Understand how long information stays on your credit report

Article written by Mary Metten, Health and Well-being Extension Educator. 
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension’s “Check Your Free Credit Report” Campaign conducts an annual survey of participants. In 2018, 35% of respondents reported knowing very little or nothing about how long information stays on a report.

It is helpful to understand what types of information appear on a credit report and how long that information is legally allowed to appear on a report. This can help as you assess your current financial situation and plan for the future.

Here, Peggy Olive, Financial Capability Specialist with UW-Madison’s Center for Financial Security, offers information about how long items stay on your credit reports.

Credit report content

Positive or satisfactory account information, such as on-time credit card and loan payments, will appear in a credit report for as long as the account is open and active. Once you close a credit card or pay off a loan, that positive information typically stops showing up in a credit report 10 years after the account is closed.

Negative or adverse account information could include missed or late payments, debts that were sent to a collection agency, or were “charged off,” meaning that the company reported the debt as lost income and may have sold the debt to a collection agency. Negative items can legally be removed from a credit report if it has been more than seven years from the date the debt became overdue.

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy can be removed after seven years, but a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can remain on a credit report for 10 years. One reason to review your credit report regularly is to check if any old items are listed and to contact the credit bureau to ask for older negative information to be taken off.

Even if debt does not appear on a report, the credit reporting bureaus keep older debt on file. The bureaus can release the information when you apply for the following: credit of $150,000 or more, such as a mortgage; life insurance with a face value of $150,000 or more; or a job with an annual salary of $75,000 or more.

It is also important to know although debt may not show up on a credit report after seven years, a person may still owe the debt and be taken to court, depending on the type.

Check your free credit report campaign

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension’s “Check Your Free Credit Report: 2/2, 6/6, 10/10” campaign makes it easier to remember to order your credit report on a regular basis. Anyone can sign up to receive an email reminder three times a year on the campaign’s website: fyi.extension.wisc.edu/creditreport.

In addition to email reminders, the website provides information and links for ordering, reading and understanding your credit reports. If you have not yet requested your free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, mark your new 2020 calendar to order at least one on Feb. 2.