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Paying off debt removes a bill from your budget, but that paid-off loan or closed credit card can stay on your credit report for years.
That’s great news if you paid on time: That positive payment information can continue to help your credit score.
But if you didn’t, your credit missteps can linger.
Why do closed accounts stay on your credit report?
A credit report is a detailed document listing information about how you've handled borrowed money. You have a credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — which get data about your accounts from lenders and compile it. That data is then used to calculate your credit scores.
Your reports list both positive and negative information about how you manage credit. For instance, if you always pay your car loan on time, it will be listed as in good standing. On the other hand, if you’ve paid late, that will be noted.
Including both open and closed accounts gives more data about your use of credit, which helps credit scores more accurately portray what type of customer you are.
It’s a common misconception that your credit report includes only information about your active accounts. Unless you have a very limited credit history, your credit report is probably full of data about closed accounts, like loans and credit cards you paid off years ago.
How long do closed accounts stay on your credit report?
How long a closed account will stay on your credit report depends on how you handled the payments.
Accounts in good standing — that is, you paid as agreed month after month — can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years. That's good news. Payment history is the most influential of the factors that affect your credit scores.
If you defaulted or had late payments on an account, it must come off your credit report after seven years according to federal law. The same goes for foreclosures, short sales and most other negative information. The only derogatory mark that can stick around longer is a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years.
Should I try to get rid of closed accounts on my credit report?
Don't try to remove a paid-off mortgage, car loan, credit card or other accounts from your credit report if they show a positive payment record. That good record will continue to help your credit scores.
If you have negative marks on the account, however, you want it off as soon as possible. You can use AnnualCreditReport.com to get free reports from the bureaus every 12 months to verify negative information has been removed as required by law. If a negative mark is lingering, you can file a dispute.
Many credit scoring models now exclude paid-up collections accounts. But because some lenders still use older scoring models, you may want to try removing collections from your reports.
What does 'account closed' mean on a credit report?
If you have closed credit card accounts, your credit report will indicate whether the account was closed by you or by the account issuer. You might close an account because of fees or poor service. The account issuer might close one because of default, late payments or inactivity.
If closing a credit card account does sway your score, it's most likely because of something called utilization. Credit utilization is how much of your available credit limits you're using, and it plays a big role in scoring. Closing a card removes its credit limit, so any balances you have outstanding now look bigger in comparison to the lower overall available credit.
Paying off a loan or closing a credit card could also have a small effect on your score if it lowers the average age of your accounts or gives you a slimmer mix of credit types.
How long will a paid-off account take to show up on your report?
It can take one or two billing cycles for a loan or credit card to appear as closed or paid off. That’s because lenders typically report monthly. Once it has been reported, it can be reflected in your credit score.
You can check your free credit report on NerdWallet to see when an account is reported as being closed.