Have you considered filing a credit report dispute to have a late payment removed? That’s understandable if there’s a financial goal you’re trying to accomplish and the negative mark is dragging your credit score to the ground. But disputing an item that belongs on your credit report isn’t the wisest approach.

Why so? According to FTC.gov, “No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report.” Simply put, desperately wanting to have a late payment removed, even if it’s not an error, is not valid grounds for dispute.

Well, what’s a consumer to do? That’s where goodwill letters come in assuming the account is now in good standing. They only take a small amount of your time to draft up, and you’ll deal directly with the creditor and not the credit bureaus. Read on to learn more.

What Are Goodwill Letters?

Was the late payment an error on your behalf? The most effective way to request that the creditor remove the negative mark is through a goodwill letter. It’s a written request you draft up showing you’re aware of the late payment and would like to have it removed as a professional courtesy since the account is now in good standing. Goodwill letters often get confused with pay-for-delete letters which are letters consumers draft up and send to debt collectors requesting the removal of collection accounts in exchange for payment.

Do Goodwill Letters Work?

There’s no guarantee the late payment will vanish the first time you send over a goodwill letter or at any point thereafter. However, many consumers report having success with goodwill letters and the removal of late payments by being both patient and persistent. More on the approval odds and how to increase yours shortly.

When It Makes Sense to Use a Goodwill Letter

Wondering if this strategy is worth it? Here are some instances when it makes sense to use a goodwill letter:

You have a solid history with the creditor.

Life happens, and sometimes even the best customers make mistakes. Some creditors understand that and are open to second chances. Otherwise, they risk ruining a lucrative relationship over a minor occurrence that isn’t an accurate depiction of you as a customer.

You’re only requesting the removal of one or two late payments.

A few occurrences from honest mistakes aren’t the end of the world. But if you have a string of late payments and you submit a goodwill letter for consideration, don’t be surprised at the response you receive (if any at all).

The late payments result from a life-threatening injury or extenuating circumstance.

Sometimes people fall ill or run into major financial hurdles and find it impossible to stay afloat, despite their best efforts. Because the person on the other end of the equation reading your letter is human, they may show compassion and extend forgiveness to you.

You’re unable to make a big-ticket purchase.

You have dreams of owning a home or would reap tremendous financial benefits from qualifying for lower rates on a loan if your credit score wasn’t in the trenches because of a late payment. Explain this to the creditor, and they may grant your request if they have a solid reason to believe history won’t repeat itself.

The late payment was because of an oversight on your behalf.

When you’re moving 1,000 miles per hour with way too much on your plate, mistakes can happen. So, it’s no surprise if you forgot to pay your bill one month because you were too inundated with other more pressing tasks. As long as it hasn’t happened again, you could be in luck.

The late payment was because of a change of address.

Maybe you aren’t a fan of online statements and prefer to read what arrives in your mailbox each month. If you did not notify the creditor or there was an issue with the change of address request through the postal service, it’s highly likely you didn’t receive the bill in time (if at all) and missed the payment. Even worse, you didn’t catch the error until you were all settled from the move. The creditor may cut you some slack.

A bill pay issue caused the late payment.

Did the bank drop the ball or was there an outage or issue with their bill pay system? You could ask the bank to write a letter to accompany your goodwill adjustment letter request to increase your odds of success.

A processing error caused the late payment.

Did you schedule the payment but it never quite hit your account? Processing errors happen and unless you’re stalking your bank account, you may not realize the payment never posted until the late payment appears on your credit report.

How to Write a Goodwill Letter

Ready to draft up your letter? Before you write a single word down, keep in mind that your tone should be professional but polite. Remember, you’re asking the creditor for a favor and they have no obligation to agree to your request.  

