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Bankruptcy filings have been declining since the COVID-19 crisis began. According to data from the federal government, both personal and business bankruptcy filings fell 29.1 percent for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2021—434,540 cases total, compared with 612,561 cases in the previous year.
After a sharp rise early in the pandemic, unemployment also declined and is now close to pre-pandemic levels. But many experts say the effects of the war in Ukraine, supply chain issues and rising inflation may cause those trends to reverse. That includes bankruptcy for individuals and businesses as they struggle to pay bills and manage debts in an unpredictable environment.
If you are on the verge of bankruptcy or just had to file, you may be wondering how long you’ll deal with the aftermath of your decision. This all depends on when you actually filed for bankruptcy, as well as the type of bankruptcy you filed for.
Here’s how long bankruptcy stays on your credit reports:
How long does Chapter 7 bankruptcy stay on your credit report?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy lets low-income people eliminate debt by liquidation (selling their property), with the proceeds distributed to creditors. Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for ten years.
How long does Chapter 13 bankruptcy stay on your credit report?
Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which allows consumers to organize and repay some of their debts while eliminating the rest, stays on your credit report for seven years.
Note that these timelines start on the filing date for your bankruptcy, and not from the date your bankruptcy is discharged. According to Experian, one of the three credit bureaus, specific accounts that are delinquent when included in a bankruptcy will be deleted seven years from the date you were initially late with your payment.
This falls in line with the way all negative information, including late payments, are dealt with when it comes to your credit reports. Generally speaking, negative marks like late payments and accounts in collections will stay on your credit reports for seven years before falling off automatically.
Can you remove a bankruptcy from your credit report?
You may have heard that you can dispute information on your credit reports, but keep in mind that the dispute process only works for mistakes and misreported information. A bankruptcy will not be taken off your record through this process, so you are better off using your time and energy to improve your credit instead.
Also, be aware that after you’ve waited either seven or 10 years, depending on the type of bankruptcy, you won’t need to do anything to have your bankruptcy removed from your credit reports. The details will be removed automatically by the credit bureaus.
Consumers who have filed bankruptcy are right to worry about just how long bankruptcies linger on their credit reports, but it’s important to note that you may see less impact to your credit as time goes by. Generally speaking, newer bankruptcies wreak the most havoc on your credit score, so a bankruptcy filed three months ago is much more damaging than one filed eight years ago.
How to improve your credit after bankruptcy
You may be disappointed to know that bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for a decade, and that there’s nothing you can do to make your bankruptcy disappear any sooner. However, there are still plenty of steps you can take to recover from a bankruptcy much faster than many people realize.
If you want to be able to get a mortgage, finance a car or get approved for a line of credit in the years following a bankruptcy, consider these tips:
Make sure you pay all your bills early or on time
Your payment history is the most important factor that makes up your FICO score, accounting for 35 percent. With that in mind, you’ll want to make sure you pay every bill you have early or on time. Set a reminder on your phone if you have to, or take the time to set up each of your bills on auto-pay. Whatever you do, don’t wind up with a late payment that will only damage your credit score further and prolong your pain.
Pay down debt
If you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in order to reorganize your debts, you may see some improvement to your credit score as you pay your balances down. Since your credit utilization—the amount you owe in relation to your credit limits—makes up another 30 percent of your FICO score, paying off debt should help you boost your score over time.
Sign up for a secured credit card
Getting approved for a traditional credit card can be difficult after bankruptcy, but almost anyone can get approved for a secured credit card. This type of card requires a cash deposit as collateral and tends to come with low credit limits, but you can use a secured card to improve your credit score since your monthly payments will be reported to the three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
Learn positive financial habits
As time goes by after your bankruptcy and you begin to earn new forms of credit, make sure you don’t fall back into the same habits that caused your problems. Only use credit for purchases you can afford to pay off, and try using a monthly budget to plan your spending. Also, work on building an emergency fund to cover three to six months of expenses so a random surprise bill or emergency won’t cause your finances to spiral out of control.
The bottom line
Bankruptcy isn’t the end of the world, but the consequences can last up to a decade or longer. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having filed for bankruptcy, your best bet is learning as many lessons as you can and focusing the rest of your attention on how to build a better future. Your bankruptcy will eventually be gone from your credit reports, but the habits you build in the meantime will determine your future.