Who should I talk to about long-ago debt and my credit score?
October 27, 2014 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Who should I talk to about long-ago debt and my credit score? Is that the sort of thing a new credit union will do, or would that just hurt my interactions with them?

I finally have enough income to start taking care of some old debts that have long since gone to collections, but when I pulled up my credit score information with Credit Karma, it looked like the ($2000ish) credit card debt I had was long enough ago that it had fallen off my report, which meant my credit score appeared to only be based on my more or less up-to-date repayment of student loans.

This all seemed like an amazing turn of fortune, but I know better than to trust myself when it comes to matters of personal finance. I've been meaning to transfer my banking to a local credit union; would they be able to advise me in such matters? If not them, who?

More details: I first noticed this when I checked Credit Karma, which appeared to attribute my credit score only to my student loan payments and lack of credit card. Then I pulled my Experian report, which DID have some random creditor/debt buyer stuff listed from 2011.

Like I said, it's not that much money, and my intent had been to get around to paying it, but now I don't know who to talk to, or whether I should just ignore it some more and focus on stuff like student loans and getting a secured credit card. I don't want to just pick one of the random collections letters I get every six months or so and throw money at them, do I?
posted by brisquette to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Old items SHOULD fall off your credit report seven years after they first became delinquent. This is why you do NOT want to just fling money at random debts - because that'll "re-age" them and reset the clock on that seven year time period. If the debts have fallen off, or are SET to fall off, do not touch them. If they're newer, you're gonna want to spend some time browsing CreditBoards.com for strategies for getting your financial house in order... they are the best as far as advice goes, and they're totally free.
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:39 PM on October 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I've seen the CreditBoards.com thing linked before, but I don't know how to share personal financial information on the internet.

How do I go about getting a well-informed person to read my actual official credit report and translate it for me; do people post edited screenshots and stuff like that? Is it even possible to edit a credit report enough so that it lacks all identifying information?
posted by brisquette at 2:57 PM on October 27, 2014

How long-ago are we talking? Generally if it's more than 7 years old it falls off your credit score.
posted by radioamy at 3:05 PM on October 27, 2014

You should be pulling your reports directly via annualcreditreport.com or from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion).

The reports generated are not intended to be difficult to read, and if you like you can pay one of the credit reporting agencies to give you their take on your credit score.

A credit union or bank is likely to pull a credit report on you if you open a checking account or request a line of credit. A credit union is somewhat less likely to be jerky about extending you modest amounts of credit especially if you're a longtime member. A good strategy to consider is to go to some effort to open an account at a well-liked credit union and then maintain it in perfect standing, no bounced checks, no overdrafts, no late payments. Good data is reported to credit reporting agencies for a longer period of time than negative data, and the length that a credit account is established is a factor in your credit score.
posted by jgreco at 3:50 PM on October 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Your credit union would be a great resource. It's likely they can either help you themselves or refer you to a credit counselor. I work at a credit union and our members get free access to personalized financial and credit counseling from a company called Balance - here's info on Balance from another CU's website. This would be what you want: a knowledgable person to look at your credit report and listen to your backstory and help you decide what would be best to do.
posted by aka burlap at 3:51 PM on October 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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