How Long Does Negative Information Impact My Scores?

There’s a lot to understand when it comes to your credit scores. One of the most common areas of concern is how long negative information can impact your credit scores. When working as a financial educator, I use the following example to illustrate the credit scoring system.

You’re opening a can of soup, and as you remove the top, you slice your finger. If you tend to the wound properly, it will heal over time. If you ignore the cut and jeopardize the healing process by placing undue stress on your finger, the prognosis is not good. Not only will you prolong the healing process, you could also make things worse. The same holds true for your credit scores. If you encounter a financial setback but take steps to get yourself back on track, the issue should resolve itself over time. Eventually, it won’t be on your record.

Credit scoring models reflect payment patterns over time, which are calculated from the information provided by the three credit bureaus. Creditors report updated account information to credit bureaus on a regular basis. Once reported, it can remain on your credit report for several years, depending on the type of information. Interestingly, most models place an emphasis on recent history. So if you fell behind on your payments in the past but are now making payments on time and maintaining other healthy credit usage practices, your credit scores could be healthier than you think. How? As credit bureau information ages, it often has less of an impact on your credit scores. That’s great news for those who have experienced financial setbacks. Things happen, and sometimes juggling student loans, credit card payments, mortgages and other debt can cause the best of us to fall behind. The further away we get from a negative mark, the less impact it can carry in certain credit scoring calculations.

Late payments are just one example of information that can count against your credit scores. Other negative activity includes Chapter 7 bankruptcies, judgments, foreclosures and collection accounts. These items can remain on your report for up to seven years. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be reported for up to 10 years, and unpaid tax liens can be reported indefinitely until you finally settle them.

Even though these items can affect your credit scores, the more distance you put between them and you, the better off you’ll be. Challenging yourself to improve your credit habits is always a positive resolution – there’s always room for improvement. And, there are always new opportunities to log positive credit behavior.

About the Author: Thom Fox is a New England-based business adviser who, for more than 20 years, has helped individuals and businesses work to secure a brighter economic future.

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This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from, Inc., an Experian company. © 2015, Inc. All rights reserved.