How to Remove Old Debt From Your Credit Report

Credit reports are meant to accurately reflect your history with credit. But unfortunately, the information in them isn’t always accurate. In a February 2024 study, 44% of people who checked their credit reports found at least one error, and 27% found a debt-related mistake. 

If you find old but accurate information in your reports, there’s not much you can do except wait for it to age off. But if the information is there by error, including debt that should have fallen off the report already, there are ways to remove it. 

1. Pull your free credit reports 

Reviewing them lets you find details about the amount owed, who owns the accounts now and how to contact those agencies if needed.  

To pull all three of your credit reports for free (from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), visit the federally authorized site 

2. Find out when the debt will fall off 

Every item in your credit history has a timeline that determines when it will fall off, meaning when it will automatically be removed from your credit reports.  

If the information on your reports has passed that set timeline, you can file a dispute to remove it. You can also dispute medical debt in collections if the balance is under $500 since the credit bureaus now have a policy not to list these accounts. 

Here’s how long information is scheduled to stay on your reports: 

Timeframe  Credit activity 
2 years  Hard inquiries 
7 years  – 30-day late debt payments 
– Completed Chapter 13 bankruptcy 
– Home foreclosure 
– Short sales 
– Deed-in-lieu 
10 years  Chapter 7 bankruptcy Closed accounts that had positive payment history 

To find out when collections debt and missed payments are due to fall off your reports, look for the last date you sent a payment on the debt, then add seven years.

For example, if you stopped paying a credit card bill in January of 2024 and it was later sent to collections, both the original credit card account and the collection account should be removed from your credit reports in January of 2031.

3. File a dispute

When you find information that’s overdue for removal, or if it’s incorrect in some other way, you have the right to file a dispute to remove it from your credit reports for free.

FICO recommends contacting both the credit bureau and the organization that reported the information to resolve the issue. But you can easily file a dispute with any of the three credit bureaus online via their websites: 

  • Equifax
  • Experian
  • TransUnion

A certified credit counselor at a nonprofit counseling agency can also offer tips on how to remove collections from credit reports, communicate with creditors and improve dispute letters.

Once you submit your dispute to a credit bureau, they typically have 30 days to investigate your claim, but they can dismiss disputes deemed frivolous. To reduce the chances of dismissal, make sure to include copies of any supporting documents.

The CFPB also offers further guidance on removing collections from credit reports, verifying that the debt belongs to you and communicating with debt collectors. 

4. Get outside support  

If your dispute is unsuccessful, you can submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at  

Taking this step might not fix your credit report issue, but the agency will forward your complaint to the offending company and share complaint data with state and federal agencies. 

If you’re having financial problems because of a credit report error, such as being denied a loan or an apartment, you might also want to hire a lawyer. 

Filing a lawsuit could result in compensation for the damages (and attorney fees paid) if the reporting company is found guilty of willful failure to comply with the law. 

5. Try settling the debt 

If you want old debt removed from your credit reports before the fall-off date, you might try debt settlement…although it’s not a guaranteed strategy for how to remove debt from credit reports.  

With debt settlement, you offer the creditor or debt collector a lump-sum payment for less than the full amount you owe. In return for your payment, the agency might agree to remove some of the negative information from your reports, also known as pay-for-delete or a goodwill adjustment.  

However, they’re not legally required to do so, and some companies have policies against this since it can violate their requirement to report complete and accurate information. 

One benefit of settling debt is that it can stop debt collection activities. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help your credit profile much. Keep these facts in mind before deciding to settle: 

  • Even if you pay overdue debt, the missed payments will stay on your credit reports for seven years  
  • Credit bureaus are unlikely to remove paid collections from your credit reports for seven years
  • Paying off collections won’t impact some versions of your credit scores 
  • Future creditors may see that you paid less than the full balance owed and be less likely to approve your applications 
  • Hiring a debt settlement or debt relief company is not a good solution, since they can’t offer any special outcomes that you can’t access on your own, for free 

You may have to give it time 

If the information on your credit reports is correct, waiting might be the only thing to do. Over time, as the information gets older, it has less impact on your credit scores. Eventually, it will fall off your reports.  

In the meantime, you can improve your credit scores by leaving common financial mistakes in the past and adding new, positive information to your reports.  

That includes making on-time payments on your credit cards and loans, keeping your credit card balances to a minimum and limiting your applications for new credit cards and loans. 

Frequently asked questions about removing old debt from your credit report 

Will my credit scores improve if I remove old debt? 

It’s impossible to predict how your credit scores will change if you remove old debt from your credit reports. The older the debt, the less impact it has on your credit scores, so there’s a chance the impact will be minimal. 

Can a credit repair company remove old debt from my credit reports? 

Credit repair companies can’t do anything for you that you can’t do for free. What they typically do is file disputes on your behalf. Still, their disputes are likely to be flagged as frivolous and, as a result, dismissed. 

Should I borrow money to pay off my old debt? 

In most cases, borrowing money to pay off old debt is a bad idea. There’s a chance the old debt isn’t impacting your credit scores much anymore, so it may not be much of a liability. 

If you’re considering a loan to prevent a lawsuit for unpaid debt, consider speaking to a lawyer with experience in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) or debt collection cases ASAP to understand your options. 

Written by Sarah Brady | Edited by Rose Wheeler

Sarah Brady is a financial writer and speaker who’s written for Forbes Advisor, Investopedia, Experian and more. She is also a former Housing Counselor (HUD) and Certified Credit Counselor (NFCC).

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