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Is Unpaid Credit Card Debt Still Valid After Seven Years?

April 22nd, 2011 · 9 Comments · Consumer Debt, Credit Reports

Kristy Welsh

by Kristy Welsh

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If you default on a credit card debt, the late pays and charge off from the default will stay on your credit report for 7 years. What about the debt? Once it comes off your credit report, do you still owe it?

Credit Reporting Confusion

A common misconception exists that credit card debt you owe disappears after seven years when it disappears off of your credit report. In reality, credit card debt you left unpaid does not go away. However, a creditor has a limited time in which to sue you for the debt, called the statute of limitations. More about the statute of limitations later in this post.

Who Owns Your Delinquent Debt After 7 Years?

It’s unlikely that your original credit card company still owns your debt after seven years. Credit card companies charge off bad debts after 180 days and sell or assign this debt to collection agencies. Over time, your unpaid debt can pass to multiple collection agencies. During the account transfer process, collection letters and calls may stop temporarily. That does not mean that your debt disappeared. It merely indicates that your account is undergoing yet another transfer. Collection agencies have been known to pursue debts over 20 years old, though this is technically illegal once the statute of limitations is over.

Statute of Limitations

Your state’s statute of limitations for debt collection dictates how long a collection agency or credit card company has to file a lawsuit against you for your delinquent credit card debt. Creditors lose their legal right to take you to court for the debt, but will still try to persuade you to pay off your defaulted credit card balance voluntarily. The statute of limitations for credit card debt collection in most states is less than seven years. To see our chart on when statute of limitations are up for each state, see our statute of limitations chart.

When the statute of limitations expires, technically that does not mean that your obligation to pay off your debt also expires, though this is a grey area legally. Many states classify debt on which the statute of limitations has expired as “zombie” debt. Some state attorneys general have prosecuted collection agencies for going after “zombie debt” from consumers. I think you can safely say that once a statute of limitations is up, the debt is expired.

If a Debt is Past the Statute of Limitations, Why Can’t I Remove it From My Credit Report?

A credit report does not list current valid debts for consumers, it reports on payment history. The Fair Credit Reporting Act says a delinquent account stays on your credit report for for 7 years from the first time you missed a payment on of the debt. So even if a debt is expired, the payment history stays on your credit report for 7 years.

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9 Comments so far ↓

  • Agata

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  • Reann Blount

    I had a process service company just call me after 7 years of having a credit card maxed out (to $300). I have never received any paperwork on the matter or anything until this phone call. Now they are saying I have to pay or they will take me to court. Do I have any options?

  • Josh

    Reann, they are just using scare tactics. Check your state’s statute of limitations, but I’m pretty sure it’s way passed it. Tell them to quit harassing you or you’ll file a complaint.

  • Webb

    I was an added user on my ex-husband’s cc…since 2012 he has removed me as a user & moved away. The cc company has sent paperwork & I keep telling them I am not aware of where he is & keeps asking for payment. Do i have any options.

  • Ralph

    I had an outstanding balance with a chase credit card from 7 years ago wthat had an outstanding balance of $400. A few years back was contacted so I offered to settle which they refused. A week ago I recieved a call from a collector threatening they want $2,000 something dollars or they’re sending it to a lawyer. What rights do I have and what are my options? Or are they just using scare tactics to get this money?

  • Juan Carlos M

    I had a chase c.c max $200 wife miss payment of $10 then they want it $35 etc. we both had lost our jobs could keep up with a $200 c.c they want it $1800 to settle .. My question is … From where do I count status of limitations from day the :
    1. Date Opened.
    or
    2.Date of status

  • Kristy Welsh

    Date of last payment.

  • Sandy

    My husband just received a call from collection co saying he owed 346.00 from 2001. Husband hasn’t any knowledge of having credit card but could have. They want 1800 but say if he pays the 346 it will not hurt his credit. If he had such card wasn’t that already on his report for 7 years and can this company put it as outstanding on his credit report again? He has worked hard to get his credit back on track and this company even knew who he had a loan with. Please help us? They are going to send us an email to answer but we don’t know how. He doesn’t want his credit ruined after finally getting it straight again.

  • Kathy Richards

    Sandy – we have a lot of information on our website to answer your question. It would be too much for me to answer it all here. Also, I would strongly suggest you visit our credit repair forums. You will find hundreds of helpful people there who can also answer your questions.

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