Dear Debt Adviser, If my debt is due to late payments, and I know it is my fault, how do I approach trying to get these removed from my credit reports? Should I still try to write to the reporting agencies and explain why the payments were late? Should I write to the credit card companies to explain and try to have them removed? Or am I wasting my time because it was my fault? -- Theresa
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Quick tips from the Debt Adviser:
- Get a free copy of your credit report.
- Dispute all errors.
- Next time you are late, call and ask not to be reported.
Dear Theresa, Did you break a mirror recently? The reason I ask is because it sounds like your credit report will be having seven years of bad luck! Unfortunately, accurate negative information on your credit reports will not be removed until the rules of the Fair Credit Reporting Act require that it be removed. Most negative items, including your late payments, must be removed from your credit report seven years from the date of the delinquency. Some notable exceptions include Chapter 7 bankruptcies, student loan defaults and government debts, including IRS and overdue child support payments.
I want you to be sure all the negative information contained on your credit reports is really yours and that if it is, it's accurate. If you go to AnnualCreditReport.com, you can order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies once a year. Check your info and dispute any items on your credit report that you believe may be in error. The credit bureau that is reporting it has 30 days after it receives a dispute to investigate the item under dispute and report to you the findings of the investigation. If the item cannot be verified as accurate, it must be removed.
What will help your credit report and your financial situation is to bring your accounts current (pay all past due amounts) and make on-time and as-agreed payments moving forward. Using online banking is a good way to make sure your payments get to the lender before they are late because of mail delays. I set my bills up for payment the day I get them. That way I have a failsafe way to make sure my bills are paid whether I forget or even if I'm on vacation.
Your late payment information already reflected on your credit report will not go away, but your credit report will show that you paid your past due amounts. This is much better for you than having an unpaid delinquent item outstanding. Future payments will be reported as a positive "paid as agreed" every month your payment is received on time. A small bonus is that every month going forward, your old negative data will count for less in your credit score while your new positive on time payment info will count for more.
In the future, if you know you are going to make a payment late, it may be a good idea to contact your creditor and let them know. If you have been a good customer, they may remove the late fee from your account. In addition, from a credit reporting perspective, the creditor may use its discretion when reporting an account 30 days late if the customer has a good payment track record and you let them know the payment will be received quickly. After all, good customers are hard to find and even good customers make a mistake sooner or later -- just not too often.