I’ve been helping people repair their credit for a long time now, and I get this question a lot. We’ve all made mistakes in our past. With our credit, we often don’t even know we’re making a mistake until it’s too late!

Wiping your credit clean is a multi-step process, and it isn’t always feasible. If you’re looking to boost your credit in 30 days, or you’re looking for a new car loan or home loan, then taking one or two steps may be all you need.

But if your credit is below 600, you may need to wipe it completely clear.

What Wiping Credit Means

I need to be clear from the beginning–everyone will always have a credit score. This isn’t because the government is watching us, or because we’re born with a credit score. It’s because every single one of us has engaged in the modern economy. And when we engage the economy, merchants buy and trade the information they gather on us. (Check out my article on the history of the Credit Bureaus.)

In short, there’s no way to simply wave a wand and everything on your credit simply goes away. If you were a dedicated hermit, and you went off the grid for at least seven years, but more likely ten, you could come back to a credit report with no items. But you’d still have a credit score. A very low one, but a score nonetheless.

What Can Be Wiped… and What Can’t

A credit score is broken down into five major categories, with Payment History being the biggest. It accounts for over a third of our credit scores. When people talk about wiping their credit report, they’re generally talking about taking things out of their payment history, or out of their Accounts Owned, the second heaviest weight in our scores.

Typically speaking, if you have an active account, you want to keep it open. You can read more about why in my article about how to raise your score. I’ll focus on items in your payment history that you might want to remove.

Charge-offs

Any time you take a loan or a credit card line that passes into collections it shows up as a huge black eye on your credit score. To remove these you have four options:

  • Pay the collection down in monthly payments.
  • Pay a settlement amount to the collection agency.
  • Dispute the charge off.
  • Or, use a credit repair company to work on the item for you.

Once a collection or charge-off is settled, it will drop off of your credit report within the next reporting cycle. If it doesn’t make sure to dispute it with the authorities.

Can It Be Wiped: Yes.

Late Payments

Even if you have an active account, late payments will still negatively impact your credit score. That’s because of one of the Cs of Credit, Character. (You can read more about the Three Cs of Credit, here.)

If the late payment reported is accurate, and you want to remove it on an existing account you can submit documentation to the creditor (card company, car loan lender, etc.) asking to have the item removed. Two common documents are “good-will” letters, where you make a compelling case as to hardships you faced and why you missed a payment; or you can ask to pay the company for them to remove the item.

As you might guess, both of these methods have slim margins of success. You can also contact a reputable credit repair company to negotiate on your behalf.

Can It Be Wiped: Yes.

Foreclosures

Owning a home is the American Dream for many people. Unfortunately, companies in recent years have used predatory lending practices to sell people mortgages they couldn’t afford.

Having a foreclosure on your credit is a huge lodestone dragging your score down. Getting rid of it can be difficult. Typically speaking, if you have a foreclosure on your credit, that means that you also had missed mortgage payments leading up to it. This creates a paper trail that is next to impossible to dispute.

The simplest way for a foreclosure to come off your credit is for the time to expire. You will have to wait between 7 and 10 years for this to happen, but it will be automatic. The main thing in the meantime is to boost your credit in any other way you can.

Can It Be Wiped: No, for all practical purposes.

  • But Wait! 

    With interest rates going up from historic lows, many mortgage companies are actually going out of business! If you have a foreclosure with a company that is now longer in existence, you can have that wiped from your record. Simply check to see if your lender has gone out of business, and if it has, contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for assistance.

Bankruptcies

I did a deep dive on bankruptcies, recently, and it answers anything you could want to know about them. For the purposes of this article, I’ll keep it short: once a valid bankruptcy is filed, there’s no getting rid of it.

Can It Be Wiped: No.

What About Inaccurate Information?

If there’s anything inaccurate on your credit report you must challenge it immediately and with as much energy and time as you have. There are mechanisms and apparatuses you can employ yourself, and there’s even a government website to help you.

The process is straightforward, but like a lot of “simple” things in life, it’s really quite exhausting and difficult.

Gather All Your Documents

If there’s an account on your credit report that you didn’t open, or if there’s someone using your accounts that you didn’t authorize, your first step is to contact the lending company immediately. Tell them the account or activity is fraudulent, and ask them for all the information you can on when it was opened.

If the inaccurate info regards late payments, delinquencies, or charge-offs, contact the bank from which you made the legitimate payments, and ask for your transaction history for the entire span of time when the derogatory marks occurred.

Practice Making Your Case

It may sound silly, but you’ll want to lay out exactly why you’re challenging the inaccurate items, and why you’re in the right. Once you get on the phone, or write the email or letter, you’ll be making statements that the lenders will try to challenge and fight back on.

I recommend to some people that they write out everything that was going on during the time the inaccuracies were reported, and find people willing to sign statements attesting to your side of the story. Then, proceed to step three.

Now that you have all your ducks in a row, so to speak, visit the website I linked above, and get ready for a long fight.

Can Errors Be Wiped: Yes.

Another Way

Like I mentioned with disputing late payments and charge-offs, there is another way to fight errors on your credit report: hire a good credit repair company. I wrote an article spelling out why it’s worth it–and why sometimes it’s not.

My conclusion is that it’s well worth most people’s time and money to let someone else do the dirty work of challenging or disputing items on a credit report. Especially if it’s a large amount of money, or if the error occurred years ago and you’re just noticing it.

Clean Slate

At the end of the day, nearly everything but foreclosures and bankruptcies can be removed from a credit report. It’s usually just a matter of doing a lot of paperwork–or hiring a trusted professional. 

While you’re wiping your credit clean, make sure you’re also taking the steps necessary to build your credit, and especially take those steps once your credit is on track.

About the author Greg Lorenzo

Greg is a financial expert who has been advising his audience on loans for over 10 years. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the area, and he is passionate about helping people get the best possible deal on their loans. Greg is an expert in negotiating loans, and he has a proven track record of getting his clients the best possible terms. He is also a strong advocate for financial literacy, and he regularly gives workshops and seminars on the topic.

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