Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years. There’s no way to remove a bankruptcy filing from your credit report early if the information is accurate. Bankruptcy will hurt your credit at first, but the effect will lessen over time. And in the long term, it can help you get your financial life back on track.
Written by Todd Carney, J.D. Harvard Law 2021.
Updated November 12, 2021
Even though Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be a good long-term solution to your financial problems, it can create issues in the short term. One issue is that it stays on your credit report for 10 years, which can make future lenders wary of giving you a loan. This might make you desperate to find a solution, such as reaching out to credit repair companies to see if they can help. To save you some time, so long as the bankruptcy is completely accurate, it can’t be removed from your credit report.
Though Chapter 7 may hold you back temporarily, there are many ways to improve your credit following a bankruptcy filing. This article walks you through how bankruptcy works and how to improve your credit.
Early Removal of a Bankruptcy From Your Credit Report
When you file for bankruptcy, it will appear on your credit history. Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases stay on your credit report for 10 years and Chapter 13 cases stay on for seven years. After this time passes, the bankruptcy should disappear from your credit report automatically.
Creditors are required by law to only report accurate information to credit bureaus. This requirement protects consumers from having any inaccurate information on their reports that would unfairly harm their credit. But this also prevents information from being removed when it is correct. So when you have a bankruptcy case on your credit report and it’s accurate, it can’t be removed early.
That said, if the bankruptcy entry has incorrect information or has been wrongly entered, you have the right to dispute it. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the legal right to dispute inaccuracies and errors on your credit report. If you challenge an entry and the agency that reported the entry can’t defend it, then they’re required to remove it.
Types of Errors Worth Disputing
Most types of credit transactions are reported on your credit history. Each time you open or close a credit account like a new credit card or loan and every payment you make or miss will be reported. Because creditors report so much information to the credit bureaus, errors are more common than you might realize. This is why it’s a good idea to run and check your free credit report each year.
As with other entries on your credit report, bankruptcy-related entries may be incorrect. If you see any wrong information on your credit report, you should fight to change the record and have the error removed or corrected. Doing so can increase your credit score.
Here are some frequent kinds of errors to look for related to bankruptcy:
Debts discharged in the bankruptcy that still appear in the credit report.
A bankruptcy filing doesn’t fall off your report after the required time — seven years for Chapter 13 and 10 years for Chapter 7.
Mistakes in the record of the bankruptcy, such as misspelled names, wrong addresses, errors in phone numbers, and incorrect dates, among others.
You should also pay special attention to any individual accounts that were included in the bankruptcy but that are still showing on your credit report. Though a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing will remain on your report for 10 years, individual accounts that were reported as delinquent can only remain on your report for seven years. The timeline starts from the date the creditor reported the account as delinquent.
Though it’s rare, it’s also possible that a bankruptcy filing could appear on your credit report due to mistaken identity, clerical errors, or identity theft. In this case, the entire bankruptcy entry could be incorrect.
Removing Errors From Your Credit Report
When you find errors on your credit history related to bankruptcy, you should dispute them immediately. You will need to reach out to any of the three credit reporting agencies that show incorrect information. You can contact these agencies online or by mail. It’s best to do so by mail because the agencies’ online forms frequently make you agree to clauses that prevent you from suing. Sending the dispute by mail also leaves a paper trail. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) both have templates for writing the letter.
Your letter should include your personal information like your name, credit report number, date of birth, and address. Be sure to date the letter, so you know when the timeline starts to hear a response. You can include your Social Security number and driver’s license number, but these aren’t required. Then include information related to the dispute such as:
The account number
The dates of the disputes
Which company is responsible for the dispute
A numbered list of items to correct
An explanation of all of the inaccuracies
A list of documents that you are using to support your claim.
The FCRA gives the credit bureau 30 days to review the dispute and another five days to report the results of the investigation to you. If the bureau agrees with your dispute, it will send you the results of the investigation, along with a free credit report. But it could take several months for your credit report to reflect the changes. So keep checking your credit report and follow up if you don’t see the change. If the error remains for too long, you can reach out to the CFPB.
