How Do Late Payments Affect My Credit Report?
While there are many factors that affect your credit report, nothing has a bigger impact than your payment history. In fact, your history of on-time and late payments makes up about 35 percent of what bureaus take into consideration when determining your score (according to FICO scoring models).
Proving you can make payments on time is what will get you better loan interest rates for that dream car or house down the line. But getting to that excellent credit score takes time and commitment, and can be knocked down with one simple mistake. This means that paying close attention to when each payment is due is very important to maintaining the good credit that took you so many years to build.
Generally speaking, a late payment (also known as a delinquency) can lower your credit score by 100 points or more. This is especially true if you have a higher credit score (600+), as it will cause a bigger drop than if you had a lower score. However, even the most diligent cardholder can accidentally miss a payment. Luckily, there’s a grace period before this slip-up really messes with your score.
How Late Does a Payment Have to Be to Affect Your Credit?
Late payments can’t legally be reported to the credit bureau until they’re 30 days past due, meaning you have a month to make that payment without lowering your credit score. If you can’t pay within that 30 days, try to catch up as soon as possible — the longer you wait, the more it hurts your score.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be other consequences even if you do make your payment within the grace period. Late fees from your credit card company often begin immediately after the due date and can continue to rise until you make your payment. However, if you’ve established a history of on-time payments, it’s worth calling your credit card company to try and talk your way out of those extra fees.
How Long Does a Late Payment Stay On Your Credit Report?
Late payments will stay on your credit report for seven years. This applies to each individual late payment, no matter how many of them you make and how often they occur. This means that the seven-year period doesn’t start over at any point, so you don’t have to worry about other accidental late payments adding any time to previous marks.
As time progresses, the impact of this late payment on your score will decrease. And after the seven-year mark, the late payment is no longer shown when creditors or loan agencies pull your report. This allows you to move forward with a clean bill of health and start working your way to an excellent credit score once again. If you are looking to get negative marks taken off before the seven year time frame, there are a few options available to make that happen.
How to Removing Late Credit Card Payments From Your Report
Before contacting your lender about removing negative items from your report, you need to determine if the mark was listed by mistake or was an error on your part. Here is how you can get late payments removed.
Analyze Your Late Payments
In addition to keeping track of your daily charges and overall balance, you should analyze your credit history at least once a year. Credit reporting agencies such as Equifax®, TransUnion® and Experian® allow one free credit report copy every year. And by spreading your requests between each company every couple of months, you can ensure your credit is in good standing throughout the entire year without spending a penny.
When analyzing your report, any late payment you come across should be under seven years old. Although rare, sometimes older delinquencies can remain on your report after their expiration period. If you do find an older ding on your report, make sure to call and file a claim to get it removed.
Dispute Incorrect Claims
If you find a late payment within the seven-year time frame that you don’t recognize, there’s a chance your lender made a mistake when reporting it. You can dispute this claim directly with the credit bureau, with your credit card company or even your collections agency. After filing a claim, the company has 30 days to investigate before sending through their ruling.
To help make your case, providing proof that you paid it on time is important. If you can, send through an account statement or payment confirmation email on the correct date you made the payment to help speed the process along.
If you’re trying to improve your credit score by removing late payments that were reported correctly, you have a few ways to approach the situation. However, it’s important to note that successfully removing late payments that weren’t reported in error is very rare.
Write a Goodwill Letter
A goodwill letter is a formal explanation of why a late payment was made that you can send to creditors in hopes of getting your report wiped clean. While not always successful, a goodwill letter is often recommended for those who have fallen on economic hardship due to circumstances out of their control. Examples can include health issues, sudden loss of employment or even natural disasters.
When writing a goodwill letter it’s important to be respectful, honest and sincere. Discuss your credit history (if in good standing) and the actions you plan to take to ensure a late payment doesn’t happen again. If you don’t hear anything back after several months, consider calling, emailing or sending updates of your current on-time payments to help change their minds.
Be Wary of Pay-For-Delete Services
Pay-for-delete services, while sometimes thought to be a way to improve your score, are a little trickier to tackle. Often boasted by collection agencies, a pay-for-delete agreement helps remove debt account balances from your credit score via agreed-upon payments.
This option isn’t often recommended for a few reasons. First, even paid collection accounts still show up on your credit score. Pay-for-delete services also don’t remove late payments or automatically boost your score, making them not worth the hassle unless you’re in a lot of debt.
Negotiate With Lenders
One of the final options you have for updating your credit report is negotiating with your lender. While not always successful, offering to pay your debt upfront in a lump sum or set up automatic payments to prevent this from happening again might be enough to convince your lender to drop the report. This is especially successful for those who have a long track record of making on-time payments or those who had a recent financial setback.
How to Recover Your Score After Late Payments
If none of the methods above worked to help you remove late payments, the best thing you can do to help recover your score is to set yourself up for success moving forward. As your late payments get closer to that seven-year mark, you’ll often find that it affects your overall score less. Here’s how you can help increase your score.
Make It a One-Time Occurrence
Working to make sure your late payment is a one-time occurrence is imperative to showing lenders it was an honest mistake. This allows for more trust the next time you apply for a loan, mortgage or even another credit card.
Setting up automatic payments from your bank account is recommended for those who often forget to pay on time, taking the guesswork out of bill due dates. However, automatic payments aren’t recommended for bills that can vary widely in amount from month to month.
Keep Card Balances Low
Using your credit card frequently is important to show creditors you’re a trustworthy spender. However, if your account balance gets too high, it can have a negative effect on your score. It’s recommended to never leave more than 30 percent of your total credit allowance as a balance on any given card — this helps keep your credit in good standing and prevents a lot of debt. This recommendation holds true even if you’re making the minimum payment required each month.
If you find yourself in this type of situation, it’s recommended to switch your balance to a new card using a balance transfer credit card. This can help you pay off your balance faster by avoiding interest rates using zero percent APR promotions on most new cards. Be sure not to get distracted by new card offers and promises of point bonuses — opening new cards, especially balance transfer cards, can ding your score, so only open one up when you really need it.
Get Your Status to “Current” Quickly
If you missed a payment on a loan, the status of that account will be available on your credit report. Getting that status updated to “current,” or paid in full, as quickly as you can is important to boost your score and avoid any long-term damage.
A missed payment, while unfortunate, isn’t the end of the world when it comes to your credit score and overall financial goals. If you can’t get these mistakes removed by trying the above tips, the best thing you can do is to keep moving forward and working to improve your credit education. By staying on top of your yearly credit report and upcoming payments, you can take control of your financial future and prevent a late payment from ever happening again.
from a Credit Expert