Contents of the Letter

Your goodwill letter should contain the following elements:

  • Date
  • Creditor entity’s name and address
  • Account number
  • A formal statement requesting the removal of the late payment
  • An explanation for the late payment
  • Your pledge to not let the account become delinquent again
  • Any other supporting information to plead your case

Sample Goodwill Letter

[Date]

[Creditor’s Name]

[Creditor’s Address]

Re: [Account Number]

Dear [Representative of Upper Management or Appropriate Individual],

My name is [insert name] and I am a long-time [customer or account holder] of [creditor or entity’s name]. I want to start off by saying I hope you’re having a wonderful day. The reason for this letter is to express my gratitude to you for providing great service to me over the years. I also want to address an item in my credit report from your company.

Initially, I became a [customer or account holder] in [insert month and year] and remitted timely payments each month. But unfortunately, [insert description of why the late payment occurred; this could be an oversight on your behalf, illness, financial issue, life-changing event, etc.]. I failed to pay on time and the account became delinquent, resulting in negative reporting to the credit bureaus.

While this was a rough time for me, I worked hard and was able to quickly get back on track. Since then, I’ve maintained a stellar payment history. In addition, I’ve taken several actions to ensure this doesn’t happen again [insert actions you’ve taken; this could be creating a budget, enrolling in bill pay, or any tactics that have enhanced your money-management skills].

I’m planning to [insert description of why you want the late payment removed] and would be extremely grateful if you removed the negative mark from my credit report as it is dragging down my score and making it hard to [insert description of the desired outcome; i.e. get approved for a mortgage]. Also, by forgiving the late payment, you would be affording me the opportunity to get my credit score back on track even sooner.

It is my hope that you and your team at [insert creditor or entity’s name] will make this adjustment as I do not believe it is an accurate reflection of my creditworthiness as a consumer.

Thanks in advance for your willingness to take time out of your busy schedule to consider my request.

Warmly,

[insert typewritten name here]

What to Expect After Sending a Goodwill Letter

As mentioned earlier, there’s a possibility your request for a goodwill adjustment could slip through the cracks or get flat out ignored since the creditor has no legal obligation to respond to you. Fortunately, you can return to the drawing board and draft up an even more convincing letter and route it to another member of upper management in hopes of receiving a response.

By contrast, the individual reviewing the request could be in a pleasant mood and remove the late payment(s) promptly. This means your work is done and you can start raising your credit score.

Should you call the creditor?

These requests are best handled when done via snail mail, but it doesn’t hurt to give the creditor a ring. Just understand that the person on the other line could have amnesia the minute you hang up the phone.

It really depends on who you’re dealing with. Some managers are inclined to give you what you want so you can get out of their hair while others will play hardball and make you work hard to get those late payments removed.

Are the odds in your favor?

As mentioned earlier, there’s no tried and tested strategy to guarantee the success of your goodwill letter. However, there are some factors to consider when trying to determine if the odds of getting the late payment(s) removed are in your favor.

For starters, if you’re a long-time customer with an impeccable payment history outside of one or two missteps, chances are you’ll have more luck. The creditor may not deem it worthwhile to lose you as a customer over a late payment. But repeated account mismanagement over time will more than likely get your request tossed in the trash unless you have a very strong justification that tugs at the heartstrings of the individual reviewing your request.

What if this isn’t your first rodeo? Maybe you tried the goodwill letter approach in the past year or so and had success? Sorry to break it to you, but you could also hit a brick wall as the reviewer may not be as lenient this time around considering one of their colleagues has already let you off the hook once. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again as you never know what the end result will be.

Another important consideration: the time that has elapsed since the late payment appeared on your report. If it was a week or even a few months ago, the creditor may not be willing to budge as there’s no way for them to know if you’ve truly turned a new leaf. But if it’s been a while, you’ll have better odds.

Most importantly, your account should be in good standing before seeking forgiveness from the creditor.

The Bottom Line

While a goodwill letter is a smart tactic to use when seeking the removal of late payments from your credit report, it could take some time for it to be effective. In the meantime, it’s best to focus on other areas of your credit, like keeping debt balances low and continuing to make timely payments to improve your score.

Author

Edwin is the founder of Voy Media. He started his career at an investment bank before moving to the biopharmaceutical industry. He is currently an editor at Dollar Genie, a finance blog that teaches you how to save money, make money, and live well.

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