Good news: Those negative marks on your credit report aren’t a life sentence.

3 minute read

Is repairing your poor credit a daunting task that seems impossible? If so, don’t give up. The simple passage of time is on your side when it comes to negative payment and credit history on your credit report.

If your poor or fair credit score is keeping you from receiving a car loan, mortgage or credit cards, this doesn’t have to be the way your life is from now on. In fact, you may be surprised at how quickly your credit score can improve once you understand what’s holding you back from good or excellent credit and the ways that your credit report removes negative payment history over time.

Most negative payment history automatically drops off your credit report after a specific number of years. Meanwhile, if you make timely payments on all current credit accounts, your credit score should improve significantly once old, negative credit history drops from your credit report.

Curious about what kind of negative credit information will get booted from your credit report as time goes by? Here are three items that will drop off your credit report automatically after a certain number of years.

Late payment and collections history

If you fell behind on payments, defaulted on a loan or had to fend off collection agencies hounding you for past-due accounts, that negative payment history will drop your credit score faster than a buy-here-pay-here car lot approving a car loan at an outlandishly high-interest rate.

Payment history is one of the biggest factors in calculating your credit score, making up around 35 percent of the total score. But those past mistakes don’t have to put you at the mercy of predatory lenders for the rest of your life.

Negative payment accounts drop off your credit report after seven years. Seven years may seem like a long time, but keep in mind that some of the negative accounts on your credit report may have already been there several years.

Meanwhile, if you’re making timely payments on other credit accounts, your score should steadily improve as each old account falls off your credit report.

Find out: What Happens when My Account Goes to Collections?

Bankruptcy

If you filed bankruptcy, you may think your credit is ruined forever. However, even bankruptcy automatically drops off your credit report eventually after seven to ten years, depending on which type you filed.

With Chapter 7 bankruptcy, unsecured debt such as credit cards gets wiped out or discharged. Chapter 7 bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for ten years, according to major credit bureau Experian. If you filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy, allowing you to keep paying on your debts over time, that negative credit mark will drop off your credit report after seven years.

Once those bankruptcy filings drop, you’ll have a clean slate. And if you’ve been making timely payments over the years, your credit score should improve significantly.

Find out: How Often Can You File Bankruptcy and What Happens When You File Twice?

Charge-off debts

When a creditor gives up on collecting a debt you didn’t pay, that may appear as a charge-off entry on your credit report, counting as negative payment history. Like other negative payment history, charge-offs will drop automatically from your credit report after seven years.

Find out: What Should I Do If I Made a Mistake While Disputing Charge-Offs?

What steps can I take to improve my credit?

While you’re waiting on the passage of time to automatically heal certain old credit wounds, you can work at improving your credit with the following steps.

1. Make all payments on time so you don’t acquire new negative payment history.

2. Keep all credit card balances low or at a zero balance.

This will keep your credit utilization rate — the percentage of your revolving credit debt to your total available credit — low. Your credit utilization ratio accounts for 30 percent of your total credit score. Ideally, you should keep your credit utilization rate under 30 percent.

3. Apply for a secured credit card.

If you have poor credit, you’re probably used to getting denied when you apply for credit cards. Fortunately, you can still get approved and build credit with a secured credit card, no matter how bad your credit is right now.

With a secured credit card, you pay a deposit and then the creditor sets your credit limit at the same amount as your deposit as a kind of insurance for the creditor. So, if you pay a $500 deposit, your credit limit will be $500. Once you get the card, charge only a small amount — $20, for example — that you can easily pay off every month.

That way, you’ll build a positive payment history that will boost your credit score as old, negative payment accounts fall off your credit report.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC