What happens to your credit when you file for bankruptcy?

Personal Finance Notes

Bankruptcy may help relieve your debt obligations, but it will impact your credit for years.

Bankruptcy is a special legal proceeding you can use to reorganize or get rid of your debt, depending on your financial situation. Bankruptcy can be helpful if you’re overwhelmed with financial commitments, but it could also negatively affect your credit. A bankruptcy will generally stay on your reports for up to 10 years from the date you file.

“I refer to bankruptcy as kind of Armageddon on someone’s [credit],” says Freddie Huynh, vice president of credit risk at Freedom Financial Asset Management.

The good news is your credit can gradually heal if you take the right steps. Here’s what can happen to your credit reports when you file for bankruptcy.Working on your credit?

How bankruptcy appears on your credit reports

Bankruptcy is a type of public record that can be listed on your credit reports. As long as it’s listed on your reports, the bankruptcy may negatively impact your credit.


What are the different types of bankruptcy?


According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy may stay on your reports for 10 years from the date you file. A discharged Chapter 13 bankruptcy typically stays on your reports for seven years from the date you file, but it could remain for up to 10 years if you don’t meet certain conditions. Both types have the same impact on your credit scores. However, it’s possible that a future lender could view one type more favorably than the other.

This type of public record may lower your scores significantly. If your credit was healthy before the bankruptcy, it may be hit harder than someone with poor credit. Ultimately, how a bankruptcy affects credit can vary, partially because of the different factors that make up each person’s credit.

How accounts appear on your credit reports

Before filing for bankruptcy, you probably had bills you struggled to keep up with — credit cards, medical debt and more.

When you include those accounts in a bankruptcy filing, they’ll still be reported on your credit reports. Accounts discharged in bankruptcy can be reported as “discharged” or “included in bankruptcy” with a zero balance. Even though you owe $0 for them, they’ll still appear on your reports. If you apply for credit, lenders may see this note when they check your reports, and they may deny your application.

But here’s that good news we promised: Accounts included in a bankruptcy filing won’t be reported as “unpaid” or “past due” anymore, and you may feel relief without those financial burdens.

Your credit scores will eventually start rebounding with those positive effects, Huynh says. That’s assuming, of course, you use credit responsibly from here on out.

Credit recovery post-bankruptcy

After filing bankruptcy, you can work to build your credit again — but it won’t be instantaneous.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” says Huynh.

Start by making a list of the debts included in your bankruptcy, and check them on your credit reports. After they’re discharged, it may take about two months for the accounts to be updated on your reports. They should be labeled “included in bankruptcy”, “discharged” or similar language.

Check your reports every few months for errors. Make sure to check that the negative marks are removed in a timely fashion.

In the meantime, consider building credit with a secured credit card. Only take out lines of credit you can afford, and pay back debt as agreed. After several years’ worth of responsible credit behavior, your credit scores can improve.

“If someone walks the straight and narrow after bankruptcy,” Huynh says, “it would be possible their scores would be higher now than prior to the bankruptcy.”

Bottom line

For many, bankruptcy is a last resort. If you’re considering filing, know the financial and credit implications.

Your credit will show a public record of bankruptcy for up to 10 years, and discharged accounts will get a negative mark. You can lessen the effects on your credit by responsibly using credit going forward and making sure your credit reports accurately reflect your situation.

Original article written by Kim Porter at Credit Karma