I am responsible by paying the debt off (how does this affect my score if any?) If I use your rule of never having more than 25% on your card…then it is worthless to use the card (airline tickets are not cheap). Thanks for your help. Jim E

    • Bill

      Gerri, You need to pay off the card in full before the billing cycle ends,not the due date! If you do that then your card company should show a ZERO balance when it reports to the CRA. This means you will most likely have to get one month ahead on your bills,ie money in the bank. And pay online for the best results. Hope this helps!!

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Bill is right – paying it off before they report is helpful but it can be tricky to figure out what date that is. Usually if it is paid off before the end of the billing cycle it will show a zero balance on your credit reports. You may need to monitor your credit reports and play around with this a little before you figure out the exact timing.

    • BW

      Just recently (read: *tonight*) saw a 27pt increase in my credit score by paying my card down to 19% use of available credit (utilization). However, it took a small bit of effort because after paying it down last month-or-so I patiently waited a month and didn’t see any difference. So I called my credit card company last weekend to ask them to “push” an early report to the CBs. My CC company wasn’t happy about it and even tried to dissuade me citing “it will still be up to 90 days before you even see any results.” but I insisted “please do it anyway.” Am glad I did, 10 days later I saw the 27-pt increase in my credit score which was directly attributed to bringing the card down to 19% utilization. And pay monthly payments well ahead of the due date, and more/double/triple/x4s what is due to get it down. For me, I sucked it up for three months and made huge payments to bring it down. I now only have ~20% (no more!) utilization revolving on the card with payments set firmly in my monthly budget. I intentionally have some bills directed to my card and I just pay the card instead of my billers directly. This way it keeps a small bit of activity on my card. I’m still learning about fixing my credit, but this is one thing I am finally doing right! If I were you I would request a credit limit increase from my company after bringing my limit under control. Oh, and “Yes.” Charging a plane ticket that puts a high balance on your card, and even though you’re paying it off, is like keeping a high balance because at some point your cc company will report it at that utilization/balance. You will never get ahead of it unless you’re charging the plane ticket and paying it off almost immediately before reporting hits the agencies. Good luck! 🙂

      • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

        BW – It’s not easy to do but when you get those credit card balances down, it really can make a difference in your scores. Glad you shared the experience with the delay in the update as well. Many people don’t realize how long it can take for credit card issuers (or any lender/data furnisher) to update a balance. Typically it takes a minimum of 30 days simply because most credit card issuers only send updates to the bureaus once a month (usually when your statement drops). Credit.com talks more about reporting delays and credit scores here:

        Help! I Pay My Credit Cards in Full Every Month But I Still Can’t Get a Loan

        Thank you for sharing your story and your results. It’s music to our ears when we hear them. Congrats and keep up the good work!

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      One important thing to remember about credit scores is that the time when they really matter is when you’re planning to shop or apply for credit. Paying your balance in full each month is an excellent practice but as you point out, every time you make a charge, a new balance will eventually be reported in your credit reports. Definitely use your cards and continue with your strategy of paying your balance in full each month, but in your case — instead of worrying so much about your utilization percentage each and every month, you really only need to strategize 30-60 days before you plan to shop/apply for credit. In which case, the best strategy would be to pay off the balances and stop using the card for major purchases until the credit card issuer reports the updated zero balance to the credit reporting agencies. This way, when you go to apply for credit, your score will be as high as possible (reflecting the zero balance). The whole goal with credit scores is to score high enough to get the best deal when it comes to interest rates and terms when applying for credit. We cover this topic in a little more detail here.

  • renee

    Any advice on where I can go to get a loan to get out of the payday loan nightmare I have dug myself into

    • rhonda

      Payday loan is a nightmare will never do it again. try a credit union or bank

  • Jennifer

    Collection accounts: 7.5 years from the date of delinquency on the original debt (leading up to collection). What does this mean exactly? Are you saying, that if it’s passed from collection agency to collection agency it will never come off your credit report?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Hi Jennifer – Sorry that wasn’t clear. Take a look at the date when you first fell behind with the original creditor and start counting from that date. Let’s say your credit card bill was due March 1, 2010 and you didn’t make the payment. Eventually your card issuer charged the account off and it was placed for collection in January 2011. The 7.5 years starts with that March 1, 2010 payment that was missed.

      Is that helpful?

      • Jennifer

        Thank you. Yes that was helpful. I have an account that has been passed to 4 different collection agencies and it is now with a 5th. Can I disputed the previous 4 and attempt to settle with this company, it was charged off 7 years ago, but continues to get passed around.

        • Gerri Detweiler

          Jennifer – What state do you live in? If you haven’t paid on this debt for seven years then the statute of limitations has likely passed. If so, you can simply write them a letter telling them the debt is too old and to leave you alone. You can also dispute the collection accounts on your credit reports if they are more than 7 years and 6 months old.

          This article I wrote should be helpful to you: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

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  • Michael

    I am in the process of repairing my credit. After getting some old items taken care of or removed i noticed that I finainced A car from one of those “BAD CREDIT NO PROBLEM” places with a huge down payment and a ridiculas APR. I payed on it for 1.7 years, i only had a few months to go and it was totalled on insurance and payed off. however there is no history of the car on any credit report. I need that good payment history, whats the best avenue to get this reported?


  • Linda J. Browne

    Please add me to your mailing lists. Your information is very helpful.

  • Gina Z

    VERY helpful article! Thank You! I would like to know how you go about requesting that something 7 years or older be removed from your report. I recently got a copy of my report and I found 2 or 3 accounts/charge offs that were 7 years or older.

  • woody vann

    Could you give me more information about how to get paid federal tax liens from your credit report? Thank you, Woody Vann

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