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Late payments can have a major negative effect on your credit scores. They’ll remain on your credit reports for seven years, so you should do your best to avoid them at all costs.
If there are any late payments on your reports that don’t belong there, you can dispute them and their removal may improve your credit scores. And if you did make a late payment or two, there’s a chance that you can still get them removed as well.
There are two basic reasons why a late payment might be shown on your credit reports:
In the first case, it may be possible to remove the late payment from your credit reports by filing a dispute. The credit bureaus don’t want inaccurate information on their reports, so if your claim can be verified, they’ll take steps to fix the problem.
In the second case, you may be able to have the late payment removed from your credit reports. This process basically consists of asking nicely, explaining your situation, and promising to be more responsible in the future. There’s absolutely no guarantee that this will work, and you’ll have better success if you have a positive payment history other than this blemish.
No matter how the late payment (also known as a delinquency) got on your credit reports, it usually will be worth your time to attempt to remove it. In this post we’ll discuss when late payments will show up on your credit reports, and why you should remove them if you can. Then we’ll go over the actual steps of (a) how to dispute an inaccurate late payment, and (b) how to ask lenders to remove legitimate late payments from your reports.
Although we usually focus on credit cards, this information applies to loans of all types, like auto loans and student loans.
There are many credit repair companies offering to “fix your credit fast” for a price. Some of them seem to claim miraculous results, as if they can remove any and all negative items from your credit reports. The truth is, these companies can’t do anything that you can’t do yourself. They have no special privileges or access.
However, you may want to work with one of these companies — but only if they appear reputable. That way you don’t have to spend as much time and energy collecting all the contact information and documents you’ll need for a dispute. Instead you can hire someone who has been through this before, who can tell you what to expect and, hopefully, speed the process along.
Use this method if there’s an incorrect late payment on your credit reports, which didn’t actually occur. If you were at fault, learn more about removing actual late payments below.
You can also use this method if you actually made a late payment but there’s some inaccurate information associated with it. In this case you probably shouldn’t expect to have the late payment record completely removed. Instead, your creditor will probably just correct the error but the delinquency will stay on your report.
Disputing items on your credit report is free. You may need to dispute the late payment with several companies in all. Here’s the basic procedure:
Remember to be patient. This process may be solved successfully at step 2, or it could take longer. You shouldn’t have much of a problem with the major credit card issuers if they clearly made a mistake, even if you have to spend more time on the phone than you’d like. But, it’s possible that other credit card companies might be more difficult to work with, like issuers of subprime cards.
If your dispute request is denied and you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly, you can contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to register a complaint.
You might also consider speaking with an attorney about taking on your claim as a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act if your other attempts to fix the problem fail.
If you believe you may have an incorrect delinquency, start by checking all three of your credit reports to see if the mistake is present on all of them.
When checking late payments, you should take note of the lender, account number, date, payment amount, and other details.
There are three major credit bureaus, and they each issue their own credit report on you. You should check all three:
You can check your credit reports from all of the credit bureaus for free. There are also quite a few easy ways to constantly monitor your three credit reports, and see exactly what’s on them whenever you want.
The credit bureaus may show you a list of your delinquent accounts when you start an online dispute with them. We actually don’t recommend online disputes, however, as the “reasons” you’re allowed to give are pre-populated and it can be difficult to tell your side of the story. We suggest using certified mail for disputes instead.
Checking your credit reports will give you a better overview of your accounts than filing a dispute, letting you see when the supposed delinquency occurred. And if there’s one big error on your reports, like a late payment, it will be worth checking to make sure everything else is accurate.
Here are some free ways to check your credit reports. Some of these services will give you more information than others, however.
Checking your own reports will have no impact on your credit scores at all.
After you determine which credit reports have errors, you can move on to the next step.
Once you know that there’s an incorrect late payment on one or more of your credit reports, it’s time to contact the lender who reported it.
If this is a credit card issuer, this may be as simple as calling the number on the back of your card, or checking our list of credit card company contact numbers. Otherwise you’ll need to look up the appropriate contact information to call your lender. (Note: If you accessed your credit reports via AnnualCreditReport.com, you may be able to locate lender contact information near the end of your reports.)
You may have success simply by calling and notifying them of the error. They might check their own records, see the mistake, and take steps to rectify it.
In other cases, the lender may request proof that you didn’t make a late payment, i.e., proof that you made a timely payment for the billing period in question. A letter containing a copy of a bank statement showing the payment, or some other kind of documentation, may be able to satisfy a creditor’s request for proof. If your lender is satisfied, it will fix the error.
