How to Get a Collection Account Off of a Credit Report
Finding a collection account on your credit report can be incredibly frustrating, but they are actually some of the easier types of negative items to get removed. It does take a little bit of work, and being able to pay it off does help, but with time, everything can be removed.
Your first step should be to get your hands on a copy of your credit report. This can be done for free at AnnualCreditReport.com once a year, or other places like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma. If you are seriously wanting to clean up your credit, getting copies of all three reports helps since not every collection agency reports to every credit bureau.
It is important to note that collection agencies are required to tell you that they are reporting you to the credit bureaus. Generally, this needs to be in writing and you must receive it within 30 days of the open date on the tradeline. If they do not do this, you have a valid Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) claim. Consumer rights attorneys will usually be willing to take on the case and file it for you since they can collect their fee separately, even if your claim is relatively small.
Pay and Dispute
Get in touch with the collection agency and discuss either a payment plan or tell them if they can lower the balance, you could pay them in full (at the discounted rate) today.
Once you’ve got details about a payment plan or what the discounted pay in full rate would be for a lump sum, ask them to delete their tradelines from your credit report. Chances are, they will say no. At this point (if you have the money) ask them if they would delete the tradelines in exchange for full payment today. Again, they will probably say no but you do have a slightly better shot.
If they do agree to delete their tradelines, ask to get that in writing along with the other conditions of your payment. While a physical letter works best, if they want payment today, an email from someone within their organization will suffice. When that is delivered, make the payment and wait ~45 days to check your credit report again, it will probably be gone. If it is not, you will need to dispute it and send in a scan of the letter/email as proof they offered to delete it.
Most people will not have success with a standard “pay for delete” offer. For those who do not, your best bet is to start making payments or pay the negotiated smaller lump sum. Do request a “Paid” letter from them just to be safe.
Financeography Tip: You can find more information regarding improving your credit and overall complete credit repair with this fairly all-inclusive guide to credit cleanup
After 90 Days
90 days after paying it off (either lump sum or your last installment) check your credit report again. Sometimes, they will have taken the account off by themselves (often the case with medical collections). If that’s the case, your job is done! It’s more likely that they either updated it as “paid” or have just neglected to update it at all. At this point, you will open a dispute asking the credit bureaus to verify that all of the information is correct regarding that account.
Disputes usually take 30 days to resolve or 45 days if you send in additional information. Do not bother sending anything else in, you want the deadline to go by as quickly as possible. Some agencies will delete you from their computers as soon as they get their money. In a case like this, they will not be able to verify anything, which should result in the collection account being deleted by default. Others might still have you in the computer but do not want to take the time to deal with someone who they have no business with anymore, which can result in a deletion by default as well.
In the rare case that the information does come back as verified, you still have a few options.
- Consumer arbitration (mostly for credit card collections)
- Dispute again after 12 months with a “Paid/Settled” reason (they may not have you in their computers after such a long time)
- File suit under the FCRA, FDCPA, TCPA (expensive and should only be done as a last resort and only on relatively fresh accounts)
After seven years (five in New York), from the date of the first delinquency, the collection accounts should fall off of your report.