Here's How To Remove A Charge Off From Your Credit Report
If you have a charge off on your credit report, it's almost certainly hurting your credit score.
The good news? It's possible to get a charge off removed from your credit report.
There are a couple ways to do this.
But because a charge off will stay on your report for seven years, it's usually worth trying to get it removed earlier.
Three ways to get rid of a charge off
If you have a charge off on your credit report, there are three ways to get it removed: dispute it, negotiate, or wait it out.
#1. Dispute the charge off
First, you should start by confirming that the charge off is actually yours.
Don't take it for granted that everything on your credit report is accurate—or that it belongs to you.
According to a study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 1 in 5 consumers has an error on their credit report, which is insane! Errors happen ALL of the time!
Even if the charge off belongs to you, it's still worth disputing.
Check the charged off item for any inaccuracy, including account numbers, names associated with the account, addresses, payment history, the balance owed, the charge off date, or anything else that looks incorrect.
Always remember this: you have the legal right to dispute inaccurate information on your credit reports. Use this knowledge to your advantage!
If you spot an error, contact the credit bureaus and the original creditor and ask them to verify the debt.
If they can't verify it, they MUST remove the item from your credit report!
#2. Negotiate a charge off settlement
If the lender and the credit bureaus verify the accuracy of the charge off, you may still be able to get it removed by negotiating a settlement with your creditor.
Keep in mind that your creditor isn't required to remove a charge off from your credit report, but it might agree to if you offer to pay some or all of what you owe.
Here are nine tips for ensuring your charge off negotiation goes smoothly:
- 1Communicate directly with the creditor. If possible, talk over the phone when communicating with the creditor—this makes it easier to have a direct back and forth, and you'll probably accomplish more in a shorter period of time than you would writing letters.
- 2Be polite and professional. You might feel frustrated or overwhelmed, but don't take that out on your creditor's representative. Be sure to avoid making excuses or sharing your life story.
- 3Make it clear you want to settle right away. Let your creditor know you want to settle the account immediately, but you can only come up with a certain percentage of the balance. For example, on a $3,000 debt, you might offer $775 but let your creditor know you can pay it right away. You might be surprised how willing creditors are to accept a relatively low amount. Something is better than nothing, and many creditors will take what they can get if you can pay it right now.
- 4Start low. Remember, this is a negotiation—you don't want to go into it offering your max amount. Plan to pay anywhere between 50 and 60 percent of the debt, but start by offering something around 25 percent of the balance.
- 5Don't be in a rush to settle. Your creditor wants its money as quickly as possible, so don't be too quick to give it to them. Instead, make sure you're getting what you want in return—in this case, persuading the creditor to delete the charge off.
- 6Don't let them pressure you. Your creditor might try to push you into paying the full amount by claiming a partial payment will reflect poorly on your credit report, or that you'll have to pay income tax on any money you save by negotiating a partial payment. Keep the conversation centered on the settlement amount and remember: your credit report and taxes are none of their business.
- 7Aim for a lump sum payment. Offering a larger, lump sum payment gives you more leverage than a series of smaller payments.
- 8Get the agreement in writing. Ask the creditor to mail you a letter on company letterhead, detailing the agreement. Don't rely on a verbal agreement, and don't make any payments until you get everything in writing!
- 9Ask for a "pay to delete". In some cases, a creditor will agree to delete a charge off from your credit report in exchange for your payment—they aren't required to do this, and not all of them will agree to it, but it's worth a try. If your creditor won't agree to a pay for delete, make sure they're at least willing to report the debt "paid as agreed" once they receive your payment—this is far better for your credit score than a charged off account.
#3. Wait it out
If your dispute fails, and you can't get your creditor to negotiate with you, your final option is to simply wait until the charge off drops off your credit report.
A charge off will stay on your credit report for seven years, which may seem like a long time, but there are things you can do in the meantime to help boost your credit score.
Check out our guide to repairing your credit for a step-by-step look at strategies for raising your credit score.
6 tips for making payment on a charge off
If you're ready to negotiate with your creditor or a collection agency, it's important to protect yourself.
Before you make a payment, know the dos and don'ts for paying a charge off.
- 1Never give access for a "direct withdrawal". Don't give anyone, creditor or collection agency, access to your bank account by authorizing direct withdrawals.
- 2Don't pay with cash. Pay with a check or a money order so you have a record of your payment.
- 3Write "paid as agreed" on your check's memo line. You want a paper trail that shows your payment is in exchange for the creditor designating the charge off as "paid as agreed" on your credit report.
- 4Make copies. Make copies of everything, including the settlement agreement letter and any checks you write. You should have copies for your records, as well as one copy for each credit bureau.
- 5Mail your check to the company. When you're ready to pay, mail your check to the creditor.
- 6Mail copies to each credit bureau. After you've sent the check, mail copies of the check and the settlement agreement to all three credit bureaus. In your letter, explain that you've "paid as agreed" and ask the credit bureaus to delete the charge off from your credit report.
How a credit repair company can help you remove a charge off
You can definitely DIY your way to getting a charge off removed from your credit report, but the process can be a lot of work.
That's where a credit repair company might be able to help.
Reputable credit repair companies have the expertise and resources to devote to the charge off removal process.
They'll follow all the same steps you can handle on your own, but credit repair is all they do, which means they're usually faster.
Most people don't have the time to write and keep track of letters for all three credit bureaus, along with correspondence and phone calls to creditors and collection agencies.
If you're busy and short on time, a credit repair company might be a good solution.
You'll pay a fee, but the money is usually worth the reward of seeing your credit score go up once a charge off is gone.
It's best to avoid charge offs whenever you can, as they're extremely damaging to your credit score.
As soon as you feel like you can't make a payment on an account, talk to your creditor. In many cases, creditors will work with you to find a solution. After all, they want to get paid.
If you already have a charge off on your credit report, it's worth trying to get it removed.
Whether you dispute, negotiate a settlement, or wait it out, the good news is a charge off won't stick around forever, and its negative impact on your credit score will diminish over time.
About the Author
Mike is a recognized credit expert and founder of Credit Takeoff. His credit advice has been featured in Investopedia, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Huffpost, The Simple Dollar, Reader's Digest, LendingTree, and Quickbooks. Read more.