If you receive a notice that a creditor has decided to "write-off" an old debt, you may think the worst is over. But wait a second; it doesn't mean you're out of trouble. While a write-off makes it appear as though the creditor has given up trying to collect your debt, it will still affect your credit in a bad way. A write-off on your credit report can lower your credit score and may affect your ability to get a mortgage or a car loan further down the line.
A write-off, also known as charge-off, happens when a bank or creditor closes an account due to non-payment. While that may sound grand, it doesn't necessary mean that the debt goes away completely. A write-off actually means that the creditor considers the amount you owe a loss with regards to their accounting ledger. The creditor may still pursue you to pay the debt, or worse, sell the debt to a collection agency.
Write-Offs and Your Credit Report
Charge-offs will show as just that on your credit report -- a charge-off. There's no fancy wording here and no legalese. Just "charge-off", which means that it may be hard to explain to potential creditors why you let that debt hang around until the bank or creditor had no other option than to write it off. Because of this, a charge-off is actually more harmful to your credit than late payments as late payments show that you at least attempted to pay the bill, even though the payments were delinquent..
Does It Go Away?
A write-off will definitely show as a negative on your report and will lower your credit score. Just by how much depends on a number of things including your other credit, length of credit history and many other factors. What's more, a charge-off remains on your credit report for seven years from the day you were first past due and if the debt is legitimate, there is nothing that you can do or say to make it go away.
What Can I Do?
Yes, the charge-off is a big credit report negative. And while you may play the seven-year waiting game, wondering what mirror you broke to get such bad luck, you're not completely without hope. The good news is that if you keep up to date with your current creditor, you can improve your score considerably. Another option is to call the creditor, bank or collection agency and negotiate. You may be able to enter into a debt settlement, where you agree to pay off a certain amount of the debt and the debt is considered paid in full. Keep in mind that this doesn't erase the charge-off from your record. Instead, it will appear on your credit report that the charge-off is paid and a lenders may take this into account when you're going for a new loan.
Casey Anderson is a part-time writer and full-time marketer who has been published on websites such as Opposing Views and Salon. She has also contributed articles to local Detroit Magazines, Strut and Orbit. A Wayne State University Master of Business Administration graduate, Nation began her writing career in 2001 and has extensive experience in business and research writing.