As a template for this letter, check out our sample letter to a credit bureau below. You’ll have to change some of the information to send it to your lender instead of a credit bureau, and you’ll also have to adjust some of the text based on what they tell you on the phone. But this should give you a good starting point.
If the lender agrees that the delinquency is an error, get it in writing. Get a written verification that the late payment was a reporting error by the lender, and not your fault.
Next, you should request that the lender correct the mistake with the credit bureaus and ask for the late payment to be removed from your reports. To be thorough, it may also be a good idea to send a dispute to the credit bureaus yourself.
Whether the lender submits the dispute or you do it yourself, be sure to check your credit reports in a month or two, to ensure that the delinquency is gone.
After you prove that the delinquency was in error, the lender should also refund any late payment fees that you paid.
The lender might agree that it was a mistake, but that doesn’t mean the late payment will immediately disappear from your credit reports. If the lender won’t send a notice of the mistake to the credit bureaus, for whatever reason, you’ll have to do it yourself. Or, if the lender doesn’t agree that it was a mistake, you can attempt to go over your lender’s head and bring your case directly to the credit bureaus yourself.
If you can’t prove that you made a timely payment you might be out of luck. But you can still try disputing with the credit bureaus, if the delinquency truly is an error.
You can dispute information on your credit reports for free and with no negative impact to your credit scores. You can submit credit bureau disputes online, over the phone, or via mail. However, your best bet is typically to mail your dispute letter directly to each credit bureau via certified mail.
When you dispute an item on your report, the credit bureau must investigate it within 30 days (45 in some cases). Once the investigation is completed, the bureau must also provide you with an update to let you know the results of your dispute.
During the investigation, the bureau will review your dispute and the information in your credit file, and check with the lender. If the bureau verifies that the item is correct, it will stay on your credit report. If it discovers that the item is incorrect, the account will be updated or removed from your report entirely.
If you actually did make a late payment, don’t dispute it as inaccurate. Some people try this, hoping to get lucky when the creditor isn’t able to verify in time. We wouldn’t recommend lying in any case, but you should know that the electronic systems being used now are much faster than older systems, and verifications can be completed much more quickly. If you make false claims like this you could damage your relationship with the credit card issuer, and it may not approve you for its cards in the future.
We’ll go over how to submit a dispute with each of the major consumer credit bureaus below. You’ll need to create a free online account with each credit bureau to file disputes online. If you want to dispute by mail or by phone, you’ll need recent copies of your credit reports.
We recommend disputing by certified mail. Although each of the credit bureaus has a free online dispute system you can use, we actually don’t recommend online disputes. The “reasons” you’re allowed to give are pre-populated, and it can be difficult to tell your side of the story.
For disputes by mail, prepare to send in the following information. If you leave out any of the information below, the credit bureau might write you back to ask for the missing documents before your dispute will be processed. It’s also a good idea to send your letter via certified mail so you will have proof that it was sent in case your dispute is ignored.
Only send copies of documents, not the original versions, because you won’t get them back. You don’t need to write a long, eloquent explanation of your situation. But the more supporting documentation you can provide, the better.
We’ve provided a sample letter below that you can use as a template.
If your dispute fails, you have the option to write a 100-word statement of explanation on your credit report (200 words in Maine). This won’t usually be very useful, however, as most lenders evaluate credit reports electronically when you apply for credit, and they don’t take statements into account.
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
|Phone||Call the phone number on your Experian credit report|
|Check Dispute Status|
You can submit an online dispute by clicking the link above. Just follow the instructions to sign up for an Experian account, if you don’t already have one. Then you’ll be able to select the particular credit account you want to dispute.
To send a dispute by mail, use the mailing address shown in the box above. (The Federal Trade Commission recommends sending disputes by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document when the credit bureau received your information in case of a disagreement.)
You’ll also see a link to further instructions. Experian provides a dispute form you can use if you wish, which we recommend. This document shows all the information you should provide. When disputing an erroneous late payment, you should check the box that says “Payment never late.” You aren’t required to include a copy of your credit report when disputing by mail, but you may want to anyway, for clarity.
To dispute by phone you’ll need to have already obtained a recent copy of your Experian credit report. This report will have a phone number that you can call to dispute any items.
You can get a one free copy of your Experian report every 12 months through AnnualCreditReport.com, or you can get a free copy of your report directly from Experian. Or, you may be eligible for a free copy of your credit report — you can call 1-866-200-6020 to check your eligibility.
