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How to save your credit score after a late payment

Sept. 14, 2020
6 min read
Man holding credit card while using digital tablet in the office.
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While it's important to pay credit card bills on time (and in full, whenever possible), it's understandable that sometimes things happen — especially during the crazy times we currently live in.

Late payments can come with penalty APRs and late fees that can impact your budget, but a late payment can also potentially impact your credit score. In fact, payment history is the largest factor considered for your FICO score (which is what most lenders use to determine creditworthiness).

The good news is that there is a way to potentially save your credit score when slipups happen and you miss your payment due date on accident — goodwill letters.

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What is a goodwill letter

A goodwill letter is a request made to your creditor to remove the report of the late payment from your credit report. Negative marks against your credit report can stick around for up to seven years, but these simple requests can help keep your report spotless and your credit score healthy.

These requests are not meant to dispute errors on your credit report (which should be taken up with the three credit bureaus) — rather they are an apology to your credit issuer for missing the payment and a goodwill statement that you will pay your bills on time moving forward.

Of course, a goodwill letter doesn't necessarily have to be a physical letter. You can also call the number on the back of your credit card to talk to a customer service representative to request the late payment be removed. Just keep in mind that the first person you talk to on the phone may not be able to help; you'll need to politely request to escalate the issuer to a manager or different department that can handle the request. You can also reach out via email, but emails can easily get lost in the shuffle.

What to say in a goodwill request

When you call or write in, make sure to include the following:

  • Your account number
  • Your billing address
  • Reasoning for why you missed your payment due date
  • Your specific request to have the information removed from your credit reports
Someone checking their credit score on a smart phone
(Photo by cnythzl/Getty Images)

Issuers with goodwill adjustment policies

Keep in mind that issuers are not required to make adjustments. Some issuers even have outright policies against making any adjustments after your late payment has been reported to the credit bureaus.

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Bank of America

Bank of America's terms clearly state that they do not honor goodwill adjustment requests.

Chase

In Chase's frequently asked questions about credit reporting, they state that they do not make goodwill or courtesy credit report adjustments.

Amex

Unlike some of the others on this list, American Express doesn't list a specific policy on its website against goodwill adjustments. Many online forums have reported success stories in the past of customers being able to request a goodwill adjustment.

Citi

Citi is another issuer that allows requests for goodwill adjustments. Like Amex, there are plenty of success story data points available on sites like myFICO where customers were able to reach out and get a late payment removed from their report.

Capital One

Capital One doesn't have a policy against goodwill adjustments, which means you can call or mail in to request a late payment to be removed from your account. Keep in mind that you'll want to make sure your late bill is paid before reaching out.

(Photo by Tashdique Mehtaj Ahmed/Getty Images)
Sometimes a simple phone call or letter is all it takes to get a late payment removed from your credit score. (Photo by Tashdique Mehtaj Ahmed/Getty Images)

Catching missed payments early

If you do miss a payment, it's important that you catch it early. Most issuers only report credit activity approximately every 30 days. This means if you catch the late payment early and rectify your account, the issuer may not report it to the credit agency. While you'll likely still get hit with a late payment fee and possible penalty APRs, in this case your credit score wouldn't suffer.

If you do notice a late bill, it's still worth a call to your issuer to make sure it won't end up on your account. I know I've certainly flubbed on a due date this year because I got due dates mixed up on a new credit card.

Related: How to check your credit score

Avoiding late payments with autopay

Which brings me to my final tip. The best way to save your credit score is by avoiding late payments altogether by setting up autopay. This is the easiest way to ensure you're never missing a due date — I actually ended up setting up autopay across all of my credit card accounts after my mistake with confusing due dates earlier this year.

It's easy to set up autopay online or in your issuer app, and you can generally set them up to cover your minimum payment, statement amount (which is what I recommend if you pay off your bill in full each month), or some other fixed amount (which is what I recommend if you are using a 0% APR card to finance a larger purchase).

Related: How to set up autopay for all your credit cards

Bottom line

Life happens, and sometimes that means a due date falls through the cracks or a bank connection mishap causes a payment to fail. And especially throughout the coronavirus pandemic, issuers have been more flexible about waiving late fees and penalty APRs, as well as adding ways to make it easier for cardholders to finance purchases and use rewards to cover minimum payments.

When you do notice a missed payment, the best thing to do is take care of that bill amount immediately and contact your issuer. There's a good chance that you'll be able to prevent the payment from landing on your credit report and affecting your credit score long-term.

Featured image by Getty Images

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023