How To Remove Late Payments With A Goodwill Letter
You don’t want late or missed credit card, mortgage, auto loan or student loan payments on your three credit reports maintained by the national credit bureaus of Experian™, Equifax®and TransUnion®. That’s because missed or late payments – payments are considered late and reported to the bureaus if you pay them 30 days or more past their due dates – can cause your three-digit credit score to fall by 100 points or more.
And once a late or missed payment hits your credit reports, they’ll remain on them for 7 years. That’s a long time to be dealing with that credit card payment you forgot to make.
There is hope, however slight: a goodwill letter.
A goodwill letter is your attempt to convince credit card companies, mortgage lenders and other lenders to remove a late or missed payment from your credit reports. As the name suggests, your letter is playing on the goodwill of these financial institutions, hoping they will take mercy on you and remove your financial misstep from your credit history.
The problem? Goodwill letters are the longest of longshots, as most lenders or creditors won’t remove legitimate missed or late payments from your credit report.
This doesn’t mean, though, that you should skip the effort. A goodwill letter that explains why you missed your payment – it helps if you do have a legitimate excuse – could cause lenders to surprise you and remove damaging information from your credit reports.
Just don’t count on this happening.
What Is A Goodwill Adjustment?
Maybe you missed your credit card payment because you lost your job and your income dwindled. Maybe you were late on your mortgage payment because you were recovering from a long-term illness that had reduced your ability to earn.
If you wanted to ask your lender or creditor to remove your late or missed payment, you’d write a goodwill letter explaining why you missed your payment, maybe even including proof of your reduction of income, anything from bank statements to credit card bills or paycheck stubs.
If you’re fortunate, your lender or creditor might agree that your late or missed payment was a one-time event caused by unusual circumstances. This lender or creditor might then agree to remove the financial blemish from your reports.
This would be a positive. Removing a late or missed payment could boost your credit score immediately. That matters because lenders and creditors rely on this score when determining whether you qualify for loans or credit cards and at what interest rate.
Leslie Tayne, a debt relief attorney and owner of New York City-based Tayne Law Group, said that your goodwill letter will be more successful if you provide enough documentation to support your case.
If you missed a credit card payment because you were hit with a particularly high medical bill, be sure to include a copy of that bill, Tayne said. If you've been a model borrower before your missed payment, explain that, too, writing in your goodwill letter that you've never before missed a payment with your lender or creditor, Tayne said.
The key is to be courteous and to the point. Writing an extra-long letter won't help you make your case, Tayne said. And taking an angry or aggressive tone won't help, either, she said.
"You're asking for the representative reading the letter to do you a favor," Tayne said. "They likely don't want to read anything too lengthy. Be thorough but concise."
What should a goodwill letter look like? Tayne sent this example:
[your name] [your address]
Account Number: [your account number last four digits only]
To [CREDITOR NAME (AMEX, CHASE, etc.…)]
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my account with you. As you know my most recent credit report with [Experian, Transunion, Equifax], contains [a late payment/late payments] reported on [date(s)] for my [name of account-the above referenced] account.
I have an excellent repayment record with your bank. I appreciate the credit you have granted to me and understand my obligations. I missed the payment(s) due to [loss of income, medical emergency, move] and since then, [description of how your circumstances have changed or how you’ve improved your money management]. As you can see, since then, I’ve also had a spotless record of on-time payments.
My credit is very important to me, and I would like to maintain a spotless record. I would like to ask that you remove that late payment history as a one-time courtesy. I’m planning to apply for [a mortgage/auto loan/etc.], and it’s come to my attention that the missed payment on my record could hurt my ability to qualify. I truly believe that it doesn’t reflect my creditworthiness and commitment to repaying my debts. It would help me immensely if you could give me a second chance and make a goodwill adjustment to remove the late payment on [date].
Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to a positive response to my request. Please let me know if there is any more information you would need to make this decision.
Can You Get Late Payments Removed From Your Credit Report?
Sean Messier, Syracuse, New York-based credit industry analyst with Credit Card Insider, said that goodwill letters are a longshot for people hoping to remove late or missed payments. Most creditors won't remove a financial misstep unless they themselves made a mistake, such as reporting a late payment when the consumer actually paid on time.
Removing a mistake like that doesn't require a goodwill letter. Consumers who notice errors when they check their credit reports need to contact the offending credit bureau to explain the mistake. If they can provide proof that they didn't make a late or missed payment, such as bank or credit card statements, they can usually get that mistake removed from their reports.
But a late or missed payment that isn't an error? A goodwill letter usually won't work, Messier said.
"If a late payment that appears on your credit reports is legitimate, you're going to have a tough time getting it removed," Messier said. "Writing the lender a goodwill letter may do the trick, but the odds are relatively slim."
That doesn't mean, though, that trying this approach isn't worthwhile. Because a late payment can cause your three-digit credit score to fall by 100 points or more, any effort you can make to remove one from your reports, no matter how unlikely it is to succeed, is worth your time.
A goodwill letter is more likely to succeed if you have just one late or missed payment on your credit reports and an otherwise unblemished credit history, Messier said. Credit card companies or lenders are less likely to remove a late payment if you have a long history of financial missteps with them, he said.
Even if you have an otherwise clean credit history, the odds remain against a goodwill letter working, Messier said. That's because the three national credit bureaus encourage lenders and creditors to refrain from changing information on credit reports if that information is accurate. Messier said there are no legal barriers keeping lenders from changing credit information. But they might instead choose to follow the wishes of the credit bureaus and leave legitimate late and missed payments in place.
While the odds are against a goodwill letter working, success isn't impossible. Just ask Brooke Sprowl, clinical director and owner of My LA Therapy, a provider of therapy services in the Los Angeles area. Sprowl said that she has had late payments removed from her credit report thanks to goodwill letters.
She's also had success speaking directly with the representatives of lenders or creditors, she said.
But there's a caveat here: Sprowl did have to provide a legitimate explanation for her late payment.
"Usually there was a good reason why I missed a payment," she said. "The bill went to the wrong address. My card wasn't appearing in my online banking portal or autopay didn't go through. I've had success on every occasion that I've had an issue, so I think it's likely very effective."
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