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Your credit scores offer lenders a snapshot of your financial health. Things such as a steady history of on-time payments and a low credit utilization ratio can work in your favor. Late payments, on the other hand, are considered a delinquency and can hurt your credit scores.
Just how long do late payments stay on credit reports? Negative information—including late or missed payments—can linger on a credit report for seven years, according to myFICO.
MyFico credit score
MyFico credit score
Paying credit cards or loans late isn't the end of the world, however. There are several factors that can determine how much of an impact late payments have on credit scores. And there are a few strategies you can use to prevent them from hurting your scores going forward.
Three factors that determine how long late payments stay on your credit report
Negative information will eventually fall off a credit report, though how long it takes can depend on the type of information. For late payments, collections, foreclosures, public records, and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings, the time frame is seven years. For Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, it's 10 years. The clock starts ticking from the date the delinquency was first reported to the credit bureaus.
How much of an impact you see to your credit scores because of late payments or other negative information can depend on a few factors.
1. Length of the delinquency
Late payments can have an immediate impact on your credit scores once they show up on a credit report. However, late payments don't all carry the same weight. As a general rule, longer delinquencies cause more harm to your scores than shorter ones.
For example, being 90 days late on payments hurts your score more than being 30 days late, according to myFICO. And being 150—or 180— days late, they point at which your creditors might charge off your debts, is worse than 90 days late.
If you miss just one payment to a credit card or loan, you might be able to head off any major credit score damage by getting caught up as quickly as possible.
2. Number of late payments
It’s all about your overall payment history. One late payment on a credit report isn’t likely to tank your credit score. However, you’ll see a more significant loss of points if one late payment turns into two, three, or more.
Multiple late payments compound negative credit score impacts, as each one can cost you points. If late payments eventually turn into collections because your creditors have charged off those debts—or public records because they've sued you to collect what's owed—it can be even more damaging to your scores.
Having several late payments on a credit report could make it more difficult to recover your score, compared to having just one or two. The same is true if you also have other negative information, such as collection accounts or a foreclosure.
3. Age of the delinquency
While late payments aren't great for your credit scores, there is something of a silver lining. The effects of late payments on a credit report fades with time.
For example, a late payment that's four months old is more impactful to your score than one that's four years old. Even though late payments can stay on credit reports for seven years, creditors may be less concerned with older delinquencies.
There's nothing you need to do to get late payments taken off your credit reports once the seven years is up. The credit reporting bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—remove them automatically. Once late payments fall off, your credit scores should update to reflect that.
What is considered a late payment?
There's no rigid rule for what constitutes a late payment. It’s up to individual creditors to decide when to report past-due accounts to the credit bureaus. Once 30 days have passed without a payment, a creditor could report your account as late. Some may wait 60 days, or even 90 days, to do so.
The FICO credit scoring model, the one most widely used by lenders, recognizes several categories of late payments:
- 30 days late.
- 60 days late.
- 90 days late.
- 120 days late.
- 150 days late.
- Charge off (typically more than 180 days late).
Again, the longer the delinquency, the worse the impact on your credit score. When your score suffers as a result of late payments, it could make it harder to get approved for new credit. If you do get approved for loans or credit cards, you’ll likely end up paying higher interest rates.
Can I get late payments removed from my credit report?
Here's one thing that's important to know about negative information on a credit report: If it's accurate, then it generally can't be removed. You'll have to wait out the full seven years until it falls off.
This doesn't mean you can't attempt to have late payments removed from a credit report. You should work to do that if those payments are being reported in error. Here are three possibilities for erasing late payments.
Ask for a goodwill removal
If a late payment was the result of a temporary financial hardship—and you've since gotten back on track with payments—ask your creditor if they’d be willing to remove negative information from your credit reports out of goodwill. Keep in mind that creditors are not obligated to do this. If you've had other late payments in the past, they may not be willing to entertain the idea.
Negotiate or pay for delete
"Pay for delete" is a tactic that involves paying a creditor to satisfy a debt and, in exchange, asking that late payments or other negative information be removed from credit reports. This strategy isn't illegal, but it can be questionable, as, again, negative information can't be removed from a credit report if it's accurate.
You may, however, be able to get your account status updated if you're negotiating a settlement. In this type of arrangement, your creditor may agree to accept less than what's owed to satisfy a debt and also update your account status to “paid as agreed” or “paid in full.”
This won't erase any previous late payments or collections reported to the account. However, it could help to mitigate some of the damage.
Dispute late payments reported in error
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the right to dispute inaccurate or erroneous information on your credit reports. This includes late payments you believe are being improperly reported. You can dispute such payments with the credit bureau that's reporting the information.
Each credit bureau has its own process for disputing credit report information. You can initiate a dispute online, by mail, or over the phone. When submitting a dispute, you'll need to provide information about your claim, including:
- Which account you're disputing.
- Why you believe the information is incorrect.
- Your desired resolution (i.e., update the error or delete it entirely).
Include any supporting documentation you have to back up your claim. For example, if you submit a bank statement showing when your payment cleared, the credit bureau could take that into consideration.
If the credit bureau investigates your dispute and finds that you're right, then the error must be corrected or removed from your reports. However, if the credit bureau doesn't find an error, then the late payment won't be removed, and you'll get a written notice explaining why. The entire dispute process can take 30 to 90 days to complete.
How to avoid late payments
The best way to avoid late payments on a credit report is by paying bills on time or early each month. Try these strategies to make paying bills (and avoiding late payments) easier.
- Automate payments. Automating payments to credit cards, loans, and other bills is a simple way to ensure that you're not missing due dates. You can set up automatic payments through online banking and schedule them to arrive a few days before the bill is due.
- Set up reminders. If you'd rather schedule bill payments manually, setting up reminders or notifications can make it easier to keep track of due dates. Once you're alerted that a bill is about to be due, you can schedule payment.
- Streamline bills. Juggling multiple bill due dates can make it easier for something to fall through the cracks. Consolidating debts can leave you with fewer payments to make and a shorter list of due dates to track. For example, you might get a personal loan to consolidate debts or transfer balances to a credit card with a 0% annual percentage rate (APR).
If you're struggling to stay on top of bills, think about contacting a credit counselor. Certified credit counselors can review your budget and expenses to help you come up with a plan for managing debt, so that you don't have to worry about falling behind.
TIME Stamp: Don't let late payments drag you down
Late payments on a credit report can hurt your score, but it's important to remember that they won't hang around forever. Getting into the habit of paying on time can help you avoid late payments down the line. If you do have a late payment or two, bringing those accounts current as soon as possible is the first step in repairing the damage.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Will making a partial payment keep me from being reported late?
Making a partial payment could prevent a late payment from showing up on your credit history. Whether that works or not depends on your creditor's policies and when it reports accounts as late.
Will a one-day-late payment affect my credit score?
Missing a bill payment by one day shouldn't affect your credit score. Your creditor or biller can, however, charge you a late-payment fee.
Is it hard to get late payments removed?
If a late payment is accurately reported to the credit bureaus, then, yes, it's hard to get that removed. You could try writing a goodwill letter asking for the removal of a late payment if you've previously had an on-time payment history. However, your creditors are not obligated to honor your request.
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