Filing bankruptcy is a legal process designed to give people who are in a difficult financial situation a chance to start over, resolve their debts, and get back on stable financial footing.
If you’re facing financial troubles and are considering bankruptcy, you likely wonder how it will impact your credit report and credit score. Make no mistake: a bankruptcy case will damage your credit rating, possibly lowering your score by hundreds of points. Fortunately, it doesn’t ruin your credit forever. Wondering, how often does a credit score update? Compared to the number of years bankruptcy stays on your credit report before renewal, credit scores update quite frequently.
How long bankruptcy remains on your credit report vs score depends on the type of bankruptcy relief you file for. While there are six different kinds of bankruptcy filings, the most common types for individuals are:
Chapter 7. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your assets are liquidated or sold to pay off your debt. At the end of your case, any remaining eligible debts are discharged or wiped out. This type of bankruptcy is only available to people in dire financial circumstances who have no hope of repaying their debts. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains on your credit report for ten years from the date you file.
Chapter 13. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is also known as a “wage earner’s plan.” It’s for people who have a regular income but can’t manage or repay all their debts. During a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you get help setting up a plan to repay your debts over three to five years. At the end of the plan, remaining eligible debts can be discharged. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy remains on your credit report for seven years from the bankruptcy filing date.
Not only will the bankruptcy remain in your credit report, but any debts you had discharged during the bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for seven years. Your credit report should show those discharged debts as “included in bankruptcy” or “discharged” with a balance of $0.
Those seven-to-10-year guidelines apply whether your bankruptcy case goes as planned or your case gets dismissed. The U.S. Courts may dismiss chapter 13 bankruptcies if you do not stick to your repayment plan. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy can also be dismissed at your request or by a bankruptcy court judge who determines you’re not eligible for protection. The credit reporting agencies may note the dismissal on your credit report, but it will continue to affect your credit score. In other words, there’s no undoing a bankruptcy.
The bankruptcy and discharged accounts should be automatically deleted from your credit report after either seven or ten years from the filing date.
After going through bankruptcy, you may be interested in rebuilding your new credit. In that case, you might wonder whether you can have the bankruptcy removed from your credit report early. That depends on whether the bankruptcy information included in your report is accurate.
It’s not unheard of for creditors to report incorrect information on your credit report following a bankruptcy. For example, you may find:
For that reason, you should order a free copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com a month or two after the bankruptcy discharge to ensure your creditors show the accounts have been discharged and the balance owed is zero.
You can have such errors on your credit report corrected or removed. But you cannot have accurate negative information removed from your credit report early. If any company promises to remove information from a credit report, even though it’s accurate and not obsolete? Run. That’s a red flag for a credit repair scam.
There’s no hard and fast rule for how bankruptcy will impact your credit score. It depends on your entire credit profile. According to the Fair Isaac Corporation, creator of the FICO® Score,
"Someone that had spotless credit and a very high FICO Score could expect a huge drop in their score. On the other hand, someone with many negative items already listed on their credit report might only see a modest drop in their score" 
However, that impact lessens over time. If you take steps to rebuild your credit after bankruptcy, you can drastically improve to a new credit score in just two or three years after a Chapter 7 filing. In fact, you may be able to buy a home pretty quickly. While every lender has its own guidelines for approving mortgage applications, Realtor.com notes you may be able to qualify for an FHA loan one year after bankruptcy or a conventional loan after two years.
Filing for bankruptcy will hurt your credit rating as it leaves an imprint in your credit history, but using credit responsibly after bankruptcy can help you rebuild credit while you wait for it to fall off your credit report. If you’re looking for a faster, alternative way to build good credit as you recover from bankruptcy, consider a credit builder loan from Self to get started today!
Janet Berry-Johnson is a Certified Public Accountant and freelance writer with a background in accounting and insurance. See her on Linkedin and Twitter
Lauren Bringle is an Accredited Financial Counselor® with Self Financial– a financial technology company with a mission to help people build credit and savings. See Lauren on Linkedin and Twitter.