At a Glance

A late payment can affect your credit score and credit report for a long time. But late payments tend to have the biggest impact in the immediate aftermath. You can start to build or rebuild credit while you wait to knock off late payments from your credit report.

What to know about late payment in relation to your credit score and credit report:

How long do late payments stay on your credit report?

Late payment records can appear on your credit report if you forget to make a payment or are unable to pay on time. A late payment, which your creditor can report to the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—after you’re behind by 30 days, can stay on your credit report for up to seven years.

The effects can vary based on if and when you’re able to get your account up to current.

  • Your creditor won’t report the late payment to the credit bureaus if you get your account up-to-date before you’re 30 days behind on the payment.
  • If you get your account current after the 30-day period, the late payment will fall off your credit report after seven years. If you have a string of late payments, the entire set will be removed from your credit report seven years from the original late payment, i.e., the original delinquency date.
  • If you’re unable to ever bring an account current, the creditor likely will close the account and send the debt to collections. From there, the closed account and any related collections accounts will be removed from your credit report seven years from the original delinquency date.

How much does a late payment hurt your credit score?

The impact of a late payment on your credit score depends on which credit score you’re examining (FICO, VantageScore, or something else) and what your overall credit profile looks like. Read this article FICO Score vs. Credit Score to know the differences.

The general breakdown:

  • A late payment typically will dip your score more if you have an excellent credit score compared with a fair or poor score
  • Multiple missed or late payments usually will hurt more than a single missed or late payment
  • Late payment(s) on multiple accounts can negatively affect your score more than late payment(s) on one account
  • A longer delinquency will hurt your credit score more than a shorter delinquency, i.e. being 90 days late is worse than being 30 days late
  • As delinquencies get older, the effect on your credit score should lessen

How much does one late payment affect your credit score?

According to a FICO study, a single, recent late payment can lead to as much as a 90- to a 110-point drop in an excellent credit score of 780 or higher.

Does a one-day late payment affect my credit score?

While your creditor won’t report a payment that’s only one day late to the credit bureaus, you could face other penalties. If you’re paying late for the first time, you can be hit with a late fee ranging from $1 to $29, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If it’s not your first slip up, you can be charged up to $40.

You also could see an increase in your credit card interest rates, which can be especially detrimental if you’re taking advantage of a 0% introductory annual percentage rate (APR) offer. Those special offers only apply if you make timely payments.

Credit score recovery after a late payment

There are a few things you can do to try to minimize the effects of a late payment on your credit scores. But before you look into those, the best thing to do is pay your bills as soon as possible if you’re past due. Once you’re caught up, consider the following:

  • Send a goodwill letter: There’s no guarantee this will work, but try sending a letter to the creditor that explains your situation and history. Take responsibility for the mishap. If you have a good history with the lender, this could be enough to get the late payment wiped from your credit reports. 
  • Negotiate: If you agree to settle a partial amount of your debt or pay off your debt in full, your lender may consider removing the delinquency from your credit report. Be sure to get any agreement in writing to protect yourself.
  • Check for errors on your credit report and dispute them: If you see a mistake on your credit report, you can contact the credit bureau directly to try to get the mark corrected. If the credit bureau is unable to verify the information, the agency has to remove the information. Let your lender know that you’re disputing the information sent to the credit bureau.

How to avoid making late payments

The best way to avoid dealing with the effects of late payments is to pay your bills on time. Here are several strategies that can help:

  • Use autopay: If you constantly find yourself forgetting to pay your bills, autopay can help you stay on track. Make sure you have enough money in the account your creditor will be withdrawing funds from. If you don’t have enough, you could end up with a late payment, late fees, and an overdrawn account.
  • Set payment reminders: Instead of trying to remember when your bills are due, set calendar reminders on your phone to get an alert when you need to pay. You can also set alerts from your creditor’s website or mobile app.
  • Make weekly payments: Though most accounts come with monthly payments, you may be better off breaking up your payments instead of sending one lump sum. Making weekly payments can help you stay on top of your balances and could help you pay off your debt more quickly.

Get your free credit score

Whether you have late or missed payments, you may want to review your credit score if you haven’t recently. You can check your credit score for free by going through your credit card issuer, talking to a non-profit credit counselor, or using a credit score service.