Q. Can a Chapter 7 bankruptcy help or hinder your credit score?
— Falling behind
A. No bankruptcy is good for your credit score.
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years, said Beverly Harzog, a consumer credit expert and bestselling author.
“The reason it stays on your report so long is that it gives you a clean start,” she said.
But, she said, this isn’t always a bad thing.
If you felt like you were drowning in debt, a bankruptcy might have been one of the few options available to you, Harzog said.
Try to view this as a chance to start over.
The bankruptcy has less impact on your score each year, Harzog said, and now is the time to think about ways to minimize its impact.
“Consider getting a secured credit card or a credit-building loan,” she said. “Whatever credit tools you choose, continue to pay all your bills on time. Keep your utilization ratio under 30 percent — under 10 percent if you want to speed up the credit-boosting process.”
As you begin to use credit to rebuild your history, Harzog recommends you check out the free educational credit scores available online.
“It’s not your FICO score, but it’s a good way to gauge your progress,” she said.
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