The UW “Check Your Free Credit Report” Campaign conducts an annual yearend survey of participants. In 2018, 35% of respondents reported knowing very little or nothing about how long information stays in a report. It can be helpful to understand what types of information appears on a credit report and how long that information is legally allowed to appear on a report from the three major credit reporting bureaus.
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 credit card or loan is still 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 first became overdue. Note that a Chapter 10 bankruptcy can also be removed after seven years, but that a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is allowed to 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 credit report, the credit reporting bureaus still keep your older debt on file. The bureaus can then 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 that 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 State and the type of debt.
Inquiries that appear on credit reports are often another point of confusion since there are two different types of inquiries. Regular or hard inquiries appear in a report when you apply for credit or buy insurance, for example. These hard inquiries stay on a report for two years, can be seen by all creditors who look up your report, and will usually lower a credit score by several points for many months. Account review, promotional, or soft inquiries are when companies review your credit information to see if you qualify for their services or when you check your own credit report. You are the only one who sees these types of soft inquiries and they do not affect your credit score.
For more information on credit reports and scores, check out the resources in our campaign website or contact your local Wisconsin Extension educator.