How to Restore Your Credit After a Bankruptcy
Posted on 02/27/2018 at 04:12 PM by Lisa Pendroy
Tax season is upon us and as the focus for Americans comes back to finances, it is important to reflect on your own. Bankruptcy can be a big and scary decision that is often seen as temporary relief that then changes to long-term suffering due to the negative effects it has on your credit. This is a common misconception about bankruptcy. A bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years. However, credit recovery can start immediately after your debts are discharged. If you are considering bankruptcy or have already filed, preparing for life after is essential for recovery. The advice outlined below will help put you on track to rebuild your credit.
CHECK YOUR CREDIT REPORT
The first step after bankruptcy is to confirm that the debts that were listed on your bankruptcy petition are marked as discharged on your credit report. Around 6 months after the end of your bankruptcy case view your old debts on your credit report to confirm; the debts should show as “Discharged in Bankruptcy.” You can check your credit report for free annually at www.annualcreditreport.com. If the report is still showing the charge as active, you will have to dispute the charge in writing.
DISPUTE ANY INCORRECT DEBTS
To dispute a debt on your credit report you will need to mail a letter to the credit bureau(s) requesting that they investigate the charge. Credit bureaus typically have 30 days to respond to your request. The letter should include the reason the charge is inaccurate (i.e. discharged in bankruptcy) and copies of proof if available. Some other recommendations are to include a copy of your credit report with the inaccuracies circled and to send the letter by certified mail with a return receipt (to confirm when the letter was received). A sample letter is below.
Your City, State, Zip Code
Name of Credit Bureau
Credit Bureau Address
Credit Bureau City, State, Zip Code
To Credit Report Dispute Department:
I am writing to dispute the following charges on my credit report. The items I am disputing are below and are encircled on an attached copy of my report.
Item 1 – [identify item by name of the company and by type] is inaccurate due to the discharge during my bankruptcy. I am requesting that the item be removed.
Item 2 – ...
Enclosed are copies of documentation [if available] supporting that these items are inaccurate.
Please review these items and correct as soon as possible.
Enclosed: [List the documentation if available]
SLOWLY OPEN NEW LINES OF CREDIT
The last and hardest step in credit recovery is opening new lines of credit. Upon filing a bankruptcy, you will be offered credit cards again as the credit card companies know that you cannot file a chapter 7 bankruptcy for another eight years. Using a credit card will help you establish credit again. However, use it wisely, only charge what you can pay in full each month, and pay it on time.
Before applying for any cards, research credit cards that have good terms that match your lifestyle. An option creditors often offer to those with weak credit history is a secured credit card. Secured cards require a security deposit that you will then borrow against. This is a good option and after a period of timely payments, creditors may convert the card to unsecured. Whichever card you get, it should only be used for expenses that you can already afford out of pocket. Over time, paying off the full statement balance every month will rebuild your reputation as a borrower.