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Credit Scores and Reports

How long does a late payment stay on your credit report?

If you a miss a payment, it will stay on your credit report for several years. But there are ways you can mitigate the damage to your credit

Summary

A late payment typically stays on your credit report for up to seven years, according to information from the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

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Unfortunately, late credit card payments happen – for a variety of reasons.

Because your payment history counts for 35% of your FICO score, if you’ve ever made a late payment, you’ve likely seen your credit take a plunge.

The good news is you can recover from a late payment. (And if you’ve been affected by the coronavirus crisis – whether through a job loss or pay cut – some credit card issuers are letting cardholders skip payments.)

To find out more, keep reading for expert advice on how long it takes to recover from one and how to fix – or at least mitigate – the damage a late credit card payment can do to your financial well-being.

How long does a late payment stay on your credit report?

A late payment typically stays on your credit report for up to seven years, according to information from the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Rod Griffin, senior director of consumer education and awareness at Experian, said the seven-year time frame for a missed payment deletion begins at the date of the first delinquency.

That means if you miss a single payment, then bring the account current, the late payment will be removed from the credit report seven years from the date of the missed payment, he explained.

He also noted that if a delinquent account is never again brought current and subsequently is transferred to a collection agency, the original debt and the collection account will be deleted seven years from the date of the original delinquency.

“Collection agencies are required by federal law to report the original delinquency date from the first account – and the result is that the original account and any subsequent collection account are deleted at the same time,” Griffin said.

If you still haven’t paid the overdue amount after about 180 days or so, the issuer likely will charge it off and turn it over to a collection agency, which will damage your score even more.

See related: How to remove negative items from your credit report

How much does a late payment damage your credit score?

While it might seem like not such a big deal to make one late payment – it is to lenders.

“The way you pay your bills gives potential lenders a snapshot of your sense of financial responsibility – and paying late doesn’t exactly signal a high degree of that,” according to Drew Cheneler, founder of the personal finance website SimpleMoneyLyfe.

Cheneler also noted that a late credit card payment impacts those who already have excellent credit more than those who are in the poor or fair category.

Because someone with a score in that poor or fair category typically has a history of late payments – or other risky credit behaviors – one more ding on their credit report will not affect their score as badly as it would the score of someone with no delinquencies on their report.

And Cheneler noted that a late credit card payment is more severe when it first happens, so someone who has an excellent credit score and has not had a late payment before is the person whose score will be the most affected.

See related: Will my late payments fall off my credit report if I close my card?

How long does it take to recover from a late payment?

Charlie Scanlon is an attorney at Phoenix Credit Consultants, where he helps clients restore their damaged credit scores.

Scanlon said payments that become 90 to 120 days late affect your score for a much longer time than a 30-day late payment.

“You will see damage to your score from these payments for most of the seven years that they are allowed to report on your credit report,” Scanlon said.

How long it will take to recover from a late credit card payment also depends on how strong the rest of your credit history is and how you manage your credit accounts going forward, said Timothy E. Hansen, founder and CEO of Wealth Growth Wisdom, LLC.

A late payment might stay on your record for seven years, but as time passes the impact will lessen if you make your payments on time and keep your card balances low, he pointed out.

How long it takes to recover from a late credit card payment can depend on both your current credit situation and the costs of any late fees, accredited financial counselor Lauren Bringle Jackson of Self Financial added.

Many credit card issuers charge a late fee of up to $40.

“So if you already carry a balance, you’re struggling to pay each month, adding extra fees certainly won’t help your financial health,” Jackson said.

It’s not all doom-and-gloom if you miss a payment, however, Jackson said.

If you have a long, positive history with your card company and have never missed a payment before, you may be able to call the issuer and get the late fee waived.

“If that fails, just start making all your payments on time each month immediately, but keep in mind that approach will take time, which could be anywhere from a few months to a few years depending on your credit profile,” Jackson advised.

It’s easier to recover from just one 30-day late payment

There are many things you can do to mitigate the damage done by a single 30-day late payment, Scanlon said.

One of the most common is to request what is referred to as a “courtesy deletion or removal.”

“In a nutshell,” Scanlon said, “if you have a good payment history, you bring that to the creditor’s attention and request that they ‘give you a break’ for your single oversight, which they just might do if you have a good payment history and ask nicely.”

Additionally, writing a goodwill letter can help you avoid further damage to your credit score from a late payment, according to Nathan Wade, managing editor for WealthFit Money, a financial education website that provides advice on investing, entrepreneurship and money.

“A goodwill letter is a chance to explain your situation to your creditor and kindly ask them to remove a negative mark from your credit report,” Wade said.

And he also noted that although creditors are not obligated to grant your request, a goodwill letter will not hurt your credit score if it is rejected.

“Keep in mind that it can be a few weeks before your goodwill letter is accepted or rejected,” Wade cautioned.

Some tips for writing a strong goodwill letter are to write in a respectful tone, acknowledge your responsibility in paying off debts on time and be detailed about the negative mark you need removed and from which credit bureaus’ reports.

How to offset the credit score damage of a late payment

Wade said there are many other steps that a consumer can take to offset the damage a late payment causes.

One of the easiest things to do is check your credit report for any errors that could be damaging your score and take steps to have them removed, which would raise your score.

Scanlon also suggested taking a look at your revolving credit card utilization – or, how much of your available credit you’re using – to see if getting your utilization in a lower, more favorable range may help to boost your score and offset the late payment’s damage.

See related: Consequences of stopping payments on a credit card

How to avoid late payments

Ethan Taub, CEO of the websites Goalry and Loanry, said that in order to prevent late payments from happening, you should consider setting up an automatic payment to pay the card each month.

If you opt for autopay, make sure you set the payment to go to your card well in advance of its due date — and check to see that it went through.

Make sure you have enough cash in your account to cover the payment, because although it won’t ding your score if you overdraw your account, it will likely cost you as much as a credit card late fee.

In addition, consider setting up reminders to pay, whether it’s on your phone, computer or even on an old-fashioned paper calendar.

One way or another, get those payments in on time — that way, you’ll never have to worry about them affecting your credit score.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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