One late payment shouldn't ruin a credit score -- or a romance
By Sally Herigstad | Published: December 28, 2012
To Her Credit
Dear To Her Credit,
I went on a date recently with a guy introduced to me by a co-worker. We talked about all kinds of things, from career goals to politics. It was going great until we got to credit scores. My credit score is good, but he says his credit score would be perfect except that he missed one bill when he was on vacation. Because of that, his score has totally tanked.
Is he telling the truth? Can one bill wreck a perfectly good score? -- Sheila
I don't know if one late bill can wreck a good score, but apparently it can wreck a good date.
Seriously, when did dating start sounding more like interviewing for a job? What's next, asking for a date's BMI? Things have certainly changed!
As far as his story goes: One negative mark can definitely hurt a person's credit score. The better the score, the more damage a single flaw can do (like the first scratch on a car after it leaves the showroom floor).
I see three problems with this guy's my-vacation-ruined-my-credit line:
- A slightly overdue bill wouldn't even show up on his credit report. He'd have to go on one long vacation to be more than 30 days overdue on a bill, which is how late a bill must be before creditors report them to the credit bureaus.
- If he was 30 days overdue by the time he caught up with his mail, it still shouldn't "tank" his score. A credit history doesn't just show how many overdue bills a person has had. It separates them by how far past the due date. A three-month-overdue bill is far more damaging than one that was just barely past 30 days overdue.
- Only 35 percent of a FICO credit score is based on bill payment history. Bill payment is the most significant factor in a score, but it's far from the only one. The rest of the score is based on debt amounts (30 percent), length of credit history (15 percent), new credit (10 percent) and having a mix of revolving and installment debt (10 percent). If his score is truly as bad as he says, either it wasn't that great to begin with, or there's a lot more going on than one accidentally misplaced bill.
Most of us need a little grace from time to time. If you like this guy, don't block his calls based on what he's told you so far about his score. If he's hopelessly irresponsible with money, you should be able to figure it out while there's still time to run for your life. If he's just a normal person who made an isolated mistake, however, his credit history and score won't hold it against him for long. Whether you do is up to you.See related: How bad credit affects a new marriage, How late can a payment be before it dings your credit?, Even barely late payments can impact your credit score
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