Even one late payment can negatively impact your credit score and make it harder to qualify for future loans and secure good interest rates.
If you have a good record of managing your finances, some creditors may remove the late payment from your report if you write a goodwill letter. Below, we explain how to draft a goodwill letter to help improve your score.
What is a goodwill letter?
A goodwill letter is a request to the creditor that reported your late payments to remove the negative mark from your credit reports. Remember that goodwill letters are different from disputes, which you file if you find an error on your credit report.
If forgiven, the creditor will notify the credit bureaus and instruct them to remove the negative mark on your credit history.
Do goodwill letters work?
Because goodwill letters are not considered a legal or official complaint, lenders and credit card issuers are not legally required to consider the requests in these letters. Neither are they required to issue a response. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) both indicate that only time is the only true guarantee that negative marks will disappear from your credit report.
And because creditors have a legal responsibility to report accurate information regarding the history of consumers’ credit—including late payments—many may not be willing to consider a goodwill letter. Still, there’s a chance a goodwill letter may work, as many consumers have successfully received adjustments to their payment history before.
Should you consider writing a goodwill letter?
While there’s a good chance a creditor will not consider your request, it doesn’t hurt to ask. You may be surprised to find that the creditor will oblige your request. But before you write a goodwill letter, it’s important that you consider whether or not doing so is advisable based on your unique circumstances.
When to consider writing a goodwill letter
If any of the following apply to you, you should consider writing a goodwill letter:
- Your credit is in good standing. If you have been financially responsible and have managed your debt appropriately up until the recently missed payment, your request may be honored.
- You have a viable reason. If extenuating, viable circumstances prevented you from making the payment, the creditor may consider your request for forgiveness. These circumstances include:
- Being hospitalized
- Being involved in an accident or some other emergency
- The death of a loved one
- A technical glitch prevented your payment from going through
- A financial hardship like losing a job or getting divorced
- Non-receipt of a bill despite issuing a change of address
When you shouldn’t consider writing a goodwill letter
If any of the following apply to you, then writing a goodwill letter may not be for you:
- You have a delinquent payment history. Writing a goodwill letter may not be in your best interest if you have a long history of making late payments or there are other factors negatively affecting your credit score, such as maintaining high balances.
- You don’t have a viable reason. Even if your credit history is in good standing, if you don’t have a viable reason for being late with your payment, your request likely will not be granted.
How to write a goodwill letter
There’s no formal format for a goodwill letter, but there are guidelines generally considered as effective:
- Offer an apology and be as sincere as possible
- Express your gratitude to the creditor for the services they have provided you
- Make sure that you include the reason why you missed the payment
- State your case as eloquently as possible
Information that you should include in a goodwill letter include:
- Your personal information, including the full name listed on your account; the address associated with the account; your account number and your phone number
- A brief, but concise explanation of the situation, i.e. what caused you to miss the payment
- Indicate how the late payment will negatively impact you, e.g. if it will prevent you from being approved for an auto loan
- Evidence to support your case, e.g. copies of your medical bills, insurance claims
Goodwill letters can be sent to creditors either through snail mail or email.
A goodwill letter can remove a negative mark on your credit report. As long as you’re in good standing and have a viable reason for missing a payment, you can try to ask your creditors for “forgiveness.” Creditors aren’t required to consider or grant your request, but given the success of consumers in the past, writing a goodwill letter may still be worth a shot.
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