Late payments are not just a negative mark on your credit report, they can be a financial nightmare. It can start with late fees, higher APR charges, and even getting denied for a new credit card or loan. Any payments that are past 30 days will ding your credit score because your payment history makes up 35% of your score. A first step to try is writing a 'Goodwill Letter' to your creditors to remove those late payments. Keep in mind this is you asking the creditor for the courtesy, so it is not always guaranteed success. It never hurts to ask because you will be stuck with those derogatory marks on your credit score for at least the next seven years.
Just What is A goodwill letter?
When you write a 'goodwill' letter to your creditor(s) you are explaining the reason for your late payments and asking them to remove the negative marks. It is important, to be honest, and to the point in explaining your unexpected changes of circumstances and financial hardship that cause those late payments. Life happens and situations sometimes can not be controlled, but you need to make your reason clear for each late payment. You have to remember that creditors are not obligated to remove this information, you are asking them as a courtesy, so ask with that thought in mind.
Note: Remember late payments are different from incorrectly reported missed payments. If you notice any incorrect information on your credit reports disputes the error instead of sending a 'Goodwill Letter'.
We all have certain events that can happen to us that we can't control and most people would understand that. So, explain your situation and be courteous and pleasant in the tone of your letter. Make sure to give specific reasons to those circumstances like, (loss of a job, a family member passing away). It is a huge boost to also either showing recent on-time payments or have paid off your debts recently. The reason for making that commitment is to show the creditor(s) that you are taking responsibility for your late payments and staying current with your new bills. It gives you credibility and shows responsibility on your part. Creditors are more likely to believe in the future you will keep up with your payments and plan for the financial crisis.
Example of a 'Goodwill Letter'
Fill in all fields in brackets with your information
Edit this letter to reflect your personal tone, voice, and situation
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Print and sign and mail
[Name of the Creditor]
[Creditor City, State, ZIP]
Dear [Name of Creditor]
To Whom It May Concern:
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I’m writing in regard to my credit report because I noticed that my most recent credit report contains [a late payment/payments] reported on [date/dates] for my [name of account] account.
I want you to know that I fully understand that I am financially obligated to pay all my debts. Recently do to [circumstance that caused you to miss a payment], I have missed [payments missed] I would otherwise have an excellent repayment record. I was careless and unfortunately falling behind on my payments, but since then, [description of how your circumstances have taken steps to change and improved your money management and pay your debts]. Since then, I’ve kept up with my payments and my account(s) has been spotless with on-time payments.
I’m planning to apply for [a credit card/mortgage/auto loan/etc.], and it’s come to my attention that negative marks such as missed/late payment on my credit report could potentially hurt my ability to qualify. I have reflected on my part to not take action when I was going through [description your circumstances once more why you missed payment] and not contacting [creditor]. I believe that my recent lapse in payment does not reflect my creditworthiness and my commitment to repay my debts. It would be a tremendous help to me if you made the decision to give me a second chance and make a 'goodwill adjustment' to remove the late [payment/payments] on [date/dates]. I do understand that [creditor] is not obligated to remove late payments, but I would appreciate the consideration to help me build my credit in the future.
Thank you so much,
[Your City, STATE ZIP]
Now that you have your letter all writing out is time to print and mail it out. Make sure to send your letter to the address listed on your credit report or their website. In some cases you may notice different bureaus have different addresses, I would suggest sending a letter to each one. Don't give up on contact, you may have to send a few letters and call them multiple time, persistence is key.