When you’re deep in debt and barely making ends meet, something has to give. Before you miss a monthly payment or start foreclosure or bankruptcy proceedings, review the list below. The last thing you want to do is compound debt problems with credit problems that only increase the stress of your financial life. Look at your budget and cut down where you can so that you can avoid any or all of the below listed possible red flags on your credit report.
Look for Late Payments
A missed due date now and then happens to the best of us, but late payments stay on your credit report for up to 7 years, so avoid them at all cost. Though it’s always preferable to pay more than the minimum, it’s vastly more important that your report shows an on-time payment than a lower balance.
Some ways to avoid late payments:
- Set a due-date reminder on a calendar.
- Send your payment as soon as you receive your statement.
- Sign up for online e-mail alerts to remind you when your bill is due.
Look for Charge Offs
If you have not made a payment in over 180 days, your creditor may charge off your account. This enables the creditor to qualify for a tax exemption for the debt you are not paying back. However, you are still legally responsible for the debt, at least until the statute of limitations runs out in your state, meaning that the creditor may continue collection action. Charge offs can stay on your credit report for 7 years.
Look for Debt Collection Agencies
Creditors who charge off your debt may continue collection action on their own, or they may sell your debt to a collection agency that will pick up where the original creditor left off. Debt collection activity can stay on your credit report for 7 years.
More Items to Look Out For
As millions of Americans have learned the hard way in recent years, foreclosure on a home can turn your world upside down. It’s not only a devastating experience to be forced out of your home, but you are doubly-devastated by the negative listing that can stay on your credit report for 7 years.
The appeal of bankruptcy is understandable, as it seems a once-in-a-lifetime way of wiping the slate clean and starting your credit from scratch. But keep in mind that while there are a number of types of debt that may be included in bankruptcy, from home and auto loans, to credit cards and medical bills, there are plenty of other debts that do not qualify, such as student loans and federal income tax. And even if yours is only the type of debt that does qualify, there is always the negative listing of bankruptcy, which can stay on your credit report for 7 to 10 years.
If you do not pay your taxes, you can pretty much bet on getting slapped with a tax lien. This type of negative listing not only can stay on your report for 7 years, but it’s a time period that doesn’t start until the date the tax lien paid. In other words, if you never pay these taxes or make settlement arrangements, tax liens can stay on your report indefinitely.
Lawsuits and Judgments
Though it is rare, creditors can and do sue borrowers for debt owed. These negative listings can stay on your credit report for 7 years, while at the same time the judgment requires you to pay the debt anyway.
Whether you’re rebuilding your credit, or simply keeping it clean, it is imperative you monitor your credit reports. Through AnnualCreditReport.com, you can request one free copy per year from all three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Get a copy from all three, as listings on one report may not be included in another, and you never know from which agency potential creditors are pulling from.
If any or all of these negative listings have made their way into your credit report, do not despair. While it’s certainly not easy rebuilding credit, it can be done with the right combination of information, initiative and patience.