Can a Goodwill Letter Help My Credit Score?
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If you send a goodwill letter requesting that a creditor remove a derogatory mark on your credit report, the worst thing they can do is say no. Though it’s best not to get your hopes up about your FICO credit score shooting up after sending a goodwill letter to a lender, it doesn’t hurt to ask. This article will discuss what a goodwill letter is, when it’s a good idea to send one, what the potential benefits are, and when it might be better to send a credit dispute letter instead.
Written by Attorney Eric Hansen.
Updated August 16, 2021
The good news is that if a creditor accepts your goodwill letter, it can help you improve your credit score. The bad news is that the majority of goodwill letters are unsuccessful. Though it’s best not to get your hopes up about your FICO credit score shooting up after sending a goodwill letter to a lender, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
If you send a goodwill letter requesting that a creditor remove a derogatory mark on your credit report, the worst thing they can do is say no. This article will discuss what a goodwill letter is, when it’s a good idea to send one, what the potential benefits are, and when it might be better to send a credit dispute letter instead.
What Is a Goodwill Letter?
A goodwill letter is a polite written request to one of your creditors asking that they remove a negative or derogatory mark on your credit report out of the goodness of their hearts. Goodwill letters are sent to creditors or collection agencies rather than to the credit bureaus. Lenders are not required by law to remove negative information about a late payment or a missed payment if it’s accurate. But a well-written goodwill letter could persuade them to make goodwill adjustments or to report that you are in good standing to the credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—that keep track of your credit history.
Effective goodwill letters will include an acknowledgment of the borrower’s misstep—a missed payment or a late payment, for example. It’s also a good idea to explain to the creditor or collection agency why you missed or were late on your payment. Perhaps you lost your job, had sudden medical bills, or experienced another financial hardship. You can also talk about how the negative impact on your credit score is affecting you. Maybe you were denied new credit or are being subject to high interest rates. A goodwill letter attempts to connect with creditors on an emotional level, not just a dollars and cents, debtor-creditor level.
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When Is a Goodwill Letter a Good Idea?
Goodwill letters are best used sparingly and only in certain circumstances. If you have largely made on-time payments and only have one or two dings on your credit report, you may be a good candidate to write a goodwill letter. But if you have multiple derogatory marks on your credit report and you routinely make late payments or miss payments, a goodwill letter isn’t likely to be of much help or to hold much sway with your creditors.
Limitations of Goodwill Letters
Set your expectations low if you send out goodwill letters. Then if one of your goodwill letters does succeed, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, but if they fail, you won’t be crushed. These letters don’t often work because collection agencies have contracts with credit bureaus that prohibit removing collection accounts just because they’ve been paid.
Also, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires lenders to report accurate credit information to the credit bureaus. If a creditor removes accurate information that they really should be reporting under the FCRA, the creditor may be violating the FCRA. Creditors, or information furnishers, can’t really get creative with the information they provide to credit bureaus or omit information. Otherwise, they may face sanctions or other negative repercussions under FCRA.
Additionally, a goodwill letter won’t work to remove public records items like bankruptcy filings or judgments. Credit bureaus routinely check PACER, a public records database, for bankruptcy filings. Since creditors or collection agencies aren’t the ones providing this information to the credit bureaus, you’d have to send a goodwill letter to the bureau. But credit bureaus will disregard or ignore any goodwill letters asking them to remove previous bankruptcy filings.
There are other public record items like liens and judgments that aren’t currently being reported by the main credit bureaus because of the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP). This could change at any point since the NCAP is not a federal law but rather an initiative agreed to by all the major credit bureaus. If NCAP was abandoned by the credit reporting bureaus, it would be unlikely that using a goodwill letter to ask to have liens and judgments removed would work because they are similar to bankruptcy filings.
Positive Credit Repair
Think of goodwill letters as one of many tools in your credit repair plan toolbox. After a setback or a financial hardship that might make the circumstances ripe for a goodwill letter, you should stay on track moving forward. Since your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score, focusing on paying all your bills on time can help boost your score. Pay more than the minimum payment each month if possible. Also, do your best to keep your credit utilization ratio at less than 30%. This means you’re only using 30% or less of that total credit you have available to you. There are many ways to work on your creditworthiness.