After beginning a dispute, you can use the link in the table above to check the status at any time.
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
|Check Dispute Status|
When you dispute an item on your Equifax report using any of the above methods you’ll receive a 10-digit confirmation number. You can use this number to check the status of your dispute.
If you initiate the dispute online, you’ll get periodic emails of the progress, and the results. If you dispute by mail or by phone, you’ll receive the results in the mail. Equifax states that you’ll get a result within 30 days.
To get a free copy of your Equifax credit report you can visit AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also check to see if you’re eligible for a free credit report under the FCRA or access a free Equifax report via one of the credit monitoring services listed above. Otherwise, Equifax charges $15.95 for access to your credit report for 30 days, along with a few other services.
Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
|Check Dispute Results|
If you dispute by mail or phone, you’ll need need the file number of a recent copy of your TransUnion credit report.
You can get one free copy of your TransUnion report every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. You may also be eligible for a free copy of your credit report from TransUnion or from one of the free credit monitoring services listed above. Otherwise, TransUnion charges $11.50 for a copy of your report.
The results of a dispute can be viewed at the link above. It may or may not be possible to check the status of a dispute in progress.
Only one dispute (per credit report item) can be submitted to TransUnion at a time. If you want to file multiple disputes about the same item on your credit report, you’ll need to submit them one at a time, waiting for each to finish before starting the next one. If you want to dispute multiple accounts, you can either dispute them all on the same letter, or you may submit them separately (though this is more time consuming).
You can use this sample letter to dispute information in your credit report. Just insert the appropriate information, like your name and address, the credit bureau name and address, and specific details in the body of the letter. If you’re disputing more than one item, you’ll need to adjust the language to refer to multiple accounts.
Only include copies of documents, not the originals. If you choose to provide a copy of your credit report, circle the delinquent account in question.
Send your dispute request by certified mail, with a return receipt requested, so you’ll be sure that they receive it.
SSN: [Your Social Security number]
[Name of Credit Bureau]
[Credit Bureau Address]
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute the following information in my credit file. The item I’m disputing is [insert account name and number], as reported by [insert lender]. (Optional) This account is also circled on the attached credit report.
This delinquent account record is inaccurate because [describe why the late payment was reported]. I am requesting that the account be corrected to show that it has always been current, with no record of being delinquent.
(Optional) I have included copies of my credit report, [list any other documents included]. The file number of this credit report is [insert credit report file number or ID number].
Please investigate this matter and correct the disputed item as soon as possible.
Enclosures: [List what you are enclosing]
If you really did make a late payment, there’s still a chance you can have it removed from your credit reports. This might be a slim chance, but it’s worth trying because late payments can potentially have such a significant impact on your credit.
For these methods, you’ll just be contacting the lender or creditor, rather than the credit bureaus. You’re basically just pleading your case and asking it to forgive the late payment — it’s under no obligation to actually do so. If the lender decides to report the account as current instead of delinquent as a result, this is typically known as a “goodwill adjustment.”
This might work if you have an otherwise excellent payment history with that lender, and have been a responsible customer except for this mistake. If there was a technical error that prevented you from paying on time, like an issue with the payment system, that could work in your favor. Or, if there was some major life event that prevented you from paying by the due date, your card issuer may be sympathetic to that as well.
If you haven’t been a very good customer, however, and have a history of late payments and other negative marks, you probably won’t have much success with a goodwill adjustment. But it might still worth a shot, depending on your situation. It won’t cost you anything to try but some time.
There are only two steps in this process:
Always make at least the minimum payment every billing period to avoid being late (we recommend paying the entire balance in full each month). Set up automatic payments on your credit cards and loans so you never miss a payment.
You can try for a goodwill adjustment on two fronts: by phone and by mail. Some people try just one or the other, while some try both. Occasionally, people report success from calling and sending multiple letters over time, but we can’t verify this.
Whether you’re on the phone or writing a letter, remember that you’re at fault here and asking forgiveness. Your tone should reflect that. Be polite, thankful, and conscientious. Above all, don’t get angry or demanding.
Here are some examples to get you started on the phone or with your goodwill letter. If you get a positive response from the lender, try to also get it in writing.
You can use this script to start the conversation about removing your late payment. Be sure to have your explanation for why you were late at the ready. If you don’t have a perfect payment history, you’ll have to adjust this slightly to reflect your actual situation.
For credit cards, call the number on the back of your card to speak with the issuer, or check out our listing of backdoor credit card company phone numbers.
“Hello, my name is [your name]. I recently made a late payment on my account, which was a total accident.
