How Much Will One Late Payment Hurt Your Credit Score?

How Much Will One Late Payment Hurt Your Credit Score?By Gerri Detweiler

You open your credit card statement and discover you forgot to make last month's payment. Or you get a call from a collection agency about a medical bill you didn't realize hadn't been paid. Or you check your credit reports and discover a late payment is marring your otherwise perfect payment history.

How bad is it? How much does a single late payment affect your credit scores?

Of course, as with so many things related to credit scores, the answer is, "It depends." But the irony is, the better your credit, the more you may feel the sting.

[Free Resource: Check your credit score and report card for free before applying for a credit card]

Hope for the Best

If you're lucky, the lender won't report that you were late. "The first thing to note is that most lenders do not report missed payments until the account is 30+ days past due," says Anthony Sprauve, director of public relations for
"Suppose a given credit card payment is due on May 15 [and] the payment is made on May 25. Technically the payment is late, and fees and interest charges may apply. But in most cases, this late payment would not be reported by the creditor to the credit reporting agencies [CRAs]."

Or it's possible your lender may be willing to overlook the transgression. Steve Ely, president of, adds: "The larger creditors [like credit card companies] usually have sophisticated analytic models working behind the scenes that take into account your history of payments. If you've been paying on time for a long time, they're likely to forgive your one late payment, and let it slide."

But Brace for the Worst

What if you don't luck out and the late payment is reported? There are three questions that will help you understand the possible impact, according to Barry Paperno, community director for

1. How long ago did the most recent late payment occur?

2. How severe were any late payments (30 days, 60 days, charge off, etc.)?

3. How many accounts on the credit report have had late payments?

"Of these three questions, the one typically having the most impact on your credit score is the first; recency," he says. "To illustrate, if a single late payment occurred a few years ago and all payments on all accounts have been made on time since, that single late payment will have little negative impact on your score. On the other hand, according to a study conducted by FICO on credit scoring impacts, a recent late payment can cause as much as a 90-110 point drop on a FICO score of 780 or higher."

"And while any negative score impact from a late payment lessens over time, this information will remain on your credit report for seven years and can be expected to continue to impact your score, at least to some degree, for much of that time," he adds.

Sprauve also details some of the factors that go into determining how much a late payment will hurt your scores:

The impact to the FICO score resulting from a new delinquency hitting the credit file can vary significantly depending upon the individual consumer's circumstances.
  • Other history of account delinquencies (on this account or other accounts), or collection references, or adverse legal items on the credit report
  • Balance outstanding on the delinquent account
  • Number of other accounts on the file which are currently paid as agreed
  • Length of credit history

The bottom line? One slip up and your credit score may take a dive, especially if you have otherwise stellar credit.

'The old analogy of 'the bigger they are, the harder they fall' applies to credit scores, too," warns Ely. "If you have a really high FICO score, you'll take a bigger hit for a late payment than someone with a lower FICO score."

While the best defense is to be meticulous about paying your bills by the due date, if you do mess up, see if you can't persuade the lender or collector to remove the blemish from your reports. While they may balk at first, you may be able to get them to change their mind if you have a good explanation as to why it happened -- and if you can convince them it won't happen again.

More from's Personal Finance Expert, Gerri Detweiler focuses on financial legislation, budgeting, debt recovery and consumer savings information. She is also the co-author of Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights, and Reduce Stress: Real-Life Solutions for Solving Your Credit Crisis as well as host of Talk Credit Radio. Reach Gerri at

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Craig Web

Payment history makes up a big 35% of your total credit score that's why incurring a late payment can significantly dent your credit score. The credit report also shows how many days the payment was late and the longer it is the less score you get. I found an article on how the credit score is computed here

November 29 2013 at 6:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

HarMoney has compiled a couple tips for 1st time credit card users on their blog

June 18 2012 at 11:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

after reviewing my credit i found the crediters like macies make more mistakes than i due. thus this credit score business is very faulty and very harse on good consumers.

June 15 2012 at 9:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sylvia Tucker

Capital One Credit Card Company won't forgive or over look anything,they charge $25.00 for a late payment then up the monthly payment just for the hell of it.They don't care if you are a long term customer that hasn't ever been late so don't believe their bulls@#% adds they are just as greedy as the next credit card companies.