Sample Goodwill Letter
In a goodwill letter, acknowledge and accept responsibility for your slip-up. Keep the tone humble, polite, and personable. Avoid using harsh language or passing the blame onto others. Think of the old saying: “You get more flies with honey than vinegar.” A goodwill letter that nicely requests the removal of derogatory marks with a reasonable hardship explanation for the missed payment is going to fare much better with your creditor or a collection agency than a demanding, angry, critical letter.
Remember to send your goodwill letter to the company that is providing or furnishing the negative information to the credit bureau, not the credit bureau itself. Goodwill letters should always go to the respective creditor or collection agency that has made the derogatory credit mark.
The Key Points of the Letter
There are a few key points of a well-written goodwill letter. Keep it simple and concise. Be sure to identify the collection account for the creditor, including:
Your name and address;
The account number; and
The amount of the debt.
This helps the creditor quickly find your information so they can review the action items on the account in conjunction with your goodwill request.
The body of your goodwill letter should include an explanation of why you missed a payment or provided a late payment. If you lost your job, were affected by the coronavirus pandemic, had health issues, or experienced a significant negative change in circumstances, you should explain this to the creditor. Provide some context about the events leading up to the negative mark on your credit report. Then let them know that the circumstances that were negatively affecting you have improved. Tell the creditor you’ve gotten back on your feet or made positive changes that will help you avoid making the same mistake in the future.
You also will want to discuss how the item on your credit report is affecting you and what problems it’s causing. Maybe you’re having a hard time getting a mortgage or you’ve been looking at refinancing but aren’t having any luck. Perhaps you need to get a new car to get to work but you’re only able to get auto loans with extremely high interest rates. Whatever your situation might be, you should try to politely and reasonably discuss how the negative item on your credit report is causing problems for you and your financial outlook. Then nicely ask to have it removed.
A Sample Goodwill Letter
Below is a sample goodwill letter. Feel free to make changes to this goodwill letter template to fit your unique situation.
[First Name Last Name]
[City, State ZIP code]
ABC Credit Card Company/XYZ Collection Agency/Creditor Name
123 Fake Street
Capitol City, ST 12345
Account Number: ABC-123456789
Reference Number: XYZ-123456789
Amount of Debt: $1,234.56
To whom it may concern:
Thank you in advance for your understanding and consideration of my goodwill request in this letter. The purpose of this letter is to address [a late payment(s)/a missed payment(s)] on my [name of account] account. I saw that there was a negative mark on my most recent credit report, and I’d like to ask you to remove it.
Prior to the [late payment(s)/missed payment(s)], I had an excellent track record of making timely payments. I know that I need to make prompt payments on my [name of account] account, and I will make sure that I stay on top of things from here on out. I [made a late payment(s)/missed a payment(s)] because of [circumstances that show your hardship or negative change of circumstances]. This won’t happen again.
I’ve taken steps to address [hardship circumstances/negative change of circumstances]. I have [list steps or changes you’ve made to make things better and more positive].
I’m hoping to [state the next financial move you’d like to make—apply for or refinance a mortgage/get a car loan/consolidate your debt/refinance student loans/etc.]. The negative mark on my recent credit report may disqualify me from taking this next step. I am committed to paying back the amounts I borrow, and this was a one-time slip-up on my part. I would be incredibly grateful and thankful if you were to give me a second chance and make a goodwill adjustment to remove the [late payment(s)/missed payment(s)] from [date/dates].
Thanks again for your time and consideration.
[First Name Last Name]
Do You Need a Goodwill Letter or a Credit Dispute Letter?
If you are writing your goodwill letter and you find yourself blaming the creditor or collection agency or being confrontational or angry, you might want to write a dispute letter instead. Additionally, consider whether the negative information on your credit report is accurate or not. If you truly believe that the item on your credit report is inaccurate due to the creditor, collection agency, or a credit bureau’s error, then it’s better to send a dispute letter.
If you accept that you had a slip-up and are asking for kindness from the creditor or collection agency on accurate information, then a goodwill letter is best. Remember that a goodwill letter is calm, polite, and non-confrontational.
Goodwill letters describe what life circumstances kept you from making a payment on time or caused you to miss a payment. They include a kind request to the creditor or collection agency to remove the resulting negative mark on your credit report. Though these letters rarely work they’re still worth a try. But it’s best to keep your expectations low.
Remember to follow up with a phone call on your goodwill letter and to maintain a good payment history so that you remain in good standing with your creditor. You can also increase your credit score by focusing on other ways to repair your credit.