Do you know that just one late payment can knock up to 100 points off your credit scores? That’s a big chunk that can easily send you into subprime credit score territory. Thus, the importance of repairing credit after late payment is made. While you may not be able to have it removed from your credit reports, you can at the very least minimize the impact. Having said that, we can not stress enough the importance of trying to never ever make a late payment on your credit card, car, or mortgage payment. Also, every lending institution has its own version of what is a “late payment” so read your contract to make sure you are aware of the time constraints of your payments.
1) Make sure the late payment listing is correct
If it just happened and you remember being late, that’s one thing. But if it’s an old late payment you just noticed on your credit reports, check your statements to be sure you really were late that month.
If you see that you weren’t late that month – or don’t have the proof but don’t believe you were – then it’s worth disputing with the credit reporting bureau. They are required to investigate; if the creditor cannot provide proof you were late that month, the listing must be removed from your credit reports.
A late payment can stay on your credit reports for up to 7 years. While its impact on your credit score will lessen over time, it will still be there for potential creditors to see when they pull your credit reports. What’s worse is if it’s not even true. Dispute that listing!
On the other hand, if you remember being late, or the creditor provides the necessary proof, move on to step two.
2) Get current on the account
At first, it won’t matter much, as the newer a late payment is, the more of an impact it will have on your credit scores. But the more distance you put between the late payment and a string of on-time payments, the more your credit scores will start to improve.
3) Increase your chances of staying current
Never forget to make a payment. You can nip that in the bud right now by setting up auto-pay, either through your creditors or through your bank.
Make your payments more affordable. Never charge more to your credit cards than you can pay back in full by the due date. If it’s an installment loan, look into refinancing at a lower interest rate, the aim being to lower your monthly payments.
As bad as one late payment is, what’s worse is multiple late payments. As much as they might hurt your score, you won’t get docked 100 points for every single one (it doesn’t work like that). But it looks much worse for a creditor to see multiple late payments on your reports as opposed to just one.
4) Practice other good credit habits
One of the best ways to deal with a late payment on your credit reports is to dilute it with positive credit behavior, like:
- Paying all of your bills on time, every time
- Never use more than 30 percent of your available credit on your credit cards
- Returning your credit cards to a zero balance every month
- Making a plan to pay off high credit card balances
- Taking other steps in the repairing credit process (e.g., debt validation, debt settlement, disputing other errors on your credit reports)
5) Ask the creditor to remove the late payment listing
Again, late payments can stay on your credit reports for up to 7 years, so asking your creditor to remove the listing is worth a try. Sure, it’s a long shot, but it’s not an impossibility.
Once you’re current on the account – and have several months of on-time payments under your belt – consider asking your creditor to remove the late payment listing. A great way to do this is with a Goodwill Letter. They are under no obligation to do so, but they might, especially if you were only late one month, you were going through a financial hardship, and have since been keeping the account in good standing.
It’s Well Worth the Extra Work
While all of this might seem like a lot of hassle to try and negate the effects of just one late payment on your credit reports, keep in mind that late payment is a huge indicator of credit risk. It takes a big bite out of your credit score and it looks bad to creditors who see it on your reports.
Ideally, you can have the late payment removed. But, at the very least, you can add as much positive credit as possible – not only boost your scores but prove the late payment is just a blemish on a credit history that’s been squeaky clean ever since.