Can I Remove a Late Payment From My Credit Report?
It’s always possible to remove late payments from your credit report if you notice an error. Errors, after all, are not all that uncommon. Reports by CNBC note that, “More than one in five consumers have a ‘potentially material error’ in their credit file that makes them look riskier than they are,” to creditors. As a result, one in five Americans fall victim to this incorrect data by being offered higher interest rates, less favorable terms, or being denied credit by lenders, even though their “high risk” status is unfounded.
These errors can range from a number of factors, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Those can include identity errors, accounts belonging to a person with a similar name that are incorrectly reported on yours, identity theft, data management errors, balance errors, and more.
Credit bureaus are more than willing to help you navigate the process of disputing issues on your credit report. The process is much more complicated if the issues are a result of your own negligence. Though rare, creditors and credit bureaus may be willing to work with you in those circumstances as well.
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How Late Payments Affect Your Credit Score
It’s a warning that you hear every time you open a new line of credit: a single late credit card payment can lower your credit score by as much as 100 points. Paying a bill more than 30 days late has the potential to significantly damage your credit score, even if you have never had a late payment and have otherwise excellent credit.
Credit bureaus use your payment history as criteria to determine your credit score, which issued by lenders, banks, landlords and others. An estimated 35 percent of your credit score is determined by your payment history. As such, it’s important that you make a concerted effort to make your payments on time, every time.
Should you have to make a late payment, you won’t have to worry about it affecting your credit score until 30 days have passed. Some creditors offer a 60 day grace period before reporting to credit bureaus, it just depends on your individual contract with the lender.
Still, it’s important that you remember that late payments remain on your report for seven years after your missed payment.
Your credit score is one of those things that’s simply going to follow you around wherever you go, and there are no real quick fixes for repairing it. These things take time.
However, there are a number of steps you can take to improve and repair your credit over time.
Consulting a Credit Repair Agency for Help
Like Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, credit repair services are prepared to get you an accurate reading of your credit report. Unlike these credit reporting agencies, however, credit repair agencies are prepared to act on your behalf to help you find any disputing information.
This is by no means required, as many individuals are able to find these inaccuracies, find appropriate documentation to dispute the issue and are able to contact the credit unions themselves. Some, however, prefer to dispute these claims with a person who can help them facilitate the conversation.
Should you choose to go this route, be aware of credit repair scams, such as any companies that may offer you an opportunity to give you a “fresh score” or wipe your credit history. If any of these companies offer you these kinds of promises, it’s likely that you’ll end up the victim of identity theft.
The Easiest Way To Improve Your Credit Over Time
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the easiest way to improve and repair your credit is to pay your bills on time. This is the most important consideration that lenders use when determining your trustworthiness and the likelihood that you’ll be able to make your payments within the contracted window agreed upon by both parties.
There are a number of other things you can do, however. Having a variety of accounts under your name is good for your credit score in the long run, so you may consider opening new credit card accounts, increasing your current credit limit, purchasing a new car, and most importantly adopting the habits of those who already have a good credit score.
How to Remove Late Payments from Your Credit Report
There are some extenuating circumstances, such as medical emergencies or natural disasters that absolutely prevent people from making their payments on time. Some creditors are sympathetic to this, and may be willing to waive any late fees that are incurred as a result of this. In some cases, they may also be willing to withdraw the late reports. Really, it all depends on your lender, and their decision will likely be influenced by your previous payment experience and your current credit score. Regardless of your status, it’s a good idea to ask your creditor and contact credit bureaus to see what your best options are.
Should you find an error on your credit report, we cover the process to remove the late payment from your report below.
Write a Late Payment Letter
Goodwill letters, colloquially known as “late payment letters” or “forgiveness letters,” can be used for a wide variety of situations where you had missed your payment within the 30+ day window of its particular due date. In essence, by writing a letter, you are appealing to the “goodwill” of your creditor to remove a piece of data from your credit report. From there, it’s up to the creditor to remove the entry if they see fit.
It’s important to note that by sending a letter of goodwill, you’re essentially admitting fault and are appealing to them for a favor. Should you choose to go this route, we’ve compiled a sample letter here.
File a Dispute
Credit bureaus allow you to dispute information online 24 hours a day 365 days a year. You’ll start to file your dispute by checking your credit report for errors.
“Your personal report includes instructions to dispute any information you believe is inaccurate,” note the experts at Experian, one of the largest credit bureaus in the United States. “Most disputes can be submitted online at any time. There are some exceptions, such as fraud issues, that may require speaking to a representative or mailing additional documentation. If so, you will be provided instructions on how to do so.”
Each of the credit bureaus operate in similar ways, allowing you to contact them by phone, mail, online, or by mobile device. Each will also have detailed instructions for starting a dispute. You can find their contact information here.
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This post was updated February 28, 2019. It was originally published November 7, 2018.