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how to remove collections from credit report

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. 

If you’ve recently reviewed your credit report and found an account in collections, it’s likely that your credit score is being negatively affected by that unpaid debt. A debt is sent to collections when the original creditor has given up on trying to collect payment—often after 180 days or more.

When you apply for credit in the future, potential lenders will be able to see collection accounts as part of your credit report. For many people, that means it’s a priority to get these accounts removed, making it easier to secure credit down the road.

If you’re trying to get a collection account removed from your credit report, refer to the chart below to determine your situation and a potential course of action.

How can you try to remove your collection account?
If… Then…
The account doesn’t belong to you or details about the account are inaccurate File a dispute with the credit bureau that provided the credit report
You plan to pay the collection account in full Send a pay for delete letter
You’ve already paid the collection account in full Request a goodwill deletion
You’ve unsuccessfully tried all of the above Wait for the collection account to leave your report in seven years

We’ve got more details about all of these options below, so read on to see what the best next step for you might be.

Option 1: Dispute the account

If the collection account listed is inaccurate or contains errors, you’ll want to start the dispute process to get that information removed from your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that credit bureaus—who collect the information in your credit reports—allow consumers to dispute mistakes by providing evidence.

Here are some problems you may notice with a collection account listed on your credit report:

  • The account is not yours
  • The account is more than seven years old
  • The original creditor or debt collector is listed incorrectly
  • The debt is reported more than once

If you spot any error with a collection account, disputing is as simple as gathering evidence, sending a certified letter and waiting for the credit bureau to conduct an investigation.

You can follow our guide to filing a credit dispute for more detailed information.

Option 2: Send a pay for delete letter

A pay for delete letter is a way to negotiate with a collection agency to have negative information removed from your credit report in exchange for payment.

Ultimately, collection agencies want to be paid for the debts they are seeking to collect. As a result, some agencies may be willing to remove information about your collection account if you agree to pay your debt in full.

Note that collection agencies are not obligated to accept an agreement like this. If you do negotiate with a pay for delete letter, make sure to get any agreement in writing before making your payment.

We have a pay for delete letter template to help you get started.

Option 3: Request a goodwill deletion

You can request a goodwill deletion from a collection agency or the original lender if you’ve already paid the account in full. Essentially, you’ll use your letter as an opportunity to ask for the negative item to be removed after explaining that the debt has already been paid and that you’ve improved your credit usage.

While goodwill deletions are more common for smaller negative items, it is possible to have collection accounts removed in this way.

We have a goodwill deletion letter template you can use when writing to collection agencies.

Option 4: Wait for the account to leave your report

If all of the above options are unsuccessful, your last option is to simply wait for the account to leave your credit report. Whether the collection account is paid or not, it should leave your credit report after seven years.

Although seven years is a long time to wait, the good news is that your credit score is affected less by older accounts, so a collection account will have less and less effect on your score over time. If you continue practicing responsible credit usage, your score can recover even before the collection account leaves your credit report.

How can removing a collection account affect your credit score?

Removing a collection account from your credit report will likely improve your score in most circumstances. An account in collections is a negative item that can deter potential lenders, so removing that mark from your credit report is likely to have a positive effect. Plus, simply paying off a collection account is not likely to increase your score, so taking the extra step to try to get it removed is often a good idea.

Both pay for delete and goodwill letters are possible courses of action for legitimate collection accounts, but you want to be on the lookout for accounts that are inaccurate or contain errors. In those cases, your best bet is to file a dispute with the credit bureaus to have the accounts investigated and potentially removed. To avoid having to manage the dispute process yourself, work with the team at Lexington Law Firm to get support every step of the way.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.