Let’s face it, the world revolves around credit these days, and if you have bad or no credit, you will have a hard time qualifying for a mortgage, getting a loan, or even applying for credit cards. However, you have to remove late payments from your credit report to avoid getting your credit score down.
There are three big credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, and they are responsible for tallying everyone’s payment history, lending habits, and credit score. Unfortunately, late payments factor in heavily when they assign you a number that tells lenders whether or not it’s safe to give you money. The lower the number, the worse your credit score is. Typically, credit scores range from 300 (very bad) to 850 (perfect). Payment history makes up 35% of your total credit score, so it’s imperative that you get those under control.
Late payments can stay on your record for up to seven years!
Another side effect of late payments is that you will pay higher interest on credit cards, and if you are able to get approved for a loan or mortgage, you will pay more interest there too because you are a higher risk. Another big negative is that landlords can refuse to rent to you if you have a bunch of late payments showing on your credit history.
Get a Copy of Your Credit Report
The first step in finding out where your credit stands is to get a copy of your credit report. You are allowed one free copy from all three agencies every 12 months. Experts recommend requesting one from each agency spread out over four months. That way, you can stagger the 12-month rule and get them all when you need them. You can get a free copy using annualcreditreport.com, the only official website approved by the FTC.
Once you get a copy, check it over carefully. Look closely for any errors or misinformation. Pay attention to accounts you don’t recognize or any fraud. Lenders take late payments on mortgage and real estate holdings more seriously than other items. That does not mean you can pay all your other bills late and it won’t affect your credit rating, it will.
Mistakes - Easy Fix
Human error is one of the ways that shows late payments on credit reports. If you know for a fact that you have made every single payment on time and get a copy of your credit report that shows late payments, you can get them removed.
If you do find errors and can prove that you paid the payments on time, contact the credit bureau, and request that they fix it immediately. You will have to contact all three agencies; they keep separate information and are individually owned and operated. You can contact each one using the information below:
Transunion: Credit Bureaus Dispute Information TransUnion LLC Consumer Dispute Center P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016.
Phone: 800-916-8800 - 8am-11pm EST.
Experian: Experian Dispute P.O. Box 4500 Allen, TX 75013.
Phone: (714) 830-7000.
Equifax: Equifax Information Services LLC P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374 .
Phone: (800) 846-5279.
If you do not get satisfaction from them, contact the lender, credit card company, or vendor and see if they will report a correction to the credit bureau. If they don’t help you, you can contact the FTC and file a complaint. The FTC oversees credit reporting agencies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
One or Two Late Payments on Credit Reports
If your credit report is being affected by only one or two late payments, but the score is quite a bit lower than it should be, you have some recourse here too. You can contact the credit reporting agencies and request a “goodwill” adjustment. If you have an excellent reason, say you were in the hospital or out of the country and could not pay your bills, then you may have some justification, and they may make a “one-time” adjustment for you.
However, if you have numerous late payments or have tried this technique in the past, it most likely will not work again. It’s a one-time deal.
You can also contact the lender and see if they will offer you a “goodwill” adjustment if you have paid all your other payments on time. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. If paying off the loan early will get them to remove any late payments, make the deal!
Keep in mind that late payments should only stay on your credit report for seven years. If you see any on there that are older than that, demand to remove late payments from credit report immediately. That should boost your credit score instantly.
How to Repair Your Credit
Even if your credit has a few blemishes and you cannot get late payments removed, you can conceivably repair your credit within a matter of months as long as you don’t have any foreclosures or bankruptcy. You can work with a credit repair agency or do it yourself. Here are a few tips:
- Pay every bill on time, all the time.
- Don’t take out any new loans or apply for credit cards.
- Pay down your credit card balances to less than 30% of the total credit limit. This factors heavily into your score as well.
- Negotiate with credit card companies to lower your interest rate so you can pay off any balances.
- Be patient. Credit scores don’t rebound overnight, but they can come back up pretty quickly if you pay your bills on time and pay down what you owe. This shows that you are back on track and heading in the right direction.
Bad credit is not the end of the world, but it can negatively affect you and follow you around for seven years if you don’t clean it up and work towards improving your score.