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What happens to unpaid debt after 7 years?

Unpaid debt is a type of derogatory remark that can appear on your credit report. A derogatory remark is a negative item on your credit report that is past due or at credit risk, which is the risk that a lender may lose the money they’ve lent you due to missed required payments.

Derogatory remarks may last up to 7 years (or possibly more, depending on the remark) on your report. They have significant potential to negatively affect your credit score, which can make it more difficult to get approvals for credit cards and loans. Fortunately, there are free tools like Chase Credit Journey® which will not only give you access to a free credit score, but also credit reports, insights and resources to help you see how factors affect your score.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • The 7-year mark
  • How long derogatory remarks stay on your credit report
  • Settling your debt

Meaning of the 7-year mark

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), negative items can appear on your credit report for up to 7 years. These include items such as debt collections and late payments. The time frame begins from the original date of the delinquency (the date of the missed payment).

These items can significantly affect your score. To stay proactive, monitor your credit using tools like Chase Credit Journey, which will help notify you of updates to your credit as well as summarize your payment history.

How long do remarks stay on your credit report?

Depending on the negative items on your report, they could appear for up to 7 years and sometimes more. Let’s explore the different remarks below and their timeframes.

Late payments

If you make a payment 30 days or more after the due date, this is considered to be a late payment. However, issuers may not report late payments to credit bureaus until they reach 60 days late. Late payments stay on your credit report for 7 years from the original date of the late payment.


Collections happen when you’ve failed to make a certain number of payments, and your issuer or lender sends your account to a collections agency to collect your debt. If you are faced with debt collections, this could appear on your credit report and last for up to 7 years. You’ll still be on the hook to make these payments, even after the remark falls off the report.


When you file for bankruptcy, a court proceeding discharges your debt and sells your assets. Unlike the other remarks, bankruptcy filings can last longer on your report—about 10 years as opposed to 7.

There could be a few types of bankruptcy that you file for, including:

  • Chapter 7—Liquidation. This involves selling non-essential assets like a vacation home to help pay off debt. This lasts up to 10 years on your credit report.
  • Chapter 11—Reorganization bankruptcy. This is used by small businesses/entities that want to continue to be in business but need extra time to pay off debts. This can last up to 10 years on your report.
  • Chapter 12—Bankruptcy for family farmers/fisherman. This can last up to 7 years on a credit report.


An inquiry is a request to look at your credit card file. They are also called “credit pulls” or “credit checks.” There are two kinds of inquiries—hard inquiries and soft inquiries.

A hard inquiry is generally requested by a third party, such as a lender or credit card issuer. It involves pulling your credit report from one of the three main credit bureaus. For example, if you apply for a home loan or credit card, you can expect to have a hard inquiry appear on your report for 2 years. Depending on how good your credit is, a hard inquiry could lower your FICO® score by 5 points or less.

A soft inquiry, on the other hand, is only visible to you and won’t affect your credit score. Soft inquiries, for example, can happen when you want to see your own credit report, or if an issuer wants to see if you meet their qualifications for a pre-approved credit card offer.

Does the 7-year period repeat?

In short, no. The 7-year rule means that each negative remark remains on your report for 7 years (possibly more depending on the remark). However, after that period has ended, a remark will fall off of your report.

Why you should try to settle your debt

If you fail to make payments on your debt, your credit score can be negatively impacted. A drop in your credit score can hinder you from making important purchases like a home or a car. It can also prevent you from opening other credit card accounts. Additionally, if you get a remark on your report, you’re showing future lenders and creditors that you can be a risk.

Because they can negatively affect your credit score, it could be more difficult to get approvals for credit cards and loans. With Chase Credit Journey, you will be able to keep track of negative items on your report and see how they affect your score. Understanding your score, what it means and how it gets affected by factors like negative items is the first step to making changes to improve it.

Even if you’re faced with a debt or negative remarks on your report, you can still take steps towards improving your financial wellness. Consider settling your debt as a way to help improve your score. By paying off your debt, you are improving your payment history, which is a large part of your credit score’s calculation.

In conclusion

Certain types of debt, as well as other types of derogatory remarks, can last 7 years or more on your credit report. In general, negative remarks can dramatically hurt your chances of getting approvals for credit cards, loans and other forms of credit.

To help maintain and improve your credit, make timely payments and take active steps towards settling your debt. When you enroll in Chase Credit Journey, a free online tool, you’ll be able to better visualize how your credit can be affected based on certain actions you take. Doing so will not impact your credit score and you don’t need to be a Chase cardmember to access this resource. Enroll today and start settling your debt.

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