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My Debt Was Charged Off. What Does That Mean?!

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One of the most misunderstood credit terms is the phrase “charged-off.” You may have seen it on your credit report next to an old debt you vaguely remember.

At first look, it sounds almost positive, as if implying that a balance has been eliminated, removed and paid off. In reality, however, a charged-off account can actually mean trouble for your credit report and financial well-being. Here are the important things you need to know about charged-off debts.

What Does It Mean?

So what is a charge-off? Creditors, like any company, have profits and losses every year. A creditor’s profit depends on how successful they are in receiving timely payments from loans and collecting interest. Their losses commonly will be the result of someone not paying back their debt for a significant amount of time. When this occurs, the creditor will “charge off” the debt, essentially saying that they don’t expect it to be resolved and declare it a loss for the company.

When Does It Happen?

Now you may be wondering, “What exactly is a ‘significant’ amount of time”? Well, most debts are typically charged off after 180 days without receiving payment but installment loans (something along the lines of a mortgage, for example) can be charged off after only 120 days of delinquency. It’s also important to note that debts can be charged off even if payments have been made, providing that all of the payments were below the account’s monthly minimum.

Do I Still Owe the Debt?

Just because an account has been charged off by creditor, does not mean that the debt has been wiped away. (Unless, of course, you file for bankruptcy and include that debt in your filing.) Creditors still retain the right to collect the full amount of debt and have a variety of options available to them to do so. Depending upon the situation, creditors can utilize contacts from their internal collections staff, pass the debt off to an external debt collection agency, or if the debt is large enough (anywhere above the $2,000 mark) a creditor could file a lawsuit or seek arbitration. However, a creditor is barred from suing on a debt that is past the statute of limitation (here’s a list of the Statutes of Limitation on Debt Collection by State).

How Does It Affect Me?

Charge-offs are one of the worst marks to have on your credit report and can make the approval process for credit even more difficult. To make matters even worse, if your creditor passes your charged-off debt onto a collection agency, you could be forced to deal with aggressive debt collectors. All in all, having an account charged off is rarely a pleasant experience.

What Can I Do?

Unfortunately, it won’t be easy to have that black mark removed from your credit report. However, there are some things you can do to minimize its impact and put yourself in a better position. Paying off the remaining balance on your charged-off debt will change the status to read “charged-off paid” which, while still not desirable, will show that you put in the effort to right the wrong. There are also plenty of other ways to add positive information to your credit history, like keeping your credit utilization low and making payments on your other accounts on time.

If you want to avoid having any of your accounts charged-off, the best thing to do is take preventative measures. Learn and maintain positive financial habits and avoid living outside your means. Look into automating your finances as well to make sure you don’t miss any payments on your cards and put yourself at risk for getting charged-off. And don’t forget to check your credit report at least once a year to make sure everything is accurate and being paid. If you want to check your progress more often, you can get a free credit report summary, updated monthly, from Credit.com. You can get your free annual credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com.

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  • Malpola

    Is there any way to negotiate a debt after a judgement has been filed and on my record?

  • Tt

    I have two medical bills on my credit report. One is from 2009 and the other one is from 2010 They were reported a couple of months ago what is the rule on that or I should say rule of thumb thank you

  • Filiberto Jimenez

    Yes I strongly agree that you must check your credit report. However I also disagreet. When I read. Check your credit report for free. When you check into the credit report and give then all your information. They ask you for one dollar for parcel and handling. Then in small letters. Said. after 10 days we will charge $19.95 a month. Free mean free. And charg mean char. Please clean your act and be clear. Thanks

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      We are glad you noticed that. You can get a free (TRULY free) credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com. It is authorized by federal law, and there is no charge for using it. Here is a guide to interpreting it: Ultimate Credit Report Cheat Sheet. And please note, you do NOT need to give a credit card number or pay for postage and handling to see it.

