Can I dispute a late payment that was my lender's fault?

You can dispute the negative mark if it’s a mistake, but a legitimate slip-up takes time to heal

Keeping Score with Steve Bucci

Steve Bucci has been helping people decode and master personal finance issues for more than 20 years. He is the author of “Credit Management Kit For Dummies,” “Credit Repair Kit For Dummies,” “Barnes and Noble Debt Management,” co-author of “Managing Your Money All-In-One For Dummies” and “Debt Repair Kit For Dummies” (Australia). Steve is an experienced expert witness in identity theft, credit scoring and debt related cases. He has been a presenter at the FICO InterACT Global Conference, the Federal Reserve and the International Credit Symposium at Cambridge University in the UK.

Ask Steve a question, or see if your question has already been answered in the Keeping Score answer archive.

Can I dispute a late payment that was my lender's fault? 

If the late payment was due to an error on the part of your lender, contact the lender directly and file disputes with the credit bureaus. If you can't get it removed from your credit reports, your credit score will be damaged, but it will eventually recover if you keep making on-time payments.

Expert Q&A

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Dear Keeping Score,

My car loan company is reporting “positive” credit status on my Experian report with positive credit history … but they are reporting “late 30 day” credit status on Equifax and TransUnion, also with a positive credit history. What do I do so that they report the positive credit status on my TransUnion and Equifax as they have on my Experian report? 

The leased vehicle was purchased and the last payment was included in the payoff. They claim that the loan was funded late (and past my monthly payment due date) so they marked me 30 days late even though I went through their lease purchase team on their website to purchase the vehicle. I've tried letters asking for a goodwill correction and they refused. Please advise. Thank you. – Jose

Dear Jose,

It’s hard to tell if you caught a break or are being victimized! If your payment was made to right party at the right place and the right time then all your reports should show that you paid as agreed. If any one of the three didn’t happen, you’re lucky that at least one agency is reporting your credit as unblemished. 

The impact to your credit score from a single 30-day late item can be dramatic, depending on where your credit stands when it happens. But you have enough positive on-time payments from the full term of your lease to soften a one-time ding. Also, in a few months, as long as you make all your payments as agreed and on time, the significance of this one item will be further diminished. (However, it will stay on your credit report for up to seven years.)

Still, no one likes a blemish if it’s not deserved. So here are some suggestions.

See related: Late payment? 4 ways it impacts your credit score 

First, I’d gather up all your documentation of the payment with dates and copies of payment and address it the president or CEO of your auto lender. Someone on his or her staff will look into the matter and help you to at least understand what happened, if not resolve the discrepancy. CEOs love to hear from customers (especially those who buy cars), so don’t worry about bothering them.

You should also go online and dispute the 30-day late entries. You’ll find a process to follow at TransUnion and Equifax. However, accurate information generally cannot be removed. 

Tip

Tip: Should you worry about a 30-point discrepancy in your credit scores? Yes, and it can happen due to different information on file at the three major credit bureaus, or because of the differences in various credit scoring formulas. Small variations in scores are to be expected, but large differences are worth investigating. 

I would suggest that you review the tips from the Federal Trade Commission on disputing errors to be sure you are asking the other agencies for help in the correct way. This is a case where crossing every “t” and dotting every “i” is important. 

Let me say it again: if the information is correct – whether it was your fault or not – it generally is going to stay put. But if you want to take the matter one step further, you could file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

However this works out, I want you to remember that if this was a one-time only late payment, the significance will pale after a few months and your score should eventually recover. The good news is that all three agencies are reporting a positive credit status, which will score in your favor and supports the fact that you were responsible with this account.

The best way to see continued recovery is to be very careful to pay all of your bills on time all of the time. I know I say this a lot, but that is because it always bears repeating. Prospective lenders want to see a score that represents responsible financial behavior when they are making credit decisions, and this is the number one factor that makes up your FICO score

There are other reasons to pay your bills on time, of course. It is the best way to stay out of trouble financially. And it is simply the smart thing to do.

Remember to keep track of your score!


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Updated: 11-21-2018