How To Remove A Paid Collection From Your Credit Report
If you're trying to get a paid collection removed from your credit report, you basically have five options:
- 1Dispute if it's inaccurate
- 2Dispute if it's been sold
- 3Pay for delete
- 4Ask for a good will deletion
- 5Wait it out
A paid collection can cause serious damage to your credit score—potentially dropping it by more than 100 points—so while it's not always possible or easy to have one removed from your credit report, it's definitely worth the effort.
Let's walk through how to do exactly that.
5 ways to remove a paid collection
If you've paid a past collection, you've already taken a responsible step toward boosting your credit score. Understandably, you want to see it drop off your credit report altogether.
There are five proven strategies for making this happen.
1. Dispute the paid collection if it's not accurate
First, find out if the paid collection actually belongs to you.
You might be surprised to learn that 1 in 5 consumers has a serious error on their credit report, so don't assume that everything in your report is accurate.
If you find an inaccurate item, the credit bureaus are required by law to delete it.
From there, you can dispute errors with each credit bureau.
If you need to dispute an inaccuracy, make sure to write each credit bureau separately, as the three bureaus don't always share information with each other—and you may see negative items on one report that don't appear on the others. You'll need to write a dispute letter to Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
2. Dispute if the collection agency sold it
It's quite common for collection agencies to sell debts if they can't collect on them—this means the collection agency listed on your credit report may not be the same agency as the one you paid when you settled your debt.
If the old collection agency still appears on your credit report, you can dispute the item. It's not unusual for this type of item to appear on one or two credit bureau reports but not the others.
This is why it's important to check your credit report from all three credit bureaus.
3. Pay for delete
Once you pay off a collection account, it's gone forever, right?
Not so fast.
If the original collection agency sold your debt to another collection agency—a scenario we addressed above—you may actually be dealing with two separate negative items: the original debt, which might be listed as a "charge off," and the paid collection.
"Pay-for-delete" is when a debt collector removes the collection account from your credit report in exchange for you paying off the account.
While a pay-for-delete might work for the current holder of the debt, the original collection agency has already removed your debt from its books—which means it has no incentive to work with you to remove it.
But, if you have other debts with the original collection agency, you might still be able to negotiate a pay-for-delete arrangement. It never hurts to try asking the collection agency to remove charge-off items in exchange for settling your other outstanding debts.
If you choose this route, make sure you put everything in writing—and get written confirmation from both the creditor and the credit bureau, too.
4. Ask for a goodwill deletion
In some cases, a creditor will agree to remove a paid collection as a friendly gesture—this is called a goodwill deletion.
It's not always possible to get a goodwill deletion, but it's certainly worth a try.
Here are some tips for asking for a goodwill deletion:
5. Wait it out
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a creditor simply refuses to remove a paid collection. The good news is it's better to have a paid collection on your credit report rather than an unpaid item.
If you can't persuade your creditors to remove a paid collection, you can wait for the negative item to drop off your credit report—which is seven years.
In the meantime, work to boost your credit score in other ways, like always making payments on time and working to improve your debt-to-income ratio.
What is a "paid collection", anyway?
Paid collections are past-due accounts you later paid in full or settled through a partial payment.
Many consumers mistakenly believe that paying a debt means it automatically drops off their credit report, but it's important to remember that creditors have no obligation to remove a paid collection, nor do credit bureaus have to take steps to scrub these items from your credit report.
This is why it's a good strategy to negotiate pay-for-delete agreements as you pay off or settle overdue debts.
Of course, pay-for-delete negotiations don't work if you've already paid a debt without one. Fortunately, it may still be possible to get a paid collection removed from your credit report.
How a paid collection impacts your credit score
Although they're better than unpaid collections, paid collections can definitely lower your credit score.
By how much?
While credit score algorithms take into account dozens of unique factors and it's impossible to know exactly how many points your score might drop, Credit Karma has a neat Credit Simulator tool that can help give us an estimate.
For example, someone with an excellent credit score of 771 that has an account fall into collection would potentially see their score drop by more than 130 points!
Again, there's no one-size-fits-all answer here, but the bottom line is that the impact would be significant.
When lenders and potential creditors look at your credit history, they don't like to see evidence of past debts that went unpaid, and they'll often flag you as a higher risk as a result.
The good news, as outlined above, it is possible to remove a paid collection from your credit report.
How long do paid collections stay on your credit report?
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a paid collection can stay on your credit report for up to 7 years.
Worth noting: this 7-year period starts rolling after the date you paid the debt—not the date you originally incurred it. Basically, the debt re-ages once you pay it in full or settle it through a partial payment, which means the debt can actually stay on your credit report longer than 7 years.
This is another reason why it's important to contact your creditors before you plan to pay off an overdue debt. By negotiating a pay-for-delete in advance of paying in full or settling a debt, you can prevent a paid collection from lingering on your credit report.
FICO® 9 and paid collections
When creditors assess your risk, they look at your FICO score, which is pulled from credit reports from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
This is the 300 to 850 scale you see on your credit report, which typically doesn't vary much among the three credit bureaus.
The most common scoring model used to assign a consumer's number on the scale is called FICO 8, but since 2016, this scoring model has been gradually replaced by FICO 9, which treats paid collections and medical debt more favorably than the old model.
Bottom line: FICO 9 assigns less weight to medical debt, and it disregards paid collections entirely. This is great news for those with large amounts of medical debt and/or paid collections that are pulling down their credit score.
The downside, however, is that not all creditors have made the switch to FICO 9. The old scoring model is proven, and creditors like to stick with what they know. Over time, though, more creditors will adopt FICO 9—which is good news for a large number of consumers.
Even if you're unable to get a paid collection removed from your credit report, patience and good financial habits will eventually pay off.
As you wait for negative items to drop off your report, practice good credit strategies by paying your bills on time, periodically reviewing your credit report, and notifying creditors if you think you might be late on a payment.
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.