Credit Repair
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How to Remove Collections from your Credit Report

Updated on:
Content was accurate at the time of publication.

When a debt has gone into collections, you’d probably know you’ve run into financial difficulties. While paying off debt is the most immediate issue, having collections on your credit report can harm your credit score for a long time — even once you repay the debt.

Successfully disputing inaccurate information is the only surefire way to get collections removed from your credit report. If you’ve repaid a debt and the collection account remains on your credit report, you can request a goodwill deletion from your creditor, though there’s no guarantee they’ll grant your request.

How collection accounts impact your credit score

If you miss too many payments on a credit card or personal loan, your debt could get sent to collections. Once your account is past due, your creditor may hire a debt collection agency to pursue repayment. Having a debt sent to collections significantly hurts your credit score: not only does your record of missed payments show up on your credit report, but collection accounts do as well.

How long does a collection stay on your credit report?

Negative credit events can stay on your credit report for years. When an account is sent to collections, it will remain in your credit history for up to seven years from the date of your first missed payment. By successfully paying off collections, your credit score will get a boost, but your report will still show closed a collection account until it expires after seven years. Despite being repaid, that collection activity will still impact your credit score.

How to remove inaccurate collection information

The three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) will remove collections information if you can prove that it’s inaccurate. Sometimes credit reports contain factual errors, and while some are more benign, having a significant error like a misreported collection account can really hurt your score.

1. Check your free credit reports

If you notice that your credit score has gone down or if you’ve been unexpectedly denied for a new credit account, there might be an error on your credit report. There are plenty of legitimate reasons why your credit score could fall, but sometimes it’s because of a mistake.

You can check all three of your credit reports for free at once per year — and there are options for checking them more regularly if you’d like. You’ll want to review a copy of your credit report from each bureau, as they probably won’t be exactly the same. Just because there’s an error on one report doesn’t mean that there’s one on other reports.

Note: Because of the unique challenges presented during the COVID-19 pandemic, all three credit bureaus allow consumers to check their credit reports once a week. Weekly access will continue until the end of 2023.

2. Identify credit report errors

Credit report errors are common and can be disputed. You may find a few possible issues beyond inaccurate collection information, including:

  • Incorrect biographical information, like a phone number or address
  • Accounts belonging to someone else with the same name
  • Accounts that are wrongly shown as late or delinquent
  • Accounts with an incorrect credit limit or current balance
  • Duplicate information or accounts that appear multiple times

Credit report errors regarding collections could appear in a few different ways. Perhaps the date on the collection account was reported incorrectly; a later date could hurt your credit report for longer, or perhaps it would have already expired if not for that error. Of course, it’s possible that you just didn’t have an account sent to collections at all, even if it shows up on your credit report.

3. Write a dispute letter to credit bureaus

Once you’ve identified a credit reporting error, you should write a letter to each credit bureau. You can file a dispute by explaining the problem in detail, providing supporting documentation for your claim and requesting that the bureau resolve the error. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires consumer-reporting agencies to investigate credit report disputes and respond to claims.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) suggests that you include your contact information, clear identification of each mistake, including account numbers or dates, explanations for why you’re disputing the information and a request to remove or correct the error. The CFPB has a sample letter for credit report disputes available to get you started.

You can file claims online, by phone or by mail. Be sure to submit copies of the dispute to each credit bureau reporting the error.

Contact informationEquifaxExperianTransUnion
Phone(800) 864-2978(866) 200-6020(800) 916-8800
AddressP.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30348
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

How to remove paid collections from credit report

Once you’ve paid off an account in collections, it will eventually fall off your credit report. If you’d like to expedite the process, you can request a goodwill removal. Removing a paid collection account is up to the discretion of your original creditor, who doesn’t have to agree to your request. Some creditors aren’t able to delete collections from a credit report at all.

But it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you genuinely encountered financial hardships, were forthcoming about your debts and made good faith efforts to repay them as quickly as possible, those creditors may be more open to wiping the event from your credit report.

1. Verify that the debt has been paid

Before sending a letter, you’ll want to ensure that the debt has indeed been paid. You won’t be able to get a goodwill deletion for an unpaid debt or active collection account — your creditor wants the money you owe. Start by checking in with your creditor to confirm that the debt has been paid and the account has been closed. You can also check your credit report to see if the information still appears.

2. Request a goodwill deletion

If you’ve repaid the debt, write a letter requesting a goodwill deletion to remove the closed collection account from your credit report. Explaining your situation and why you fell behind on payments, as well as providing evidence that supports your creditworthiness, may convince your former creditors to remove the collection account. Remember that your former creditors are under no legal obligation to honor your request.

It’s not a good idea to request a removal from a creditor while your debt remains unpaid. Some debtors submit “pay to delete” letters as a negotiation tactic when trying to settle the debt; the idea is that a creditor may be willing to delete the collection account from your credit report in exchange for payment of the debt. This strategy rarely works and may not even be legal under the FCRA.

Following up after removing collections from credit reports

Once you’ve sent letters to the credit bureaus or your former creditors, be sure to follow up afterward. Credit bureaus are legally required to disclose the results of their investigations, and they have 30 days to investigate a credit report error in most cases. Creditors aren’t required to respond to your request for goodwill deletion, but you can ask.

Check your credit reports to see if changes have been made and keep an eye on your credit score. If all else fails, waiting for the collection account to fall off your report may be your only option.