As you can see, my payment history is perfect other than this one mistake. I ended up paying late because [insert your explanation here]. The late payment is also showing up on my credit reports and it’s done a lot of damage to my credit scores.
Is there any way you could remove this late payment from the record, by reporting that account as always current?”
That should get the ball rolling in the right direction.
Write them a good, old-fashioned letter. Goodwill letters should be personalized, reflecting your current circumstances and your good intentions to be a responsible credit user.
Take responsibility for the late payment, don’t make excuses. Explain some of the circumstances surrounding it, whether it was about your ability to pay, confusion over the payment process, or some other reason. Point out that you’ve been making other payments on time. If something was preventing you from making a timely payment before, like an illness or death in the family, explain that it’s no longer a problem for you.
The following sample letter should provide a good template to get started. Be sure to adjust it wherever necessary to fit your situation.
[Your Phone Number]
[Your Email Address]
[Your Account Number]
[Name of Creditor]
Dear Sir or Madam:
I hope you’re doing well today. My name is [your name], and I’ve been a satisfied customer of [creditor] for [number] of years. I’ve always made my payments on time, but unfortunately I recently made a mistake on [date].
I understand how important it is to make timely payments. However, I missed my payment because [brief explanation of why you missed your payment]. But I’m confident this won’t happen again. As you can see from my account history, I have a long record of on-time payments before and since the late payment.
As a courtesy, I respectfully request that you make a goodwill adjustment to remove the late payment on [date]. Please consider my track record as proof that I take my financial obligations seriously.
If you have any questions, or if you would like to speak with me in more detail, please call me at [your phone number] or send me an email at [your email address here].
Thank you for your consideration,
If the regular goodwill adjustment request fails, you can try negotiating a bit. You may have a bit of leverage to work with, but maybe not.
There are a few different kinds of offers you can make:
Try whichever negotiating tactic, or tactics, will fit your particular situation. You may have better luck negotiating if you can show that you’re financially able to make the payment each month.
To add the negotiation method to your phone call or goodwill letter, just insert one of the following scripts into the conversation or letter. Or you can combine them in some way.
On my part, I’ll sign up for the autopay system so you can be sure that you’ll always get my payments on time. I have a good job with a steady income, so I’m not worried about missing future payments.
On my part, I’ll pay off my remaining balance of [your account balance] over the next [number of months] months, making payments of [payment amount] each month. I’ll sign up for autopay so you can be sure that you’ll always get my payments on time. I have a good job with a steady income, so I’m not worried about missing future payments.
On my part, I’ll pay [payment amount] of my outstanding balance now, and will pay off the rest over the next [number of months] months. I’ll sign up for the autopay system so you can be sure that you’ll always get my payments on time. I have a good job with a steady income, so I’m not worried about missing future payments.
On my part, I’ll pay off my entire balance of [your account balance] now to show my commitment. I intend to remain a loyal customer. I have a good job with a steady income, so I’m not worried about missing future payments.
We’ve heard from some readers who have said their credit card issuers say it’s “illegal” for them to remove late payments, or provide other similar reasons.
It’s not illegal for a creditor or lender to change any information on your credit reports — including late payment history. Credit reporting is a voluntary process. There’s no law that requires a lender or creditor to furnish data to credit bureaus. There’s also no law that requires the credit bureaus to accept the data a lender/creditor provides and include it on your credit reports.
Companies like lenders, creditors, and collection agencies must apply to be data furnishers with the credit bureaus. The application must be approved before a company can have information about their customers included on a credit report. When a company is approved to furnish data to the credit bureaus, the company has to sign agreements with Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. The agreements say what a data furnisher is and isn’t allowed to do when it comes to credit reporting.
Often, the credit bureaus will include language in their agreements which says a data furnisher agrees not to change accurate, negative account information. This is commonly the case for debt collectors, for example, who must agree not to delete a paid but accurate collection account simply because they’ve received payment from a consumer.
If a collection agency were to get caught deleting paid collection accounts, a credit bureau might revoke that agency’s right to report accounts on consumer credit reports. Lenders, creditors, and collection agencies don’t want to lose the right to report information to the credit bureaus. Credit reporting is a big way they compel people to pay their bills on time. (If you know your credit could be hurt by not paying a bill on time, you’re more likely to pay as agreed, right?)
So, to make a long story short, it’s definitely not illegal to delete a late payment from a credit report. A creditor or lender might not delete an accurate late payment, however, if they think it could get them in trouble with the credit bureaus.
