The credit report regulations outlined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act allow disputes of unjustified late payments in your Equifax, TransUnion and Experian files. The credit bureaus must erase disputed data they cannot validate, according to the Federal Trade Commission, but the delinquency remains if your lender verifies its accuracy. You are better off approaching the lender directly to get the late payment removed from your credit reports, especially if you are a long-time customer with an excellent prior payment record.
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Check your previous account history to confirm your standing as a good customer. Do this by reviewing your paper statements or checking your account online if your bank allows Internet access to your records. An excellent account history gives you leverage to ask for the late payment entry to be removed from your credit reports, according to Jim Wang of the Bargaineering financial site.
Call the lender and ask for the appropriate address to which you should mail a late payment removal request. The customer service number should be on your statements, or on the back of your card if you are dealing with a credit card account. The agent may try to handle the issue, but insist on an address to put the request in writing.
Write a letter asking the lender to erase the late payment from all three credit report files as a goodwill gesture. State the number of years you have had your account and cite your excellent prior payment records. Include the reason for the delinquency, if appropriate, Wang advises. For example, mention that an unexpected expense came up or that you simply forgot to mail your check on time. Mail the letter to the appropriate address.
Follow up with a telephone call if you get no response to your letter within 30 days or if the lender responds by denying your request. Ask the phone agent for the name and address of someone to whom you can appeal the decision.
Check your three credit reports if the lender agrees to remove the late payment from your records. Free copies are available once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com, the FTC advises. Complain to the lender if the delinquency still appears a month or two after the removal agreement.
Tips and warnings
- Ask waiver of the late payment fee, if your lender imposed one, along with removal of the data from your credit reports. Credit card issuers can charge as much as £16 for your first late payment, but many will credit it back to good customers upon request.
- Some lenders do not report a single 30 or 60 days late payment to the credit bureaus, according to Wang, so check your Equifax, TransUnion and Experian credit reports before requesting removal of the information. Your letter might not be necessary if your account is listed in good standing.
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- Federal Trade Commission; How to Dispute Credit Report Errors; September 2008
- Federal Trade Commission; Your Access to Free Credit Reports; March 2008
- Bargaineering; Goodwill Adjustment Letters; Jim Wang
- Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; What You Need to Know, New Credit Card Rules Effective Aug. 22; June 2010
- WalletPop; Ask Nice, Ask Twice, Credit Card Companies Still Waiving Fees; Josh Smith; May 2009