Bankruptcy may be a solution to financial woes, but it is a sticky solution because it stays on your credit report for 7-10 years.
If you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it’s there for 10 years. If you go the Chapter 13 route, it’s seven years. Filing bankruptcy can and will affect your ability to borrow money for a home or car.
Exact numbers vary on how much your credit score will be hurt because they are based on your score when you file. A good credit score of 700 or higher likely will drop 200-240 points. A score below 700 will drop between 130 and 150 points. Almost anyone who files for bankruptcy will wind up with a credit score below 600.
There are ways to rebuild your score, but those approaches take dedication and time. Being as responsible as possible is the best way to approach your financial situation at any time, but especially after bankruptcy. Pay debts regularly and on time. Don’t overspend. Build your score back one step at a time.
Bankruptcy is a painful process. It does not, though, have to be defeating. People have rebounded from the negative effects of bankruptcy to move on and have a happy and financially sound life.
Plenty of individuals have to file for bankruptcy. In 2021 there were 413,616 bankruptcy filings (down 24% from 2020). No doubt many of those individuals were able to rebound from the financial pratfall to rebuild their lives and their future.
Until that happens, though, a person must learn to live with the fallout of bankruptcy sticking to your credit score.
When Is Bankruptcy Removed From Your Credit Score?
Depending on the type of bankruptcy, bankruptcy filing will stay on your credit report for 7-10 years.
Bankruptcy appears on the public records section of your credit report. References also may appear in the account information section because creditors may report one of more of the accounts as included in the bankruptcy.
How Long Does Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Stay on Your Credit Score?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is normally called “liquidation” because it involves selling non-essential assets (think the second car, a boat or vacation home) to pay debt, stays on your credit report for 10 years.
The 10-year period begins on the date that bankruptcy was filed. However, as you lessen your debt by paying creditors, you are reducing your credit utilization ratio, which can help improve your credit score.
How Long Does Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Stay on Your Credit Score?
Chapter 13 bankruptcy, generally a payment plan to pay down debt agreed to with the court, stays on your credit score for seven years – again from the date of filing. Chapter 13 has a shorter timeframe because it requires gradual repayment of the debts owed.
You must make the agreed-on payments in full and on time, and if you start repaying other debts you can help rebuild your credit score. As with Chapter 7, bankruptcy automatically drops off your credit score once you hit the 7- or 10-year mark from filing.
How Long Do Other Forms of Bankruptcy Stay on Your Credit Score?
There are two other types of bankruptcy, though they are not as commonly used as Chapter 7 or 13, which make up 99% of bankruptcy cases.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is mainly used by businesses and is often called a reorganization bankruptcy because those who file must reorganize their finances in a way that allows them to pay debt. Chapter 11 can be used by individuals who have a large amount of assets – think folks with a yacht, three or four homes and/or several cars. It stays on a credit report for 10 years.
Chapter 12 bankruptcy is for family farmers or family fishermen with regular annual income from those careers. It helps these workers propose and execute a plan to repay all or part of their debts. Chapter 12 will stay on a credit report for seven years.
Can You Remove Bankruptcy From Your Credit Report Early?
It is not possible to speed up the process that removes bankruptcy from your credit score. Once you file, it is there for the required numbers of years, and then it drops off automatically.
Because of that reality, the wisest approach is to be responsible and accountable after you file. Pay debts as agreed in Chapter 7. Meet the terms of the payment plan in Chapter 13. Stop spending foolishly. Make a budget and stick to it.
Pay attention to mistakes or misreported information on your credit score. You have the right and ability to dispute mistakes on your credit report. If, for example, bankruptcy appears on your credit report because of some kind of clerical error, you can file a dispute to have it removed. Just like you can have other incorrect information removed.
These mistakes can and do happen. The Federal Trade Commission did a 10-year study and found that 20% of credit reports contained errors and that 25% of those reports had errors big enough to affect their credit score.
Disputes would be filed with one of the three main credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and/or Equifax. All are required by law to investigate a credit report dispute. You can start with a phone call or letter, or you can use the online-error disputing process that Experian, TransUnion and Equifax provide.
How to Rebuild Credit After Bankruptcy
Anyone can take steps to rebuild their credit score after bankruptcy. All involve being responsible and honest in addressing debt.
Among the steps you can take are:
- Paying bills on time: Don’t miss a payment, and make sure payment is on time.
- Paying down debt: Even a little-by-little approach with any extra money from the budget works.
- Don’t try to pay all debts at once: Instead pay the most expensive one first, then work on the next.