      • lq

        Can a creditor remove a charge off account then add again the same day? Been doing this for two months now

  • Judi Lauren

    So there is nothing I can do to change this? I was awful with my credit and have 9 charge offs that were delinquent in 2010. Two of them are considered open accounts, even though they are charged off and I am getting collection notices (which are not posted on my CR). I have a myfico credit simulator that says if I pay them my score will go up. I am trying to get an fha mortgage and I need 25-30 point increase. What do I do?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Unfortunately if they are accurate it may be a matter of time (and positive payment history since) before your scores increase–it’s hard to say for certain. You may be near a threshold where the information will age sufficiently that you could move into a different group but that’s not really something you (or we) would know, or that you would have control over. Depending on how quickly you are trying to get the loan, working with a credit repair organization who can guide you through the process may (or may not) be helpful. But if you have a short time frame that will not be advisable: How a Credit Report Dispute Could Stop You From Buying a Home

  • Ben

    Be very careful! If you make any payment on a delinquent account it will re-set the statute of limitations for the debt collector to sue you. Always demand validation under the FDCPA if you get a collection notice. Just Google “FDCPA Debt Validation Letter”.

  • P Centers

    I had charged-off account for an auto loan in 2008. It finally came off my credit report in November 2014. No attempt was ever made to collect until June 19, 2015. A debt buyer bought the loan from the original creditor and I got a notice from a third party debt collector. It is past the statute of limitations for the state I was living in at the time. Even though they can’t sue me, can it still be put back on my credit report as an outstanding debt with the company that bought the debt???

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Collection accounts may only be reported for seven years plus 180 days from the date of delinquency. It sounds like this debt is too old to be reported. But monitor your free credit score carefully just to make sure. This article may help: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Hmmm…perhaps may should get a second opinion from another loan officer. Paying off a charge off does not remove it from the credit report and there can be loans available to

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      This is a tough one. Paying off charge offs does not remove them from your credit reports. The original creditor is pretty much out of the picture at this point. And making a payment now could extend the statute of limitations by another four or five years (depending on the SOL for those debts).

      I don’t know how much you owe and whether you can afford to pay them off, but you should understand that’s a possible repercussion.

      It is possible that some lenders may require these to be paid but even if you do pay them there is no guarantee it will be updated on your credit reports as this article explains: Help! An Old Credit Card Is Stopping Me From Refinancing

      Perhaps it makes sense to get another opinion from another lender to find out whether there are other options available…?

      • Judi Lauren

        The SOL ends in Jan- April 2017 for all of them ($9000 total). I almost feel discouraged in trying to fix it anymore, because I don’t want to extend any statutes, I don’t want to pay any debts that won’t fix the report anyway and not fall off because that takes away from my down payment money. It’s so much trial and error for just 20 pts. If I have a co-signer with excellent credit, huge home equity, and great income, will they still scrutinize my credit in the application process and deny me anyway? If so, I’ll just keep renting til this crap falls off…

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          “It’s so much trial and error for just 20 pts.” – I have to agree with you on that point!

  • Reasoning101

    I have a tax debt that was assessed ten years ago. The date when the statute of limitations apply was July 4, 2015. IRS instructions recommedend you send them a letter if they have not released the lien within 30 days. Nevertheless I send them a reminder of their obligation via a certified letter July 9 that was received on July 14. What are my options, apart from giving follow up by phone or mail if I do no receive any notification? I need the propt removal because I am about to buy a house and no mortgage loan will be approved while the lien is on record.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I’m afraid I don’t know how to speed up the process. If it’s truly urgent and a home loan is on the line you may want to consult a tax professional.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    John —
    It can seem difficult. One way is to use credit cards as a means of finance (meaning pay the balances, in full, every month so that you do not go into debt). We have some other ideas here: How to Improve Your Credit Score Without Debt

  • tiffany

    Hello.. I am working hard to improve my credit score and save for a home purchase. I travel a lot for work and my old car is not holding up. I have made the decision I must purchase a new car. How will this impact my credit score and options for a home purchase? ? Current credit scores range from 650-707

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler


  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    No it shouldn’t if they report accurately. Please read: Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • trish

    Hello, I am a little confused. I filed backruptcy and on 2 of the credit bureaus it shows my mortgage included but 1 shows still open and paid as agreed. Should I contact the bureau and have them correct it or leave it alone because it is showing positive?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      It’s up to you but you may not want to mess with a good thing!

