How to save your credit score after a late payment

Sep 14, 2020

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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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In This Post

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.

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 Georgijevic/Getty Images.

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