How Long Do Negative Credit Scores Affect Your Credit?

A low credit score can cause you a lot of trouble. It can prevent a lender from extending credit to you. It can also cause your car insurer to charge you a higher premium. Not only that, some employers perform credit checks before making a final hiring decision. A negative credit history can follow you for a long time. Fortunately, most negative data in a credit report doesn't stick around forever.

Credit History

Your credit report contains some credit information that's positive, but can also include negative data. Negative accounts remain on your report for a set period of time; most for up to seven years. This includes late payments, charge-offs and foreclosures. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can remain on the report for up to 10 years. An unpaid tax lien, however, has no expiration date. It can remain on your credit report indefinitely.

Credit Scores

Your credit score is determined by the credit information in your credit report. FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850. Negative account information in your report will lead to a lower credit score. Each individual's credit report is unique, so how negative accounts affect your credit score varies. For instance, a single late payment can drop your score from 60 to 110 points, according to FICO. And a foreclosure can tank your score by as much as 160 points. The higher your credit score at the time the negative item appears on your credit report, the more damage it will have on your score.

Improve Scores

Your current credit score isn't permanent, so even a very low score can rise over time as the data in your report changes. FICO points out certain steps you can take to improve your score. The bulk of your FICO credit score -- 35 percent -- comprises your payment history. Making all of your payments on time will boost your score. The next most significant factor in the calculation of your score is your level of debt, which is 30 percent. Keeping balances low on revolving credit, such as credit cards, and paying down the debts you owe will also improve your score over time. How much -- and how fast -- your scores improve depends upon the data in your individual report and your ability to pay off the outstanding bills. on your record.

Errors

Errors on a credit report can ruin your credit score. To achieve the best score, ensure that all of the information in your credit report is accurate. If you find an error, the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to dispute it with the credit bureau or bureau that is reporting it. The bureaus then have up to 30 days to correct the mistake. You can file a dispute online at the bureau's website by mail or over the phone.

About the Author

Mack Mitzsheva is a tax lawyer, personal finance expert and the author of the forthcoming ebook, "10 Best Places to Work Online." Mitzsheva is also a social media entrepreneur with five successful sites under her belt. Always innovative, Mitzsheva is currently developing a cutting-edge budgeting app for newlyweds.