How Long Does a Collection Stay on my Credit Report?

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If you’ve failed to pay a medical bill or credit card bill, you may find a collection account on your credit report. Do you know what this means — and, more importantly, how to fix it? This article will enable you to look at collections differently, and maybe even resolve ones you have on your credit report.

How long does a collection stay on my credit report?

If you find a collection account on your credit report, you may be wondering what happened. Most often, this happens when your original creditor owed, such as your credit card company, “writes off” your debt as bad debt and then sells the debt to a debt collection agency. Typically, creditors will only sell your debts after you have become seriously delinquent in your payments, usually after 3 to 6 months of nonpayment.

If you find a collection account on your credit report, it is important that you act quickly and not ignore it. Why? Because collections can have a huge negative impact on your credit and your credit score, so it’s crucial that you understand how to handle them.

Why is understanding collections accounts important?

There are few numbers that will impact your financial well-being and your everyday life in the way that your credit score will. In other words, a big part of being in control of your financial health involves understanding your credit score and also what can affect it (whether positively or negatively).

We’ve already mentioned that having collection accounts on your credit report can do major damage to your credit score. But just how many people currently have collection accounts on their credit report? Let’s take a closer look.

Credit Reports that contain collection accounts, broken down by generation
Recent court judgement required that most civil judgement and tax-liens to be removed.

GenerationCollectionsCollections that were recently removed
Gen Z7%1%
Gen X16%22%
Baby Boomers11%15%
Silent Gen1%6%
Source: Survey of 2000 members and non-members 5/5/2018.

As you can see, the majority of collection accounts occur among Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers — which makes sense, since these are the generations that currently hold the most buying power, and therefore make the most purchases.

So, once a collection account is on your credit report, how long will it stay there? And is there anything you can do to have it removed?

How long do collections stay on your credit report?

Accounts that have gone to collections will typically remain on your credit report for 7 years, plus 180 days from whenever the account first became past due. Once the original creditor decides that your debt is delinquent and decides to sell it, the account can be reported as a separate account on your credit report and will show up as an outstanding debt to the debt collection agency.

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Do different types of debt get treated differently?

For the most part, debts that get turned over to collections are usually treated in the same way, and therefore the same rules apply. Typically, this means that these types of debts will remain on your credit report for 7 years before falling off.

However, that doesn’t mean that all debt is treated the same when it comes to your credit. Medical collection debt does have a few differences when it comes to how it is reported.

In accordance with the National Consumer Assistance Plan, medical debt can’t be reported on your credit report until after a 180 day waiting period, in order to give substantial time for any insurance payments to be applied to the debt. Additionally, credit reporting agencies are also required to remove any previously reported medical collections that either have been or are being paid by insurance.

What’s more, even if you have medical collection debt on your credit report, it may not impact your credit score to the same degree other collection debt would. Different credit scoring models vary in their factors, but there are some models that give less weight to medical-specific debt.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the scoring model calculation factors for the FICO credit score and the VantageScore credit score.

Scoring model calculation (weight) factors

Credit FactorsFICO Credit Score WeightVantageScore
Credit Score Weight
Payment History (Collections)35%41%
Credit Utilization30%20%
Credit Age15%20%
Different Types of Credit10%X
Number of Inquiries10%11%
Available CreditX2%
Source: Data found October 10, 2018., ,

As you can see, both scoring models place the highest emphasis on payment history, which is where collection accounts come into play. Your payment history contributes to 35% of your FICO Score, and a whopping 41% of your VantageScore. As such, it is imperative that you aim to make your payments on time — every time.

Why is understanding collections accounts important?

One of the questions we hear the most is “If I make payments or pay off my collection account, will it change the timeline of how long the debt stays on my credit report?” Typically, the answer is no. However, in some states, a partial payment on a collection account can actually restart the clock for having the negative mark on your credit report.

Conversely paying off an account in full can sometimes result in the account being removed from your credit report. If you pay off a collection account in full, the debt collection agency may be able to contact the credit bureaus and have the debt wiped from your credit report before the 7-year mark. Keep in mind, however, that there may be a good deal of legwork required on your part to make this happen.

And remember, when negotiating with a collection agency, be sure to always get everything in writing before making any payments.

To better understand why understanding about collection accounts is important, let’s look at what kind of improvement you could expect in your credit score by having a collection account removed.

Average improvement to credit score by removing a collections account

Credit Ranking30 Days3 Months6 Months9 Months12+ Months
Excellent (800+)N/A*N/A*N/A*N/A*N/A*
Very Good (750+)N/A*N/A*N/A*N/A*N/A*
Good (700+)7%7%7.5%7.5%8%
Fair (650+)14%14%16%17.5%19%
Poor (600+)25%25.5%26%26.8%28%
Bad (550<)30%31%31%33%33%

Source: Survey of 2000 members and non-members 5/5/2018.
* If you have a collections on your credit report, it is nearly impossible to have an excellent or very good credit score.

As you can see, the consumers who have poor or bad credit to begin with are the ones who stand the most to gain by having a collection account removed. For instance, consumers with bad credit, who had a collection account removed, saw their credit score improve an astounding 30% — in just 30 days.

TLDR; how long does a judgement stay on my credit report?

No one wants to have a collection account, but we all make mistakes from time to time. Or, sometimes you simply don’t have the resources to pay a bill — we’ve been there as well. Rather than stressing out, take a deep breath and understand that this won’t harm your credit score forever. Typically these marks will fall off in 7 years — and you may even have options for removing them before then. In the meantime, here are some steps you can take now to help get your credit back on track and moving in the right direction.

You can trust that we maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments; however, we receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners and get approved.
Published February 22, 2019 Updated: October 10, 2019
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