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From the Experts at

Tips for Improving Your Credit: Your Payment History

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Tips for Improving Credit: Payment History

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If you’re looking to improve your credit in the long-term, well, then, you’ll want to establish a spotless payment history. Your payment history, also known as payment performance, is the record you’ve established by either paying or not paying your bills on time — and it’s the most important factor among major credit scores, accounting for about 35% of most models. Basically, a positive payment history reflects that you’ve paid all your loans back on-time and as agreed. A negative payment history, conversely, reflects that you’ve missed payments or haven’t paid what you owe in full. When it comes to payment history, a single misstep can really cost you. According to a study from credit score company FICO, a single 30-day late payment can drop a good score (around 780) by 90 to 110 points. To keep your score from this type of pitfall — and to help improve your credit — let’s break down everything you need to know about your payment history.

How Can I See My Payment History?

Your payment history will appear on your credit reports, which you can get for free each year at You can also check your credit every 14 days using’s free credit report snapshot. This completely free tool will break down your credit score into sections and give you a grade for each. You’ll see, for example, how your payment history, debt and other factors affect your score, and you’ll get recommendations for steps you may want to consider to address problems. In addition, you’ll also find credit offers from lenders who may be willing to offer you credit. Checking your own credit reports and scores does not affect your credit score in any way.

How Do Credit Reports Know Your Payment History?

Your lenders know whether or not you pay your bills on time and they will report your payment history to the credit reporting agencies…good or bad. As such, your credit reports will reflect your payment history on any credit account you’ve had in the past 7 to 10 years. This includes, but is not limited to, student loans, mortgages, bank and retail store credit cards and auto loans.

This is a process called “lender reporting” whereby your lenders will send the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — the current status of your account each month. Once received by the credit reporting agencies this information is loaded and then run onto their databases thus creating an updated record of your accounts month after month.

Subscriber Discover Card Citibank American Express
Account Number 30492383XXXX 980039XXX 10274562XXXX
Account Type Revolving Installment Open
Credit Limit $20,000 $750,000 N/A
(High Credit) $6,862 $37,000 $2,000
Minimum Monthly Payment (Terms) $19 $2,000 N/A
Date Opened April, 2012 August,




Date of Status March, 2016 March, 2016 March, 2016
Last Payment Date February, 2016 February, 2016 February, 2016
Loan Type Credit Card, Terms REV Mortgage Credit Card, Terms OPEN
Current Status R1 I1 O1

The data that lenders report each month is generally based on the activity that occurred on that account during the previous billing period. As such, at any given time your credit reports will be displaying data that is 30-60 days old.

What Matters to My Credit Scores When it Comes to Payment History?

Your Current Status

Your current status is the rating of your accounts as of the last time they were reported to the credit reporting agencies by your creditors. The best “status” you can have on any account is “Paid As Agreed.” This means that the account is being paid according to the terms of the agreement you signed with the creditor. If your account is past due then your current status rating will reflect as such. The current status is generally displayed as a numeric value ranging from 1 to 9. If your account is paid as agreed then the rating will be a “1.” Essentially any rating other than a “1” is bad. And, as the numeric rating ascends from 2 through 9 it represents a worsening level of account delinquency.



1 Account being paid as agreed
2 1 to 30 days past due
3 31 to 60 days past due
4 61-90 days past due
5 Referred for Collection
6 Unused
7 Account being paid by either a chapter 13 bankruptcy

court or a non-profit financial counselor

8 Repossession
9 Account has been charged off

Your lenders are responsible for assigning and reporting the numeric status of an account. They each have policies that govern when they will start reporting a status other than 1. Some lenders will choose to be more consumer-friendly and not report a status greater than 1 until the consumer becomes several months past due. Other lenders will report you with a past due status the day you become past due. It just depends on the lender’s reporting policies.

Prior Late Payments

Prior late payments are a record of any historical late payments made on an account. If, for example, you miss your auto loan payment this month, you should expect to see record of this missed payment on your credit reports the next time your auto lender updates your account information with the three credit reporting agencies. If you subsequently make the payment and become “paid as agreed” on the account then your lender will change the account to show it as paid on time but with a prior late payment. If you miss a payment for two consecutive months then your lender will report two missed payments. This pattern will continue until the account is paid and marked as “current” by the lender.

How Long Do Late Payments Stay on Your Credit Report?

As with all items on your credit reports there is a statute of limitations that governs the amount of time that late payments can continue to be reported. Prior late payments will remain on your credit report for no longer than seven years from the date the delinquency occurred.

The credit reporting agencies program their systems to automatically remove prior late payments on or just prior to their seven-year anniversary. As such, there is no need for consumers to ask that they be removed. However, if a late payment remains on your credit report after that seven-year mark has passed, you can dispute it with the credit reporting agencies to have it removed. (You can learn more about disputing errors on your credit reports here.)   

