When a credit card or other obligation is not paid as agreed, a negative entry is usually recorded with the major credit-reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Bad checks are also reported to smaller agencies, such as TeleCheck and ChexSystems. The length of time that any bad debt is reflected on a credit file depends on the type of defaulted obligation.
General bad debts, such as credit cards, student loans, medical bills and loans, are reported to a credit file for as long as seven years.
Bad checks, whether paid or not, and overdrawn current accounts can be reported to an agency such as ChexSystems for as long as seven years. However, most bad checks are reported for five years.
A Chapter 7 debt-forgiveness bankruptcy is reported to the credit bureaus for 10 years. Chapter 13 debt restructuring is reflected on a credit file for 10 years.
Judgments are the result of successful lawsuits, and once paid they are reported for seven years. However, most states renew unpaid judgments, and thus these often can be reported indefinitely.
Positive credit information such as on-time payments are usually reported for at least 10 years.