      • Trish

        That’s what I thought. Thank you!

  • kirsten

    what should i do if i just recently got a charge off on my CR from a credit card i have?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I am not sure I understand your question about what you should do. It’s going to stay on the credit report for seven years regardless of what you do at this point. You will likely hear from a collection agency next and then you’ll have to decide whether you can pay them, settle it etc.

  • JC

    A collection agency contacted me about a utility debt that was not mine. They sent a letter stating that all collections activity would stop and that they have contacted the credit bureaus to remove any of their reporting. I just looked and it’s not removed. It’s stated charged off-bad debt. Can I take action seeing that I have a letter informing that this will be removed?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Yes you can. You may have a case for credit damage. If you need help finding an attorney you can check the the National Association of Consumer Advocates website . Or you can file a complaint with the CFPB.

  • Sp

    I had a credit card charged off 2010 however I continued to pay up until 2013 when will it come off my credit 7 years from the charge off date or the last payment made?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      The charge-off will be reported for seven years from the date it was charged off.

  • Nikki

    My mortgage was charged-off without the bank providing me any notice or going through a formal foreclosure procedure. The home was destroyed in a recent windstorm. The bank is willing to show the charge-off as being paid in full or the account as being closed (with a code indicating that is over 180 days late), but they are not willing to completely remove the charge-off from my credit report because they say they are not allowed to. However, everything I read indicates that a creditor can remove a charge-off from a credit report. Is it not possible to remove a charge-off from a mortgage account after it has been paid in full?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      We can’t comment on whether the charge off was legitimate or appropriate in the first place but as for removing it, it is hard to get these taken off your credit. Furnishers — the companies that report to credit reporting agencies — are strongly dissuaded from removing accurate information under their contracts with the credit reporting agencies.

      You may need to either file a complaint with the CFPB or get a consumer protection attorney involved.

  • Brian

    Hey there! I have a very old account from a past marriage where my ex never paid off a car loan. It’s a charge off on my credit report, but the details are:

    Status: Account charged off. $3,292 written off. $3,292 past due as of Aug 2015.
    Status Details: This account is scheduled to continue on record until Apr 2016

    My question.. in April 2016, will this totally stop effecting me?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Yes if it is no longer reported it will no longer affect your credit. The only other scenario I can think of is if they sued you and got a judgment, that could be reported. But it may be too late for that.

      • Sam Wise

        It may not affect one’s credit at that point, but it could affect (and probably would affect) one’s ability to get a car loan from the same institution, even if it has fallen off the credit report.

  • JGinMI

    I have a cc charge off amount of $17,000 that the debt collection agency is willing to settle for monthly payments for a total of $4,500 to settle. If I respond to them does this reset the charge off date? And if I agree to make the monthly payments, will that even help the situation of a charge off on my credit report? Can they still come after me for the remaining initial total? I do to want to talk with anyone if it is going to hurt me worse than my situation already is. I am current with all my other cards and only this one was the charge off.

  • Madi

    I have a charge off on my credit report. The account was opened in 2011 and I was 16, is that allowed to be present on my account since I was a minor? Also, if that can’t be removed am I still able to get a car loan with a cosighner? I’ve had student loan payments since last February and haven’t missed a payment yet.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      It’s hard to say for certain. Oftentimes contracts with minors can’t be enforced, but it’s not always cut and dried. Did you use this account after you were 18 and was it charged off then? If so there may be a case to be made it is legitimate. It’s really a question for an attorney.

      In the meantime you could always try disputing it with the credit reporting agencies, explaining that you were a minor at the time, and see what happens.

      You may want to talk with a consumer law attorney as well, especially if the statute of limitations has not expired and you are at risk of being sued.

      • Madi

        I jut had the account in my junior year of high school it was for a dual enrollment class but I was still a minor. The account isn’t being used now haven’t since then I just want to get a car and don’t want that to affect my chances.

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          I wish I knew the answer but I am not certain due to the type of debt.

          • Madi

            So even with a cosigner and that charge off on my account, getting a car will be slim?

          • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

            I didn’t mean to imply that. I meant to say that I don’t know what your chances of getting the charge off removed will be. Most people can get a car loan, even with poor credit, but the interest rate may be very high. Having a cosigner often helps.

  • Bryan Johnson

    Is it legal for a creditor to charge off an account without sending a warning or notification?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Yes. A charge-off is an accounting activity, typically done after 180 days for a credit card account or 120 for an installment loan.

  • Baldemar Rodriguez

    I had a secured cc in 2011 which I defaulted on for the amt of $282. It was charged off as bad debt by Bofa. I’t seems that Bofa handles the collection themselves as there is no other collection agency mentioned. Should I pay off the debt? Will it benefit my scores?

    • http://blog.credit.com/ Kali Geldis

      Hey Baldemar —

      Is the account in collections or is it just charged off? If it’s in collections, we wrote a great article about this topic, take a look:


      Let us know if you have any follow-ups!

      • Baldemar Rodriguez

        I would think it is in collections but the creditor contact details only mentions Bofa.

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          Paying off a charged off account or collection account doesn’t always help your credit scores as we explained in this article: The 7 Biggest Questions About Debt Collections & Your Credit. However, if you don’t pay it, the balance may continue to grow due to interest, and it’s even possible that you could be sued. It’s also entirely possible that it’s in limbo and there is no collection agency to pay yet until it is sold or assigned to one. If you want to resolve it you could try talking with BofA to see if they can shed some light on it, but be prepared that your conversation could renew interest in collecting it.

          One more thought – since it’s a secured card is it possible they just kept your deposit and have no interest in collecting?

    • Samantha

      I just recently paid off my collection with b of a and I owed 1700 and they settled for 400. My parents had spoke with a financial advisor and told him there are some agencies that will basically take what they can get. They had to submit a form for me and they called back the next day and said they accepted my offer. Try and do that.

  • Shayla Buggs

    In September of 2012, I opened an account with First Franklin for a loan amount of $600, I believe. I made the first two payments but the loan was charged off completely in June of 2013. They harassed me about paying and since then, I’ve made at least two payments that I’m not seeing on that account on my credit report. It says the current balance is at $690. If I let this go, and don’t worry about it, how terribly likely would this affect me in the future. I’ve since matured (recently) and I’m working FT and in school. I’m just wondering if it’ll affect my chances for student loans in the future, getting another car and a place of my own. I’m not great with paying bills on time as it is, and my car payment gets paid, just whenever I get around to it.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Shayla – I think these articles should help, but if not feel free to post another question on one of them. Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date? , What Happens If I Never Pay an Old Debt? and
      My Debt Was Charged Off. What Does That Mean?!

    • Sam Wise

      If you are working FT, and have enough income to cover your bills, then I would highly recommend having payments come out with auto-payment. If you have the money, there is no real excuse (given current technology) to ever be late with any payment. As for the loan for $600, I would try to settle, if possible (and that often means for far less than what you owe, but you will have to pay it in full, not in installments).

  • Lisbeth Arescurenaga

    hi, my account (auto loan) was charge off in oct 2012 , on my credit report appera that I own 5,553 I called the creditor to settle or set up a payment plan, they were very rude ant they told me that with the interest was more than 9,000 now is that legal? what can i do? they are asking me for a lot of money for my monlthy payments, they do not want to worl be me

    • Sam Wise

      It’s perfectly legal. In fact, by the time the loan reaches its sell-by date (the SOL date in your state), it could be double or triple the original amount. But don’t be frightened by that. It’s just a number, an allegation that you owe a certain amount by another party. If you want it removed from your report, the best way is to negotiate a settlement in full, say 10 cents on the dollar, with a promise in writing to remove the account from your credit report. If they won’t do that, or compromise to a reasonable amount, then you will want to know what the SOL is in your state and whether it is better to just wait it out.