The trick with any successful goodwill removal request for a valid late payment is to find the right person with both (a) the authority to help you and (b) the desire to do so. Goodwill removal requests don’t always work, but it never hurts to ask. If you have good payment history (aside from the one late), try to reach a supervisor or someone in an escalated department who might be willing to make an exception and help you.
If your efforts fail, remember that late payments will impact your credit scores less and less as time passes (until the late payment is eventually deleted from your credit reports in seven years). Focus on keeping the rest of your credit in tip-top shape, and your credit scores will hopefully begin to bounce back over time.
No, late payments won’t always show up on your credit reports.
When a lender (like a credit card issuer) reports a late payment, they also classify the account as delinquent. Lenders are not allowed to report an account as delinquent to the credit bureaus until a payment is a minimum of 30 days past due. Even then, they may not choose to report the late payment until some more time has passed, basically as a favor to the cardholder.
There is some flexibility in when a payment might be reported as late. However, you should expect to be charged a late fee if your payment is not delivered on time, even if you’re only one day late. Card issuers may waive this fee if you call and ask nicely, explaining that the late payment was a fluke (assuming your payment history is otherwise good). This late fee is separate from the issue of having late payments on your credit reports.
On credit reports, late payments are broken down into several categories. The later a payment is, within these categories, the worse the impact on your credit.
Once your credit card is a full 90 days past due, the lender will often decide to sell the account to a collection agency and mark it as a charge-off. This means that the creditor has declared that the card debt is unlikely to be repaid, and it’s extremely bad for your credit.
Listen to credit expert John Ulzheimer explain when late payments will show up on credit reports. He describes what credit card issuers are thinking in these situations, and why you might see a 90-day late payment without seeing any 30 or 60-day late payments.
TL;DR — it’s bad.
Your payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO scores. That makes it the largest single category in the calculation of your credit scores. When a lender extends a line of credit, like a credit card, they want to know that they’ll be paid back on time. So your record of previous payments, good or bad, is very important to them.
A late payment can remain on your credit reports for up to seven years after the date it was reported. The effects it has will largely depend on the other elements in your credit profile.
If you have excellent credit, with a spotless record of timely payments except for this one mistake, a single late payment won’t typically leave you with a bad credit rating. But it will likely have a very noticeable effect. If this isn’t your first time making alate payment the impact might be greater, causing your credit scores to fall to average or below.
There are three important facts to know about how late payments impact your credit scores:
Even if you have very good credit, you might see your credit scores drop at least 30–50 points from a single late payment. It could even be twice as bad as that, or more, depending on your particular credit history. You can get an estimate of how a late payment will affect your own credit with free credit simulators, like those offered by FICO, Credit Karma, Chase Credit Journey, or Capital One CreditWise.
Lower credit scores mean you’ll have a harder time being approved for credit cards, loans, and anything else that requires a credit check, like many apartment rentals. And, if you are approved, you’ll usually be given higher interest rates.
Late payments are bad for your credit, but they also have other negative consequences. When you’re 60 days late on a payment, for example, credit card issuers can retroactively raise the interest rates on your existing balances, something they can’t normally do. And they can take other adverse actions as well, like reducing your credit limit.
Plus, if you fall behind on your payments with one card issuer, your other card issuers might react with account closures or credit limit reductions as well, if they feel they need to reduce their exposure to potential risk on your account.
A late payment on your credit reports may or may not be your fault.
If it’s an error, you should take steps to remove it ASAP, because it’s probably bringing your credit scores down. And if it actually happened, you should try to get it removed with a goodwill adjustment.
The credit bureaus want to produce accurate reports, so if you bring an error to their attention they’ll track down the source and attempt to verify it. Creditors don’t want to falsely accuse you of anything either, because they want to keep you as a happy customer. You should usually expect to have errors like these removed in a pretty timely fashion.
For legitimate late payments, however, there’s definitely no guarantee that you can get them removed. Some people report success with goodwill letters, but it’s not a sure thing and it will depend on your particular credit history.
Do everything in your power not to make late payments! They’re one of the easiest ways to quickly put a big dent in your credit scores. Aim to do whatever it takes to prevent them.
Simply setting up autopay for at least the minimum payment is often all it takes to protect yourself, but you may want to double check to make sure your payments go through. We recommend paying the statement balance in full to help keep your credit scores in top shape, of course, but as long as you meet the minimum you’ll avoid being late.
If a late payment is on your credit reports in error, you can get it removed with a dispute relatively easily. If the late payment does actually belong to you, you may be able to get it removed by the bank with a goodwill letter.
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