Letters of goodwill: removing late payments from your credit report


Late payments can have a profound impact on your overall credit health, but the ramifications can go far beyond paying late fees or an APR penalty. Your payment history is the single most important factor in your FICO score, which means that even a single payment made more than 30 days late can drop your score, even if you’ve been relatively responsible otherwise. With that in mind, you should strive to pay all of your bills early or on time without exception.

But, life definitely “happens” sometimes, and there may be situations where you forget a payment or fall behind and have to pay a bill after its due date. In this case, you might want to know the strategies that could lead to the permanent removal of one or two late payments from your credit reports.

Goodwill letters, as they’re often called, can be the answer you’re looking for if a blemish or two on your credit report is ruining your score. This guide explains how goodwill letters work and all the information you will need to include if you are pursuing this strategy.

What is a letter of goodwill?

A goodwill letter is sent to the creditor who reported your late payments with the aim of having them delete the derogatory information.

Since negative reports can stay on your credit report for up to seven years, it’s not hard to understand just how much of an impact a successful goodwill letter can have. If you could send a goodwill letter that wipes out late payments completely from your credit reports, you could potentially enjoy a healthier credit rating for years to come.

Note that goodwill letters are sent to apologize for your late payment, but also to explain your intentions to pay all your bills on time. If a late payment is incorrectly reported on your credit report, you should instead take steps to dispute the incorrect information with the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. To help you with this, see Bankrate’s credit dispute letter template.

When you send a goodwill letter, you are not asking the credit bureaus for anything. Instead, you’re asking a creditor like a credit card company, your car loan provider, or even your mortgage company to clear the late payment and give you a second chance. There is no guarantee that a goodwill letter will work, but you have nothing to lose by asking for some relief.

When to consider using a goodwill letter

When you send a goodwill letter to a creditor, you are asking them to do you the favor of removing accurate information from your credit reports. Your only hope is that the creditor will want to stay in your good graces and be ready to grant you this courtesy. A goodwill letter also shows that you’re ready to take initiative when it comes to your credit health, and that’s usually a good sign.

As a general rule, you should consider sending a goodwill letter to a creditor when you’ve made a late payment and have a good excuse. For example:

  • You thought your invoice was set up for automatic payment, but you messed up
  • You changed banks and your payment was accidentally forgotten during the transition
  • You moved and your bill never arrived at your new address
  • You were in the middle of a balance transfer and you didn’t know your old balance had not been paid off
  • A financial crisis has temporarily affected your ability to cover your bills

Either way, your goodwill letter should ask for pardon and redress for an accidental late payment, but you should also be able to confirm that the same mistake will not happen again. Therefore, you should consider sending a goodwill letter when you are truly ready to take your credit seriously and never miss a payment again.

Do letters of goodwill work?

Unfortunately, there aren’t any specific studies that show how often goodwill letters work – just anecdotal evidence. Additionally, many banks specifically state that they will not act in your favor if you send a goodwill letter. Bank of America is one of them. According to the bank’s website, they are “required to provide complete and accurate information, and that is why we are unable to honor requests for goodwill adjustments.”

Instead, Bank of America notes that “the best way to deal with a negative credit history is to rebuild your credit by moving forward and building a solid history of on-time payments.”

Be aware that goodwill letters are more likely to work for late payment withdrawal, not more serious credit breaches. If you’re wondering how to remove a collection account from your credit report, for example, a goodwill letter is unlikely to help.

Regardless of your bank’s stance on goodwill letters (or their apparent lack of a position), you can’t lose anything by asking for this kind of assistance. The purpose of a goodwill letter is to to try to remove negative information from your credit reports knowing full well that you may or may not get the results you want.

How to write a goodwill letter

When you write a goodwill letter to a creditor, you’ll want to include as much information as possible for them. Armed with plenty of details, it is more likely that your creditor will be able to honor your claim without any additional work.

When writing a goodwill letter to a creditor, you should include the following information in your letter:

  • Your account number
  • Your address
  • A concise explanation of why you missed a payment and how you plan to handle credit responsibly in the future
  • Your specific request to remove information from your credit reports, which is often referred to as a “goodwill adjustment”

Remember that your goodwill letter should be sent by regular mail and not by email where your message is more likely to be lost in the shuffle. Also, be sure to be polite; common wisdom says that you should explain what happened and what you hope to achieve, but also thank them for their time.

Where to send a goodwill letter

Since goodwill letters aren’t considered an official way to communicate with a creditor, you won’t find a specific department to send your letter to. Instead, you should research a customer service address for the creditor in question, and then send your letter there.

This information is usually easy to find online, but you can also find a customer service address on your monthly bill.

Sample goodwill letter

The internet is a treasure trove for finding examples of goodwill letters, but each one follows the same general format. When writing a goodwill letter, you’ll want to keep it short and sweet, explain your situation, and specifically ask for a goodwill adjustment.

Try not to include too much detail, and be sure to explain how you plan to manage credit more responsibly in the future. Remember, too, that politeness goes a long way.

If you’re ready to have a default removed from your credit report, Bankrate’s Goodwill Letter Template can help you get started:

Dear,

I am writing this letter regarding a late payment (or late payment) reported in my credit report for my {creditor name} account.

I realize the importance of making payments early or on time, and I also know that paying late makes your job difficult. I wanted you to know that I missed payment on my account due to {insert explanation for your late payment here}. I am very sorry for the inconvenience caused, and I know this situation is only mine.

I enjoyed our business relationship and made a renewed commitment to pay all of my bills on time. I was wondering if you would be willing to do a goodwill gesture and remove the late payment from my credit reports.

If you are able to make a goodwill adjustment, I can continue to build my credit rating and stay in good standing with your business.

Thank you for your attention and your time,

{Your name}

{Your account number}


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