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A late payment can stay on your credit reports for up to seven years and could impact your credit scores during the entire period it's there. Late payments tend to have the biggest impact when they first appear, and you can work to build your credit while waiting for late payments to fall off your credit reports.
When Do Late Payments Fall Off Your Credit Report?
A late payment record can pop up on your credit report when you forget or are unable to pay a bill by the due date. The creditor can report your late payment to the credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) once you're 30 days behind, and the late payment can remain on your credit reports for up to seven years.
The rules can vary slightly depending on when and whether you bring the account current:
- If you bring your account current before you're 30 days behind on a payment, the creditor won't report you as late to the credit bureaus. But you may still have to pay late fees or interest.
- If you bring an account current after the creditor reports the late payment, the late payment will fall off your credit reports after seven years. When there's a series of late payments, such as when your account goes 90 days past due, the entire series falls off seven years after the first late payment, or original delinquency date. If the account is still open, or was in good standing when it was closed, the account can remain on your credit report after the late payments fall off.
- If you never bring an account current, the creditor will likely close it, charge off the debt and send it to collections. The original delinquency date is the start of a seven-year timeline. After seven years, the entire closed account and any related collection accounts will fall off your credit report.
How Does a Late Payment Affect Your Credit?
A late payment can have a negative impact on your credit scores, although the severity of your score drop depends on the type of credit score and your overall credit profile. In general:
- A late payment will lead to a more severe point drop if you currently have an excellent credit score rather than a poor or fair score.
- Missing multiple payments in a row can be worse for your credit than missing one payment.
- Having late payments on multiple accounts can be worse than a late payment on a single account.
- The negative impact of late payments on your credit decreases over time.
Actively working to improve your credit could also help you recover from previous late payments. For example, making your payments on time and lowering your credit utilization rate, or the amount of available credit you're using, can show future creditors that you're able to manage and repay loans.
How to Remove Late Payments From Your Credit Report
An accurately reported late payment can remain on your credit report for up to seven years. Even if you bring the account current and aren't late anymore, your credit report is telling an accurate story of your history with the account.
If a creditor reports your payment late when you actually paid on time, however, you can dispute the late payment with the credit bureau. You can file your dispute for free by mail, over the phone or online, and explain why you believe the late payment is an error. You can also send, attach or upload supporting documents, such as bank statements or cancelled checks showing when you paid the creditor.
After receiving a dispute, the credit bureau will investigate your claim and either confirm the late payment was accurate or update your credit history to reflect what actually happened.
How to Avoid Late Payments
To help avoid late payments, sign up for reminders and alerts from creditors. Depending on the company, you may be able to get mail, emails, texts or app notifications reminding you of upcoming due dates and the amount due.
You can also sign up for automatic payments and never miss a payment again, either by setting up bill pay from your bank account or requesting that the creditor pull the money out of your account. But make sure you'll have enough money in your account, or you could wind up with a late payment, an overdrawn account and fees from both your creditor and bank.
With a credit card, you could set up autopay for the minimum payment amount, which will be either a fixed amount (often $25 to $35) or a percentage of your total balance. Doing so will at least help keep you from accidentally missing a payment and getting charged late fees—but try to pay your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges.
As a last resort, if you're unable to pay all your bills on time, see if any of your creditors offer a grace period. In some cases, you may be able to pay a bill a few days late without garnering any additional fees or interest. And as long as you pay the bill within 30 days of the due date, there won't be any negative impact on your credit.
Check Your Credit for Free
If you haven't checked your credit report recently, you can get your free Experian credit report online and look for late payments in your accounts. You can then dispute inaccuracies and monitor your progress as you build your credit and recover from past late payments.