Thinking about settling some or all of your outstanding debts? Here is what you can expect in terms of damage to your credit after doing so – and how to bounce back.
Understand How Debt Settlement Impacts Your Credit Score
It is no secret that most avenues for eliminating or reducing debt impact your credit score. The extent to which that is true will depend on the type of debt settlement option you take.
Debt settlement may involve a so-called “charge-off” of some or all of your debts. This is when a creditor essentially writes your debt off as a loss and settles for nothing. While this may sound great, it can do some serious damage to your credit. A charge-off is seen as a failing on your part when it comes to your credit report, so avoiding these events if at all possible is the best option.
This is why some people elect to have their debts consolidated, rather than settled. This way, they can better manage a repayment plan and get those debts paid – at least in part. This way, there are fewer charge-off events on their credit report and recovery happens sooner. This is not an option for everyone, though, so it is important to know what you can expect to see on your credit report if you do opt for debt settlement.
How Long Does That Last?
The impact of a debt settlement will remain on your credit report for approximately seven years. This is seven years from the date of settlement. That means that once all debts that were involved in the process are paid or otherwise negotiated down, they will be noted on your report as settled – and your seven-year countdown begins.
While this mark will remain on your credit report for this seven-year period, it does not mean that your score cannot recover. Remember, your score and your report, while linked, are not the same. Your report may have some damage noted in your past, but positive impacts in more recent months or years can send your score back up.
How Can You Rebuild Your Credit After Debt Settlement?
With all of that said, can your credit score recover after a debt settlement? The answer is yes; credit is resilient and can ultimately be rebuilt after almost anything. However, it is slow to heal and will take a lot of work and forethought on your part.
Those who had relatively good credit – and a longer credit history – before their run-in with debt and debt settlement can expect their credit to bounce back faster and with less effort. However, almost anyone can repair their credit after these instances. It will simply take longer to do.
Those who do not have an extensive credit history can expect to be rebuilding their score for at least 1-2 years after debt settlement. Obviously, good credit report items – such as timely payments on a line of credit, mortgage payments, etc. - will help this process along. If you do not have these positive items, you will have to wait longer to see your score recover.
Remember, the important things during this process are patience and perseverance. Nothing great is going to happen overnight, but that does not mean that it will not happen. With some forethought and focus, you can work toward making positive impacts on your credit over time and eventually see that score back up where you want it.