June 14 2012 at 6:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought Obama made credit card changes on behalf of the consumer? I haven't seen any changes in mine. It angered me with the 2008 meltdown when my credit line was lowered for no purpose. I had a $7500 line on my American Express that was cut to $500. This account had been paid off for 6 months. The Visa had a $10,000 line and the balance was about $650. GE carried this one and my line was lowered to $500 and then I was charged $39 for an over-limit account. This caused the reporting agencies to lower my scores by 100 points and I had literally no control over it. It took a year but i finally got my $39 back. I received a check because I had dropped both accounts. I filled up the email box at the WhiteHouse...called Consumer Protection 12 times and sent 52 letters to Consumer Protection. One a week. I spent way more than $39 but it got to where it was more the principal of it. When this started we were comfortable that we would have some credit and would survive with our good credit lines in case my husband lost his job. Thank God he didn't but like most folks we could have been in a financial crunch like most people found themselves. It's hard to find anything that GE doesn't process. They marched across the US and bought up as many processing companies as would sell to them. I have found that they're ethics leave a lot to be desired.

June 14 2012 at 12:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the score is just and indicator.... like everything else it should, and will be reviwed on a case by case basis... if you had a dispute with the bank over something but are current on other mortgages or payments.. one dispute will not hurt you... once you have a chance to explain it... even a foreclosure.....if they don't accept it.. then go to another institution... they are a dime a dozen.... my score is fine and i had a recent dispute... had to sue B of A... ending in foreclosure... my score is still around 750 to 780

June 14 2012 at 12:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've got to ask, why don't corporations have credit scores? My bank, for example, has an excessive gambling habit in the derivatives markets. If I routinely gambled 40 times my net worth, as they do, what credit score would I have?

Let me also add that the federal government has never had to bail me out, and the federal reserve has never helped me out by buying trillions of my held junk bonds at inflated prices, or offering me money at rates lower than inflation either. As to a reasonable credit score for my bank, can we do negative numbers?

And yet they act and make decisions like they are gods, no wonder they have to pay their executives so much, after all people this infected with hubris don't grow on trees.

June 14 2012 at 10:51 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rolavine's comment

They do in a sense - through Standard & Poor's - they have to apply for credit to do business with other companies as well and that's where S&P comes in. Some companies end up having to go COD on their orders depending on how bad their S&P report is.

June 14 2012 at 11:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Shannon's comment

You are almost right. S&P (along with Fitch and Moody's - which are known as Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations or NRSRO's for short) provide most of the ratings on corporate debt instruments - the ones that are sold to investors (such as debentures, bonds and commercial paper).

For everyday credit transaction uses, such as business credit cards, the bond rating by S&P, Fitch or Mooody's is not used to determine creditworthiness or set limits. Most companies have a FICO score as well that will be used for such things as business credit cards, opening bank accounts, vehicle leasing, etc. This is especially true in the case of smaller companies that do not issue debt instruments for the NRSRO's to rate.

The rotating account scenario you speak of could be effected by an NRSRO's rating depending upon the contract, but this is very rare. Most times, you are placed on a COD/prepaid basis only once you have defaulted on a couple of invoices by 90+ days.

June 14 2012 at 4:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

It's time to put the three credit scoring companies out of business. Even when people are back on their feet, their scores haunt them for the rest of their lives. Also, any bank that got bailouts should have immediately forgiven the debts.

June 14 2012 at 10:37 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SgtJoeFriday's comment

Good point about the bailouts! I can't stand the whole credit score thing - FICO won't even release their formula so you have no real way of knowing what your score is made of. I bought a car recently - my score was 726 when I went to the dealer... after the purchase it dropped to 652 - I mean WTF is THAT?!?!?! The dealer sent out 25 credit applications - which I'm learning is typical (but STUPID). I've sent credit inquiry disputes to every company but not one of them will remove the inquiry from my reports. Wonderful! All I did was buy a stupid car and my score dipped by like 75 points.

June 14 2012 at 11:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Shannon's comment

Remember, GE, has become one of the collectors for most large companies. Also remember, they are in Bed with Obama. So if you have GE on your CC. they will sting you , does not matter how many years you have been a good customer and pay your bills on time. They will cut your Limit to what you owe. That leaves you , one option, Quit paying them anything. Bad credit these days is not all bad, there are no jobs, and not going to be any, so if GE is on your CC, smoke it , max that sucker out, and then quit paying it. They make bad customers on paper out of good customers, and it only takes one time for the paper work to get lost on your desk. Do what I did , tell GE to kiss it.

June 14 2012 at 10:19 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bill's comment

I agree with that something needs to be done, but do not agree with maxing out a card and quit paying. where I come from that is stealing

June 14 2012 at 11:53 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to porsch451's comment

But hasn't the banks stolen from us? After all. a 25% interest rate is stealing from us.

June 14 2012 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

Gymmy Kramir with an Update
Achievements –
In 2011, 201x, 201 the Red Plague and La Cosa Nostra
succeed at getting NYC wiped off the planet.
Isn’t that a wonderful achievement?
That’s why we be here, at the North Pole.
Come and join us.

June 14 2012 at 10:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply