How Long Do Collections Stay on Your Credit Report

Andrew Reyes
calendar on a table and graphics of credit report

According to research, 29% of Americans had accounts in collections in 2021. Collections activity on your credit report can severely impact your ability to obtain financing, employment, insurance, and some types of services. Fortunately, there is hope for those who are working to improve their credit scores.

Negative information doesn’t impact your score forever. So how long do collections stay on your credit report?

Table of Contents

How Long Do Collections Stay on Your Credit Report?

credit information paper and a clock

Most negative information remains on your credit report for seven years. However, credit reporting agencies may retain this information longer than that, and it can still be reported on a credit report that has been requested in one of two situations:

  • Application for a job with a salary that exceeds $75,000 per year
  • Application for credit or life insurance that exceeds $150,000

In most cases, the seven-year period begins when you miss a payment. In some states, if you take certain actions, such as making a payment on an old debt, the clock starts over on the date that you took the action.

How Can I Find Out if There Are Collection Accounts on My Report?

If you need to know how long do collections stay on your credit report, you can get a copy for free from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax once per year. There are three ways you can request your copy:

Mail the form to:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

You may request all of the reports at once or each individually. Additionally, there are other circumstances where you may qualify for a free copy, such as being denied credit or employment.

If you have already requested your free reports, you can request a copy directly from each credit reporting agency, but you will probably have to pay a fee. 

How Do Collections Affect My Credit Score?

Collections accounts are part of your payment history, which accounts for 35% of your credit score. Additionally, various lenders have their own policies and scoring systems that may be negatively impacted by collections activity on your report. Some lenders may require that collections accounts be paid off before they will consider your application.

Some newer credit scoring models do not figure in collections accounts that have been paid off. Paying off collections accounts may improve your score in these models. However, many lenders still use the older models that consider collection accounts with zero balances as a negative item.

Regardless of the balance, collection accounts remain on your report until the seven-year period has passed. However, the older the accounts are, the less they affect your score. 

How Can I Avoid Collections Accounts?

If you want to avoid needing to worry about how long do collections stay on your credit report, you can attempt to work out a payment agreement with your creditors before they send your account to collections. However, if you settle your account for less than the full balance owed, that information may be reported to the bureaus. It may be helpful to work with a credit counselor.

When Can a Debt Collector Report My Account?

Debt collectors must do two things before they report your collections to account to a credit reporting agency:

  • Talk to you about your debt either in person or on the phone
  • Send you a letter or electronic communication about your debt and wait 14 days

What Can I Do If a Debt Collector Reported a Debt Improperly?

If you think a debt collector failed to follow the regulations established in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you can file a complaint online or call (855) 411-CFPB (2372).

Can I Get Collections Removed From My Credit Report?

No one can remove a collections account from your credit report if the information is correct. If you believe a collections account has been reported in error, you can submit a dispute to the credit reporting company and the debt collector that incorrectly reported your account.  

Can Debt Collectors Still Collect a Debt That Is Over Seven Years Old?

Knowing how long do collections stay on your credit report is useful for determining how long collections accounts may impact your ability to obtain financing. However, you may also need to know how long debt collectors can continue to attempt to collect what you owe.

In most states, a debt collector can continue to ask you to pay your outstanding balance if several conditions apply:

  • The debt is yours.
  • The balance reported is correct.
  • The collector is legally entitled to collect.

How Long Can Debt Collectors Continue To Try To Collect My Debt?

The answer to this question depends on several factors:

  • Where you live
  • Where you lived when you acquired the debt
  • The laws in the state where you live and where you acquired the debt
  • The type of debt

Most states have a statute of limitations that governs how long a debt collector can sue you to collect an unpaid bill. In most states, the time limit is three to six years. However, different kinds of debt often have different time limits.

Additionally, different states have different rules about whether debt collectors can continue to ask you to pay out of statute amounts.

State laws also affect when the statute starts running. In most cases, it starts on the date you last made a payment; however, in some states, the clock resets if you make a payment on an old account or acknowledge you owe the debt in writing. Other circumstances may also come into play.

For this reason, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer before you take any actions involving old debts.

Where Can I Find Out More About How Long Do Collections Stay on Your Credit Report?

The staff of financial experts at Fiscal Tiger is committed to providing the most up-to-date information about managing personal finances. Visit us online to find out more about how long do collections stay on your credit report. 

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