A goodwill letter is one method of attempting to repair blemishes on your credit report. This route is different than filing a dispute with one of the major credit bureaus in cases of fraudulent or incorrect activity. In essence, mistakes addressed by a goodwill letter are those you admit.

When the late payment on your credit report is your fault, you can then write a goodwill letter directly to the person or company providing you the credit. In the letter, you can ask to remove the late payment history or other negative marks out of the kindness of their hearts.

If you’re looking to repair your credit reports, a goodwill letter may be a viable option for you. It won’t always work, but there is a chance. Read on to see if it’s the right next step for you.

What is a goodwill letter?

Goodwill letters are brief, to-the-point and courteous written requests to creditors to remove minor mistakes from your credit history or to stop reporting them. Getting rid of blemishes on your records could help to increase your credit scores and assist in finances like qualifying for a loan.

However, creditors are not required to take anything off your reports, and some will say it is legally obligated to report your correct history to the major credit bureaus. Therefore, this method only works some of the time. The odds of approval depend on who the creditor is and its policies.

Also, your chances could depend on who reads your letter. One person in the company may not be accommodating, while another might be willing to help. However, if you go into it with a “never hurts to ask” mentality, you might find success.

When to use a goodwill letter

Knowing when to use a goodwill letter is an excellent place to start because you may have other options. For example, if you fall behind in payments on a debt, you can use your full payment as leverage. This tactic is known as “pay for delete.” The creditor removes your late payment history in exchange for you paying the debt in full. However, if you already paid off your debt, that leverage disappears, which is when you might turn to a goodwill letter.

A goodwill letter works best if you made one or two late payments and have a positive credit history. If you are consistently paying your bills late, most creditors won’t give you the time of day, no matter how nice your letter is. Additionally, it helps to be able to give a reason you missed a payment, like during an emergency or financial strain.

If you have a generally positive credit history but made a few errors, you’re more likely to get the mistake taken off. Removing these types of blemishes can raise your FICO score and put you in a higher credit category, but you first need to know how to write an effective goodwill letter.

How to write a goodwill letter

First, make sure to maintain a pleasant tone and refrain from blaming anyone else. In fact, it’s best to take responsibility for your mistakes. Admitting fault might help the creditor reading the letter let down their guard and have more sympathy for you. If you have a valid reason for missing a payment, such as a significant life disruption like a divorce or a move that sent your bill to the wrong address, include that as well.

When writing a goodwill letter, remember to keep it brief. Here are several key items to stick to that can increase the chances of your letter working.

Which account: Include information on the account you are referring to.

Past history: Mention your previous positive payment history to emphasize that you were previously responsible.

Why you were late: Explain why you missed payment. Include proof, like receipts, hospital bills or lawyer invoices when possible.

Negative effects: Say how the credit blemish is negatively impacting you and why it would help to have it removed. Also mention if you’re looking to qualify for a loan but are having trouble.

Correct wording: Ask the creditor to make a “goodwill adjustment” to improve your odds, rather than outright asking them to change your history. Phrasing it as a “goodwill adjustment” makes it clear you are relying on the creditor’s goodness of heart, rather than any legal expectation.

After writing your goodwill letter, send it to the mailing address or email address listed on your most recent bill or credit reports. Wait between seven and 10 days to follow up or look for a different address. To get started, feel free to browse these sample goodwill letters, which were successful.

Goodwill letter vs. a phone call

You can choose to make a phone call to the creditor instead of writing a goodwill letter. A phone call may help, but the person who answers the helpline will likely not be able to change your credit report. Thus, you’ll probably have to ask for a supervisor to reach an employee with enough authority to make changes.

According to direct customer experience, the chance of receiving a goodwill adjustment over the phone vs. through a written message depends on the store or the creditor. Some prefer a letter, while others want a phone call. However, some people aren’t as persuasive over the phone as they are in writing. If you find it easier to get your point across in a concise manner using the written word rather than speaking, you might stick to a goodwill letter. You could always try both and see what happens.

A goodwill letter may not work. However, there is still a chance, especially if you have a legitimate reason for not making the on-time payment and have a steady history of paying by the due date. A creditor could come to understand that this one-time blemish is hurting your chances of qualifying for a mortgage and the company may then decide to remove it from your record out of kindness.

Also, keep in mind that the creditor may not notify you of the changes. The creditor may update your report without sending you notice, so keep an eye on your statement. A goodwill letter works best for individuals with a solid payment history and a justifiable reason for the lateness. If you fall into that category, it can’t hurt to try to get those credit report blemishes off your record for good.