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How To Remove Negative Items From Your Credit Report

Written by Mike Pearson
Updated August 9, 2022

In this post, we’re going to show you six ways to remove negative items from your credit report. 

Removing negative items can help improve your credit score, which can give you a better chance of getting approved for credit cards and loans with good interest rates. 

The six strategies we’re going to be discussing in this post are:

  1. Dispute the Error with the Credit Bureau
  2. Submit a Dispute with the Creditor
  3. Send a Pay for Delete Letter to the Creditor
  4. Send a Goodwill Letter to the Creditor
  5. Wait For the Account to Drop Off
  6. Hire a Credit Repair Company

Let’s get to it.

#1. Dispute the error with the credit bureau

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that gives you the right to dispute inaccurate information on your credit reports to the credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). 

You can request copies of your free credit reports using AnnualCreditReport.com.

If you spot an error or inaccurate item on your credit report, here’s what you can do:

  • Draft a letter to the relevant credit bureau using this template from the FTC.
  • With your letter, attach a copy of your credit report that highlights the inaccurate information, and include any supporting documentation, such as payment records. 
  • Send the letter via certified mail so you have legal proof the credit reporting agencies received it.

The credit bureau has 30 days to investigate the dispute with the business that provided the information and to respond to your request.

If they find that it is a credit report error, they will remove the entry. Otherwise, the item will remain on your credit report.

#2. Submit a dispute with the creditor

If the credit bureau verifies the negative item you inquired about is accurate, you can send another dispute letter, this time to the company or lender that reported the error to the credit bureau (e.g. the credit card company, debt collector, or bank). 

You can use this FTC template to draft your letter.

Like the credit bureau, the company or lender is required to do an investigation and provide the necessary documentation that the negative item in question is legitimate. If they determine that there is indeed an error on your credit report, they must send a request to the credit bureaus to correct or remove the item.

#3. Send a pay for delete letter to the creditor

If both the credit bureau and creditor decline to remove the negative item in question because they’ve verified the accuracy of the information, you can try negotiating to have the item removed from your credit report.

One effective negotiation tactic is the “pay for delete” letter, which you can use to try and get a late payment removed from your credit report.

With a pay-for-delete letter, you make an offer to pay the account off fully, in exchange for the lender removing the negative item from your credit report.

#4. Send a goodwill letter to the creditor

If you’ve already paid the account in full, your next strategy can be sending what’s known as a goodwill deletion request.

With a goodwill request, you send a letter to the creditor explaining why you were late on your payment, and you request a one-time deletion. 

These won’t work for everyone, and they’re best suited to the occasional financial slip-up rather than a long list of negative marks. For example, if you’re normally on top of your credit card bill but ran behind on one because you were on vacation, a goodwill letter could do the trick. 

Just note that creditors aren’t obligated to comply with the goodwill request, though some may delete the account if you get lucky. 

#5. Wait for the account to drop off

In the worst-case scenario, your last option is to wait for the negative items to fall off your credit repair on their own. With the exception of bankruptcy (which can be reported for up to 10 years), most negative information will only remain on your credit reports for 7 years. 

While that may sound like a long time, their impact on your credit score lessens as the years pass. 

In the meantime, you can take steps to boost your credit score in other ways. Because your payment history alone accounts for 35 percent of your credit score, you can accomplish a lot just by making sure you pay your bills on time.

#6. Hire a credit repair company

While you can get a negative item removed from your credit report on your own, you may want to look into hiring professional help to do it for you.

Writing letters and keeping track of phone calls and negotiations for multiple negative marks spread across several different accounts can be an overwhelming task.

If you have a lot of negative items on your credit reports, it might be worth hiring a credit repair company.

Reputable credit repair services know who to contact and what types of letters to send on your behalf. Plus, you only pay while you use their services.

For a comprehensive look at what these services do and how they work, see our review of the best credit repair companies.

What doesn’t work

There are a lot of things you can do to improve your credit score, but certain missteps could end up making things worse.

If your goal is removing negative items from your credit report, here are three things that won’t help: 

Don’t: Close a credit card with late payments

If you have a credit card with several missed payments, don’t close the account—this doesn’t eliminate the delinquency reporting, and it can hurt you further by eliminating valuable credit history.

Instead, work with the credit card company to bring your account current, then try to negotiate a pay-for-delete.

While the credit card company probably won’t remove all of the negative marks, they might be willing to delete a few, which can help boost your credit score.  

Don’t: File for bankruptcy

Bankruptcy will certainly wipe out your debts, but it will also severely damage your credit score.

You might be tempted to file in an effort to just start all over again, but the consequences will stick around for up to a decade.

A negative item or two might be bringing down your credit score, but bankruptcy can drop it by 200 or more points overnight.

Before you file, make sure it’s truly your only option. 

Don’t: Pay delinquent accounts that are charged off or in collection

Paying a delinquent account won’t get rid of the negative item on your credit report. 

If the account isn’t in collections or charged off, paying off the balance will change your account status to “current”. 

Meanwhile, charge-offs and collection accounts will continue to be reported that way even after paying the balance off.

Negative items to get off your credit report

Here are some examples of negative items that you can remove from your credit report:

Final thoughts

Negotiating with creditors and collection agencies can be intimidating at first, but it gets easier with time.

If you stay organized and committed to achieving your financial goals, you might be surprised by how easy it is to get a negative item deleted.

Whether you go the DIY route or work with a credit repair company, watching your credit score rise is definitely worth the time and effort.

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Mike Pearson


Mike is a recognized credit expert and founder of Credit Takeoff. His credit advice has been featured in Investopedia, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Huffpost, The Simple Dollar, Reader's Digest, LendingTree, and Quickbooks. Read more.