- Sign up for a secured credit card: Secured credit cards are backed by a deposit you make as collateral against any loss. If you deposit $500 into an account with a bank or credit union, you can charge up to $500 on the credit card, which protects you from excessive spending. However, you must make the payments on what you charge, and the deposit does not apply to the payment. Think of this approach as a backup if you lack cash.
- Practice sound financial habits: Practice makes perfect, with anything. Changing the way you spend is a practice worth pursuing.
- Make a budget that makes sense: Some bills have to be paid. Others – like the double Frappuccino mocha supreme – can be bypassed. Be honest about what you take in, and what you need to spend. And when you shop, make a list, and stick to it.
- Review your credit reports: If there’s an error that’s hurting you, file a claim to dispute it.
- Keep your credit utilization low: This refers to the percentage of a credit limit you are using. For example, if your credit card has a $5,000 limit and you’ve charged $2,500, your utilization is 50%. Anything over 30% is considered high. That tells credit reporting agencies you may have trouble paying that debt. Keeping it under 30% helps your credit score.
- Become an authorized user on a credit card: If a spouse or partner has good credit and is willing to add you as a user on a credit card, you may benefit from his/her high credit score. Just don’t take advantage of kindness by overusing the card or not making timely payments.
Rebuilding your credit score after bankruptcy takes diligence, patience, and awareness of your budget, what you take in and what you are spending.
It’s always wise before filing bankruptcy to consider other debt relief options. These could help dig your way out of debt without the negative impacts of bankruptcy, which while necessary for some should be a last resort for most.
Among options available are:
- Credit counseling – requires going over your income, assets, and expenses with an expert to help determine a plan that can help you pay down and eventually eliminate debt. A nonprofit credit counselor is certified by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and is bound by law to present the best debt-relief options and solutions for each situation. A credit counselor can help you avoid bankruptcy, and offer advice on budgeting, managing finances and finding a way out of debt.
- Debt management program – offered through a nonprofit credit counseling agency reduces the interest rate on credit card debt to somewhere around 8%. The interest savings will lower your monthly payment and eliminate credit card debt in 3-5 years. Debt management is not a loan, and your credit score is not a factor for enrolling. Counselors determine if you have enough income to meet regular expenses and to pay off the debt.
- Debt consolidation – means taking out one loan, usually from a bank, credit union or online lender, and using that loan to pay off all credit card debt. You’ll have to repay the new larger loan, but it typically comes at a lower interest rate. You can get a lower interest rate if you choose to put up your home or car as collateral to back the loan. Missing payments puts that collateral at risk of foreclosure or repossession. You also need a good credit score (670 or higher) to get a low enough interest rate to make it worth your time.
- Debt settlement – involves paying less than what is owed. The borrower typically saves for two or three years to have enough to make the lump-sum offer. You can negotiate a debt settlement on your own, but usually you hire a for-profit settlement company to do the job. Lenders are not obligated to accept offers. This approach will hurt your credit score by as much as 100-200 points and will stay on your credit report for seven years.
- Mortgage refinancing – could help, but recent rising interest rates mean you should study carefully before making this decision. Refinancing a mortgage means finding a new mortgage at a lower interest rate than you are paying. That lower rate means a lower payment, which means savings could be applied to debt. If you have enough equity in your home, you also could qualify for “cash out,” extra money that could go toward reducing debt. Two years ago, refinancing was very attractive, but interest rates have nearly doubled, so this option might not be as attractive as it was.
Get Professional Help to Explore Your Options or Rebuild Your Credit
It never hurts to seek professional help when exploring options to deal with debt. It’s always wise to explore all options that can help avoid bankruptcy or to improve your credit score after bankruptcy.
Counselors from a credible and reputable nonprofit credit counseling agency provide guidance at no charge. These counselors are certified and required by law to offer the best options for your particular situation.
The counselors can walk you through the ins and outs of debt relief options, and they can work with creditors to help find the best way to afford paying off your debt. Counselors discuss your situation, your budget, debt, income, and expenses, then offer real solutions to real problems.
If bankruptcy is the best option – and for some it is – these counselors can even help you complete a pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course.
Debt and bankruptcy are issues that complicate lives. It’s well worth an hour of your time to go over your situation with a certified counselor from a nonprofit agency who can help find a solution to the problem.
About The Author
Pat McManamon has been a journalist for more than 25 years. His experience has mainly been in sports, but the world of athletics requires knowledge of business and economics. He also can balance a checkbook and keep track of investments with Quicken quite adeptly. McManamon’s experience includes covering the NFL for ESPN, LeBron James for the Akron Beacon Journal and AOL Fanhouse, and the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes for the Palm Beach Post.
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