How Long Do Collections Stay on Your Credit Report?
February 1, 2024 | 4 min read
February 1, 2024 | 4 min read
Navigating the intricacies of credit reports can often feel overwhelming, especially when dealing with negative marks such as collections. A key concern for many is understanding the longevity of collections on a credit report and how it impacts financial health.
When a debt goes unpaid for an extended period, typically around 180 days, the creditor may choose to sell the debt to a collection agency. Once this happens, the collection account can be reported to the credit bureaus, subsequently appearing on your credit report. This is a significant event, as it marks a clear indication of financial distress.
Like most other negative items, collection accounts have a time limit. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) restricts how long the credit bureaus can keep collection accounts on your credit reports.
Collections generally remain on your credit report for seven years from the date of the first delinquency. This period doesn’t start from the time the account was sold to the collection agency but from the original delinquency date with the original creditor. It’s important to note that the seven-year mark is a fixed duration, regardless of whether the debt is paid off during this period.
The presence of a collection on a credit report can severely impact your credit score. Initially, when a collection is first reported, there might be a significant drop in your score.
How much a collection account damages your credit score depends on several factors. Most importantly, the rest of your credit report comes into play. If a collection account is the first negative entry on an otherwise clean credit report, the score damage may be severe. But if a new collection appears on a credit report that’s already full of other negative information, your credit score might not be impacted much.
Over time, the impact of this collection on your credit score diminishes, especially if you engage in other positive credit behaviors, like making timely payments on other accounts.
Many believe paying a collection will remove it from their credit report. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Not only will a paid collection stay on your report, it may have roughly the same impact on your credit score as it did when the account had an outstanding balance.
Whether or not paying a collection helps your credit score largely depends on the credit scoring model a lender uses when you apply for financing.
Newer credit scoring models, like FICO 9 and VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0, ignore $0 balance collections. Under these models, paying a collection might improve your credit score. FICO 8 disregards all collections if the original balance was under $100. But, if your original collection was over $100, it could still potentially damage your score after you pay it off.
Not all lenders use the four credit scoring models mentioned above. When you apply for a mortgage, for example, lenders still use much older FICO Score versions. These older FICO Scores don’t highly consider the balance of a collection account, but rather its existence. So, paying a collection is unlikely to improve your score if you apply for a mortgage or any other type of financing where the lender uses an older scoring model.
Paying off a collection account won’t immediately remove it from your credit report, but it does change its status to “paid,” which might be viewed more favorably by some creditors. However, the fact that the account went into collections remains as part of your credit history until the seven-year period expires.
Once the seven-year period ends, the collection account should automatically be removed from your credit report. It’s advisable to check your credit report after this period to ensure that the collection has been removed. If it hasn’t, you can file a dispute with the credit bureau to have it removed.
Understanding the lifespan of collections on a credit report can help in planning and executing a strategy to rebuild and maintain a healthy credit score. It’s a reminder that while financial missteps can have lasting effects, they are not permanent markers on your financial journey.
Ashley is currently the Chief Compliance Officer for Credit Saint, previously the Chief Operating Officer. Ashley got into the Financial world by working as a Logistics Coordinator at Ernst & Young. Coming from a previous career in education, she is eager to teach the world everything she knows and learn everything that she doesn’t! Ashley is a FICO® certified professional, a Board Certified Credit Consultant, a Certified Credit Score Consultant with the Credit Consultants Association of America, UDAAP certified, and holds a Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) Compliance Certificate.