How far back do credit reports go?

Information on your credit reports typically goes back seven to 10 years, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Some data appears even longer. Loan officers, banks, credit card companies, insurers and employers use your past and current financial activities to make judgments about you. They rely most heavily on the most recent data in your Experian, TransUnion and Equifax credit bureau records, but they consider your historic performance too.

Open accounts

Your current credit accounts and loans stay on your credit reports as long as you keep them open. The account usage history shows indefinitely unless you made some late payments. The negative information is deleted in seven years. Long-term use of credit and old open accounts helps your credit score.

Closed accounts

Accounts that were closed in good standing are erased within 10 to 11 years. Involuntarily closed accounts that had excessive late payments or were charged off drop out of your credit bureau records in seven years, according to the FTC. Your bank cannot charge penalty fees for old, unused accounts under the Credit CARD Act, but radio host Clark Howard's website recommends keeping old accounts open and making a few purchases each year, which generates positive credit report data. Otherwise the bank can close your card and you eventually lose the benefit of its history.

Negative information

Unpaid accounts that get charged off by lenders, repossessed cars, foreclosed homes, and bills that go to collection agencies all haunt your credit reports for seven years. Even settled charge-offs and collection accounts stay on for the full reporting period unless you convince the creditors to erase them as part of your payment agreement. Inquiries by creditors for new accounts are also considered negative entries, but they only show up for two years. Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies are included in credit bureau files for a decade.

Monitoring

Although old items should be erased automatically, they sometimes stay on your reports. You are legally allowed to dispute old information and get it removed. Review your credit reports through annualcreditreport.com, which provides you with one copy of your report annually from each of the three credit bureaus for free, and mail complaints or fill out online disputes on the credit bureau sites. The old data should be gone within a month, as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

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About the Author

Based in Kissimmee, Fla., Barb Nefer is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience. She is a mental health counselor, finance coach and travel agency owner. Her work has appeared in such magazines as "The Writer" and "Grit" and she authored the book, "So You Want to Be a Counselor."

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