If the credit bureau disagrees they still need to provide you an answer within the required time frame. But if they disagree, they won’t remove the information. Even so, you can ask to include a statement regarding the dispute on your future reports.
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Main Types of Bankruptcy for Consumers
Consumers primarily use Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 for filing bankruptcy. Either will activate an automatic stay to prevent creditors from collecting debt while your case is being processed. Filing either type of bankruptcy will decrease your credit score anywhere from 130 to 240 points. People with higher credit scores will see their credit scores drop more than those whose credit scores were lower at the time of filing. But regardless of what your credit score is, when you file for bankruptcy, you will likely end up with a bad credit score for a while.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 will remain on your credit report for 10 years after you file. Generally, Chapter 7 bankruptcy benefits you most if you have a lot of unsecured debt. These are debts that aren’t backed by collateral. Credit cards are a common form of unsecured debt. When you discharge a debt in bankruptcy, that debt still shows up on your credit report for seven years. They will likely be noted as “included in bankruptcy” or “discharged” and show a $0 balance.
If these debts were reported as delinquent prior to your bankruptcy filing, they will drop off your report seven years after the date of delinquency. Otherwise, they will be eliminated from your credit report seven years after you file for bankruptcy.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is different from Chapter 7. Instead of discharging your debts, Chapter 13 bankruptcy creates a 3-5 year repayment plan. In the payment plan, you repay at least some of your debt. Once the repayment plan ends, the debts from the plan can be discharged. This makes it a good option for those who want to keep things like their home or car. It also allows you to avoid foreclosure. Some lenders may have a more favorable reaction to Chapter 13 than Chapter 7 since you have to do some repayment in Chapter 13
Chapter 13 will stay on your credit report for seven years. Like Chapter 7, the accounts included in your bankruptcy will also drop seven years after the filing date of bankruptcy, or seven years after they were declared delinquent if the delinquency came first.
Credit Repair After Bankruptcy
As tough as bankruptcy is, it provides you with the opportunity to get a clean financial slate. Then you can start to repair your credit. Building a good credit score is important because it impacts your ability to get loans and credit cards and to get approved for a mortgage or even to rent. It also impacts what kinds of terms you’ll get on your credit.
The most important first step in rebuilding your credit is to make all your credit payments on time. You should avoid late payments because your payment history is the biggest factor in your credit score. It accounts for 35% of your credit score.
You can also:
Develop a plan to manage your personal finances, so you don’t start accumulating debt again. Taking on too much new debt after bankruptcy can hurt your credit, which makes it harder for you to improve your credit score. You can accomplish this by establishing a budget, creating a rainy day fund, and cutting any unnecessary expenses. A credit counselor may be able to help you get started down a new path.
Consider getting a secured credit card. With secured cards, your credit limit is established from a security deposit or money you provide to open the account. These cards come with high interest rates, though. So don’t charge more than you can afford to pay off each month, or you can end up with a lot of credit card debt. But, if you’re able to pay off your card each month, that will help improve your credit.
Self-report some nontraditional payment information to the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). For example, rent isn’t usually reported, but having your monthly rent appear on your credit report will help show that you reliably pay your financial commitments.
Review your credit file for errors and updates throughout the bankruptcy process. Verify that your dischargeable debts have actually been removed. Since bankruptcies are part of the public record, you want to be sure that all aspects regarding yours are accurate.
You may worry that filing for bankruptcy will reflect poorly on your and your finances. But some creditors consider it a good thing since it gives you the opportunity to straighten out your finances and get back on track. While there are some negative short-term consequences, in the long run, there’s a lot you can do to rebuild your credit and create a strong credit history moving forward.
You can’t get a bankruptcy taken off your credit report if it’s accurate. Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains on your report for seven years and Chapter 13 remains for 10 years. Under the FCRA, if there are inaccurate entries on your credit report regarding your bankruptcy, you can dispute them and have them removed. If the agency or creditor that reported the information can’t explain the issue, they must remove the item.
Although filing bankruptcy hurts your credit score, you can take steps to build your credit. Over time, this will decrease bankruptcy’s negative impact and allow you to build the best credit possible.