  • Michelle

    I was in a car accident in 2011 and my car was totaled; insurance paid most of it, but then the creditor charged off the difference. I made payments for a while as I could towards the debt but then stopped when finances got tight. If I start making monthly payments again, will this help my credit?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      The damage to your credit has been done, and you may have to wait until it falls off your credit report. Paying a debt that has gone to collections can keep you from being sued, though. (It’s super-important to find out who owns the debt before you pay, though.) And if you were successfully sued and there was a judgment against you, that’s an even bigger black mark on your credit. Here’s more:
      How Long Does Negative Info Stay on My Credit Report?

    • Sam Wise

      It depends on the particular circumstances. How much was it for, how long have you not paid it, how long is the SOL in your state, etc. Whatever you do, don’t just start paying an old debt, especially if it has been reported on your credit report. Once you do, you lose all leverage over the situation. Creditors want to get paid. They don’t care about you, your situation, or your health problems, lack of work, low paying job, etc. All they want is your money, and if that means you won’t have bread on the table or be able to pay your other bills, that’s not their problem. You have to make the right decision for you, one that makes sense for your situation. But once you realize how creditors view you and your debt, you will want to utilize any and all leverage you have in the situation, which is to get them to remove any and all negative information from your credit report, and this only happens before you pay anything. If they will not agree to remove negative information, then don’t pay it. And don’t buy into the all too common myth that negative information, once reported, can’t be removed – I have successfully had information removed from my report, and have successfully fought junk debt buyers in court.

  • Jeanine Skowronski

    Negative information generally ages off of reports completely after seven years, so it should not come up on your general credit reports. You can pull your reports to check and potentially dispute the info, if it does appear.

    Thank you,


  • Sam Wise

    It can’t ever be reported legally again to your credit report. However, companies often keep permanent records of bad debt to cut their losses in the future, so you will likely never be able to get credit form that company ever again. Same thing for credit cards. If you’ve had a write off from them, you will likely never qualify for credit with them ever again, even if you had a perfect 850 FICO score and proven record of payments.

  • Marie

    After falling on hard times in 2011, I am now back to a point where I am financially stable again and I want to rebuild my credit. I pulled my credit report recently and I have some charge offs and one judgment. What is the best way to handle those? Should I try to come to an agreement on a settlement or payment arrangements and once paid, will it be removed from my credit report and/or help boost my score.

  • Jeanine Skowronski

    Ask for written confirmation of the debt. You may want to consult a consumer attorney about your best recourse.



  • Jeanine Skowronski

    You should have the information updated. This article explains why:




  • Kevin

    I had a bankruptcy that included 1st and 2nd mortgages. Both mortgage accounts involved were discharged. Immediately after the discharge the bank gave us a new loan on the balance for the second mortgage. They pulled our credit reports and everything was prepared just as a new second mortgage. We made the proper payments every month on time and were never late. 15 Months passed then all of a sudden the bank charged off the loan. The bank did not notify us by letter or anything. The only way I found it was when I did not receive my 1099 Interest statement for the year. I called them and they told me it was charged off.
    Can they legally do this on a new loan that was created after my bankruptcy was discharged?

  • Maggie

    I bought a car in 2014, a used car for my son. Well, it was OK for a minute, but then suddenly I had to take it in for brake repairs. I owed $10k then. OK. Kept paying. Next thing I know, I take it in for another brake repair. Now, not ok. I kept paying though. The third time, a letter came in the mail telling me it was a Recall Car, and had to be taking in for service for brake issues. OK. So I take it in for brake repairs, and the next day, I don’t have any brakes when I am driving on icy roads, and nearly hit one car in the rear, and taking control I managed to make it to the local post office thanking God, the man who was about to cross in front of me didn’t, and used the postal steps to stop the vehicle. I called the company [redacted] and told them to come and get the piece of junk. They did. Repaired the brakes, and lied as they did from the beginning when I submitted paperwork to DMV reporting the lemon. Well I Didn’t pay any damn more. And now, I have a $85k charge-off on my credit report. I really think it is wrong that I have to pay for a car that could have caused serious accidents. What is my options?

  • Kathleen

    Just recieved a motice that 3 of my credit cards just been charged off. How long does it take to sue me? I plan on selling my home to pay all me creditors, I heard 6 months till they serve me eith a summons?

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