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So you’ve been working really hard to improve your credit score. You’re paying your bills on time, chipping away at your balances, and scanning your credit report for errors.
But then you see it… a late payment.
Is this the end of the world?
Of course not. In fact, you may even be able to have this stain removed from your soon-to-be-spotless credit report.
Removing late payments from your credit report requires a different approach than disputing credit errors. When you’re fighting to have a mistake removed from your report, you’ll need to be tough and maybe even a bit aggressive.
On the other hand, when you’re trying to remove a legitimate delinquency from your report, you’ll be at the mercy of the creditor. That will require a much softer and more diplomatic approach.
When it comes to legitimate negative credit entries, the creditor is under no legal obligation to remove the information. And according to Experian, the largest credit reporting bureau, late payments will remain on your credit report until seven years from the date of the missed payment.
That said, there are several approaches you can take that may entice a creditor to remove or at least upgrade damaging credit entries.
Write a “Goodwill Letter”
A goodwill letter does exactly what it sounds like. It politely requests that the creditor remove the derogatory information as an act of goodwill.
Now, it should be obvious that this won’t work in all — or even most — circumstances. But it’s still worth a try in certain situations.
For example, it will work best with a creditor you have a long and current business relationship with. That’s especially the case if you’ve made only one or two late payments over the past seven years.
It may also work in the case of a collection or charge-off if you have already fully paid the account.
First, you want to emphasize your positive history with the creditor over the years, as well as your current status.
Second, you’ll want to carefully explain that your late payment was due to circumstances beyond your control. That can include a medical event, job loss, business failure, or family crisis. You’ll help your case by including any documentation supporting your claim.
There’s no guarantee this will work, and it certainly won’t work if you have a long history of bad credit, either with the individual creditor or as a general pattern in your credit report. But for isolated delinquencies, it’s worth a try.
Dispute the Entry
Under federal law, the credit bureaus must delete any negative information on your report if the creditor cannot substantiate it to be accurate.
That means you can try to dispute the credit entry.
Your dispute must be made in writing. And you must request confirmation both that the information was reported in error and that it will be corrected with all three credit bureaus.
If the creditor has no record of the derogatory information, the negative entry must be deleted.
This strategy is best used with older accounts, since evidence of the late payment, collection, or charge-off may no longer be readily available to the creditor.
But this method also comes with a warning. If you use it to dispute every negative entry on your credit report, the credit bureaus may dismiss your claims as frivolous. Use it only in select cases where there’s a good chance the creditor hasn’t retained its records to support the negative entries.
Pay for Delete
You’ve probably noticed neither of the strategies offered thus far offers you a guarantee or is even legally binding. This strategy is even more of a gamble.
If you have a late payment that has gone to collection, you can try what’s known as a “pay for delete” to resolve the issue and remove it from your credit report.
With a “pay for delete,” you compromise to pay all or part of the outstanding balance in exchange for its removal from your credit report. You must make it clear that you’ll make a payment only if the negative entry is deleted.
This can work with old collection accounts because, in these cases, there’s a very low likelihood of their ever being fully collected.
That being the case, even though the collection agency removes the negative entry, the original creditor that hired the collection agency may not.
And even the collection agency may “betray” you. Collection agencies will do anything they can to get paid. That includes agreeing to a compromise, then backing off it later.
Use a Specialized Credit Repair Service
The easiest and surest way to remove negative marks from your credit report is by hiring a credit repair service.
There are plenty of credit repair services that can help you improve your credit. This is usually done by a combination of having credit errors deleted and settling past-due balances, often for less than the full amount.
Sometimes credit repair companies can even remove legitimate late payments from your credit report.
The good news with agencies is that they’ll handle the job of removing late payments from your credit report for you, with a better chance of success. But the downside is that they’ll charge you a fee for the service. You’ll have to evaluate the cost of that fee compared to the benefit you’ll receive from the credit improvements.
That’s a tall order when you’re first starting out. But if you have a large amount of bad credit you want to eliminate from your report, using an agency will almost certainly be the better strategy than doing it yourself.
One of the most popular credit repair services is Lexington Law. This law firm specializes in credit. The team can use their knowledge of the law to get the best results in removing negative credit entries on your credit report.
Another service you can use is The Credit People. This company will provide you with unlimited disputes and work to raise your credit score on your behalf.
Final Thoughts on How to Remove Late Payments From Your Credit Report
If you want to remove only one or two late payments or collections from your credit report, you may find doing it yourself worth a try. You can dispute the entry, use a goodwill letter, or consider pay for delete.
But if you have a lot of bad credit you want to remove, your best option will be to use a specialized credit repair service.
If all else fails, remember: Time is on your side when it comes to bad credit. Most of it will fall off your credit report after seven years anyway.
Unless you’re in a hurry to improve your credit for a specific purpose — such as applying for a mortgage or car loan — you can just sit back, relax, and let time heal your credit wounds.
Earn. Save. Grow.
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