It happens every day and you may have even done it yourself. Sometimes life gets away from you, time goes on and you forget to make a bill payment. Late payments listed on a credit report can have a big impact on your credit score. If you notice one, you’ll first want to verify that it was actually late as there are options available to you to dispute incorrect payment information. If it was indeed late, you have fewer options to repair your score, but you’ll still want to understand how to dispute inaccurate late payments and what action you can take if they’re not a mistake.

Why Do I Have A Late Payment On My Credit Report?

Generally speaking, there are two main reasons why late payments appear on credit reports. The first is that you were late making a payment or missed the payment entirely, and the second is that a creditor mistakenly reported a missed payment.

If a missed payment was mistakenly reported, the error can be relatively easy to fix. If you missed a payment and are at fault, it’ll be a lot more difficult to have that late payment removed from your credit report.

Do All Late Payments Appear On My Credit Report?

Generally speaking, creditors must wait until a payment is at least 30 days past due before reporting it to the credit bureau. If you have a good relationship with your lender and a good payment standing, it’s possible your lender may even extend that time to cut you some slack but could still charge you a late fee. If your payment is 90 – 180 days late, your lender could also take it a step further and send a notice of late payment to the credit bureau which could result in them actually closing your account.

The Impact Of Late Payments On A Credit Score

Aside from having to pay late fees associated with an overdue payment, your credit score will take a big hit when you’re accused of making a payment late. If you’re 30 days late making a mortgage payment, your delinquency is relayed to the credit bureau and you can expect your credit score to fall anywhere from 60 – 100+ points all at once.

Disputing Late Payment Errors

If a late payment mark appears on your credit report, you don’t have to just accept it and move on, most especially if it’s there in error. There are three steps you’ll need to take toward disputing a late payment error on your credit report:

Identifying The Credit Report With Late Payments

If you’ve been monitoring your credit score and report using a third-party service, you’ll likely be very aware of which report has the issue. If you haven’t already been monitoring your credit score, it’s advised you do so in the future so you can quickly spot issues when they appear. When you reach out to your creditor to present your case, it helps if you have accurate information about where the wrong payment information is listed.

Contacting Your Creditor

The next step is to reach out to your creditor about fixing the error. Keep in mind that it’s never in their best interest to misreport a late payment as having good standing relationships with clients is very important. Once you contact the creditor, they’ll investigate your claim to see if an error was made and if that’s the case, they’ll inform the credit bureau, and it will be removed from your report.

Contact The Credit Bureau

If you’re finding your creditor is taking too long to fix the issue or if your creditor is refusing to correct the mistake for some reason, you may need to take it upon yourself to contact the credit bureau directly. Both Equifax® and TransUnion® have forms you can fill out on their website, so once you determine which bureau has the credit report with the mistaken payment listed, you can pursue them directly.

If you end up taking this route, you’ll want to make sure you have all the necessary paperwork ready to send in by mail should they be requested. Be sure to only send photocopies and never an original document.

Using Equifax® To Dispute The Late Payment

Equifax will allow you to dispute your credit report online or by mail so you can choose which option works best for you. To do this, you’ll need two pieces of personal identification to verify your name and address. One will need to be a government-issued photo ID like a passport or driver’s licence, and one will need to be a supporting document like a current utility bill or financial statement showing your name and address. You can find more information here about their form submission process and what to expect.

Using TransUnion® To Dispute The Late Payment

TransUnion offers the same dispute options via mail or email. You’ll have the option to complete their 3-Step Online Consumer Dispute Service or print, fill out and mail their Credit Investigation Request Form. You can find more information here about their process and requirements.

Disputing Accurate Late Payments

If you actually missed a payment and it shows up on your credit report, the chances of getting it removed are slim. If you find yourself in this position, it’s important to understand that this missed payment mark will remain on your credit report for 7 years. However, the longer it’s been, the less of an impact it should have on your credit, especially if you’ve since been working to improve your credit score responsibly. It’s also important to note that you may encounter a lot of scams online offering to remove late payments from your credit report so beware of what you click and what solutions you pursue.

Goodwill Adjustments

One suggestion you may come across is writing a letter of goodwill to your creditor explaining why you weren’t able to make your payment on time. Since creditors are required to report accurate information to the credit bureau, there’s absolutely no guarantee that they’ll update your account if the missed payment was indeed missed.

If you were late making a payment and you catch it before it makes it onto your credit report, you can reach out to your issuer ASAP and try to resolve it before it goes any further, especially if it’s the first time you’ve ever missed a payment.

Lender Agreements

If you’ve been a good, reliable client and have managed your debt responsibly until this one missed payment, it’s entirely possible that you could come to an agreement with your lender. If you have an outstanding balance owing, you could try to offer paying that in exchange for removing the late payment mark on your report.

Consumer Statement Through Equifax® Or TransUnion®

If your lender isn’t willing or able to help you remove the late payment mark from your credit report, you can reach out to Equifax® or TransUnion® and ask to add a customer statement to your credit reports to provide a brief explanation as to why the payment was missed or late. This is a free service that you’re entitled to use, so if you have no other option, use that space to let creditors and lenders who check your report in the future, know the reality behind the situation.

It’s worth noting that TransUnion® allows for 100 words (200 in Saskatchewan) and Equifax® allows for 800 characters, so plan your explanation accordingly to ensure it fits within the necessary limitations.

Your payment history is an important factor in your overall credit score. Since late payments can stay on your credit report for up to 7 years, they can have a big impact on your score. Always keep an eye on your credit report to ensure errors are properly reported and if you come across any issues, follow the necessary steps to get things resolved in a timely manner.