If the debt is due to drop off of your report in the next several months because it is almost seven years old, consider waiting until then to pay it, as it will have no affect on your score once it disappear. If the debt shows as written off but will still show on your credit report for longer than a few months, collect all of the funds together to completely pay it off before making contact with the lender. That way, you will potentially re-activate the debt but will also show payment in full, which will minimize the damage to your score.
Typically this is how these companies work: Instead of obtaining a new loan to pay off your credit cards, the debt management company tries to negotiate with the credit card companies to reduce your interest rates or otherwise lower your monthly payments. Each month, you make a single payment to the debt consolidation firm and it distributes a portion of your payment to each of your creditors. Usually, it also keeps a portion (or sometimes all) of your payment to cover its own fees.
Kevin Han, a Minneapolis-based attorney who runs FinancialPanther.com, a blog focused on side hustles and reducing debt, says that after law school, he got in the habit of calculating the cost of his debt. His suggestion: "Figure out how much your debt costs in interest per year, then divide that by 365. When I did this, I found out my debt after I graduated law school cost me $17 per day. When I realized this, it got me super pumped to pay off my debt as fast as possible. Each time I paid off more of my debt, my daily interest that I was paying dropped," he says. Thanks to that strategy, along with smart budgeting, Han ended up paying off $87,000 in student loans in two and a half years.
If you’ve missed enough payments that an account was sent to collections, it can be a tricky proposition. Leave it alone, and it will continue to appear as a blemish on your credit report for a long time. But pay it off, and it still might hurt your score in the short term. Luckily, there’s another way to deal with collections that will help—not hurt—your score, and that’s paying for deletion. Just like it sounds, you’ll contact the collections agency (which will love to hear from you!) and make a deal; if you send in full payment, the collections company will erase the negative reporting from your credit. They may even take less than 100 cents on the dollar to do so – as many debts settle for far less than what was originally owed. Just make sure get this arrangement in writing and mail a check to them certified mail with “Cash only when you delete the account from my credit report” written right above the endorsement line.
It's tempting, isn't it? Getting rid of all of your credit card bills, no more annoying multiple payment to multiple creditors, just one, automatic loan payment every month that comes out of your account automatically and you're back on the road to being debt free, right? Well sure—but it comes with a couple of pretty big caveats that might sour the milk for you. Let's explain, and then you can decide whether it's a good idea in your case.
To have a good credit score, you need to have positive information reported into your credit report on a monthly basis. The easiest way to do that is with a credit card. Just try to keep your utilization low (although there is no magic number, VantageScore released data showing that people with excellent credit scores tend to have utilization below 10%). And make sure you pay your statement balance in full and on time every month. If you repeat this, over time your score will improve.
If you consolidate by taking a personal loan to pay off your credit cards, your utilization ratio could go down, causing your score to go up. For this to work, you need to leave the credit card accounts open after you pay them off. But your credit rating could go down if an underwriter has cause for concern that you could easily rack up new debt on the open and now balance-free credit cards (many people do).
If you are working with a credit counselor and think you’ll miss a payment, they can take proactive steps to mitigate consequences and create a plan to get you back on track. They can even negotiate to have additional late payments or late fees reduced or waived if you miss a payment. The key to making this work is being completely open and honest about your situation and speaking with your credit counselor as soon as you realize your payment will be late.
If you are considering using a debt relief or debt consolidation company, arm yourself with information. For a fee, they negotiate with your creditors on your behalf, resulting in lower balances or interest rates. Legitimate debt relief companies will obtain a written agreement from each one of your creditors, detailing the terms of the agreement, your obligations, and what will be reported to the credit bureaus. In some cases, if your balances are lowered the creditor might report bad debt or a charge-off, which will negatively impact your credit history and score. Also keep in mind that debt relief companies generally charge higher interest rates than your bank or mortgage lender, particularly if you have less than stellar credit. So you might not save much in the long run, especially once you factor in fees. It’s up to you to do the math.
If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can request that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You can also ask the credit reporting company to provide a statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service, and a dispute on your credit report does not improve your credit score.
If following the steps above seems daunting, some organizations specialize in paid credit repair services. Most of the services require a monthly subscription fee between $60-$100 per month, and most reviews report that the negative items are completely removed within 3-5 months. Despite the high cost, legitimate companies provide a valuable service if you’ve been the victim of identity theft and you want someone else to do the work for you.
Step 1: Tell the credit reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Use our sample letter to help write your own. Include copies (NOT originals) of any documents that support your position. In addition to including your complete name and address, your letter should identify each item in your report that you dispute; state the facts and the reasons you dispute the information, and ask that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report, and circle the items in question. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document that the credit reporting company got it. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
Write a letter to the specific credit reporting agency that shows the falsehood, whether it is Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Explain the mistake and include a copy of the highlighted report along with your documentation. Although certain bureaus now let you submit disputes online, it’s not a bad idea to send this letter by certified mail, and keep a copy for yourself. The reporting agency has 30 days from the receipt of your letter to respond. The Federal Trade Commission provides advice on contacting the credit bureaus about discrepancies. Here are the contact numbers and web sites for the three credit bureaus: