Late payments happen. So do missed payments. While most borrowers have the best of intentions, sometimes debts become overwhelming and payments are forgotten.
Essentially, accounts with a perfect payment history help your credit, while a derogatory account (with late or missed payments) hurts your credit score and interest rates when applying for new credit.
If you have an old, derogatory account in your credit history, you may be wondering how to remove items from your credit report.
While it’s not always easy, it is possible to have negative information removed if you take the right steps.
Here’s how to get something off your credit report, and how the process works.
How to get something off your credit report
Look for negative information in your credit history
You may not even know if you have a derogatory account in your credit history. So you should start by getting your free credit report.
You can get your credit report from many different services. But by law, each of the three major reporting bureaus has to give you a free credit report each year. AnnualCreditReport.com is the official U.S. government website where you can get yours.
When you open your credit report, you can find a list of all derogatory accounts. These include any account with a late or missed payment.
The screenshot below is from a credit card account that has a 30-day late payment in July 2011. You can see that it is a derogatory item from the color – look for yellow and red boxes – and we know that it is a 30-day late payment because the box says “30” in it.
Look through your credit report and make a list of all negative information. Then compare to your records to make sure everything there is accurate.
If it’s not accurate, getting it removed is imperative. And if it’s accurate, it is harder to remove, but still possible.
Dispute derogatory account or incorrect negative information
If you find a derogatory account that is incorrect, you can file a dispute with the credit bureau to have it removed.
In 2009, I found such an item on my credit report and filed an online dispute with TransUnion. That was the credit bureau that furnished the report with incorrect information.
I filled out a short online form explaining the error and a few days later got a response that they had contacted the institution, verified the information, and it was removed. Talk about a piece of cake.
You can file a dispute from a link provided in your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Or, through any of the links below.
Keep in mind, you may need to create an account with the credit bureau to complete the process.
You can also file disputes by mail. However, the online dispute process is much easier for anyone comfortable using a web browser.
The reporting bureaus are required by law to handle disputes in a timely manner. Removing inaccurate negative information from your credit report is one of the fastest ways to quickly improve your credit score.
How to remove items from credit report
So what happens if the negative information on your account is real? Removing that information is much harder, but not impossible.
Negative information typically lives on your credit report for seven years for old credit accounts. Bankruptcies last even longer, with a ten year period before they fall off your credit report.
You can always wait seven years until the information goes away, but you can try to get it removed sooner. The method to have negative information removed from old accounts is simple: call and ask.
If you call and ask a creditor to remove a late payment or other negative information from your history, remember that they are under no obligation to do so. Essentially, they’re doing you a favor if they do.
Ask very nicely, and consider using a few points below to get sympathy from the call center representative you speak with.
- Explain that you were going through a tough financial time and have since made all on-time payments
- Tell them that you learned your lesson, changed your ways and always make payments on time now
- Discuss how your credit mistakes from years ago are holding you back even though you are currently making on-time payments
They may still say no, in which case your best bet is to ask for a supervisor and repeat what you told the first person.
Some success stories say that supervisors are much more likely to approve this type of request than the first person that answers the phone.
Sometimes you just have to wait it out
There are times when a company simply won’t make the change. That means you’re ultimately stuck waiting it out.
Fortunately for older accounts, a lot of time has already passed and seven years may not be all that far away. After seven years, the late payment history will be removed automatically.
Remember, always make on-time payments 100 percent of the time going forward to avoid situations like this from recurring. Understand how your credit score is calculated and use your credit to enhance your life in the future once the negative information stops holding you back.
You are solely responsible for your credit history. So make sure you take ownership and commit to handling your borrowing and credit accounts perfectly in the future. Eventually, you’ll have good credit and access to the best credit cards, mortgages, and interest rates available.
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