How Long Does a Late Payment Hurt Your Credit Score?

Here’s the bad news: Payment history is supremely important. As we mentioned earlier, 35% of the points that make up your major credit scores is based on your payment history. A full one-third of your score is determined on this category alone. This means that if you have a poor payment history then it is unlikely that your scores will be high enough to ensure competitive interest rates and optimal terms when you apply for credit. (Conversely, having a solid payment history is a great first step towards earning a solid credit score.)

Here’s the good news: A single late payment won’t hurt your credit forever. Sure, that faux pas will stay on your credit reports for seven years, but, depending on your credit profile and what happens next, your score could rebound sooner than that. If you get the account back in good standing and resume making on-time payments, your score could return to where it was before the late payment hit your credit report in a few years.

Bottomline: The further you get away from the delinquency, the less impact it will have on your scores. Now, if a single late payment leads to bigger credit score woes, you’ll do more damage and have a longer road to recovery. What do bigger credit score woes entail? Let’s break it down.  

Narrative Codes

A little known area of concern that can have a huge impact to your credit is the plain English text that describes your accounts. These are called Narrative Codes. Narrative Codes are found alongside the account listings in your credit report. There are scores of Narrative Codes with these being some of the most common:

  • Home equity
  • Real estate mortgage
  • Line of Credit
  • Credit Card
  • Paid account / zero balance

Narrative Codes can either have a neutral or negative impact on your credit standing. The following are examples of Derogatory Narrative Codes that will have a profound negative impact on your credit reports and any credit scores that are generated from your reports.

  • Charge off
  • Paid Charge off
  • Repossession
  • Foreclosure Process Started
  • Redeemed Repossession
  • Settlement accepted on this account
  • Account included in wage earner plan
  • Account included in bankruptcy

Public Records or Collection Items

The public records as reported by the credit reporting agencies are bankruptcies, judgments and tax liens. Courthouses do not report to the credit bureaus in the same way a lender reports. Instead, the credit bureaus hire public record “vendors” to go to the courthouses and collect and verify public record information and then report it on your credit files. In the case of public records, none of them is good for your credit. Any public record that shows up on your credit file is considered negative and will impact your score significantly.

Collections are not public records but they are almost always listed in the same section of the credit report as public records. As such, that section is now almost always referred to as “Public Records or Collection Information.” Collections occur when your lenders choose to sell your past due accounts to a 3rd party company that specializes in collecting debts from consumers. Collection agencies get a fee from the lender based on a percentage of the amount they collect from you. Collections, like public records, will impact your score significantly.

How Do You Earn the Maximum Points in the Payment History Category?

In this case it’s quite simple. Your bills must always be paid on time and reflect a “paid as agreed” status. You also cannot have any prior late payments, any derogatory narrative codes, any public records or any collections. This sounds like a lot to keep track of but it’s really not difficult. It all starts with making your payments on time. If they’re on time then the slew of negative items mentioned above can never occur.

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    • Crystal

      I have several paid as agreed accounts but it is showing as a negative, why is that? I have not been over 30 days late, I have been 2 weeks late but I called and made a payment arrangement.

      • Credit Experts

        Crystal —
        Even “paid as agreed” counts as a negative because it’s a collections account.. You can read more here: Will Paying a Collection Account Hurt My Scores? Paying those accounts won’t help your scores, but it will keep those agencies from suing you and getting judgments, and a judgment hurts your score even more. The good news: The further those collections recede into the past, the less they will affect your scores. Your best move now is to pay every bill on time.

    • ki

      So here’s two questions
      1. as still have my credit card and I have one late payment but all the rest of my payments have been on time can I have them change anything to make it show I’m paying as agreed.
      2. my last car note I had three late payments but I have finish paying it off but they list the account as CLOSED which still shows as a negative can I do anything to have them change it.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        If the late payments are accurate they will remain for seven years but as they get older they have less impact on your credit scores, provided everything else is paid on time. Are you caught up on that credit card now? If so then over time should see your scores improve as you continue to pay on time.

    • Credit Experts

      It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on but if you reach out to customer support (there’s a tab on the left) they will be happy to respond.

    • Danny

      I found that my 3 homes are no long showing on my credit reports. All were “paid as agreed” never late. One of them I did own for ashore time. Like 6 months. But still paid on time. The only proof I have currently is the print outs from my credit reports from each of the three who no longer are showing them. What can I do! This is really effecting my score and has been for a while!

      • Gerri Detweiler

        How long ago did you pay them off? Paid off loans usually drop off credit reports after about 10 years. There’s no obligation for the lender to continue to report a paid off loan, however. Unless they do, you’re kind of stuck.

    • Vic

      I have 3 collections on my account and 2 of them are paid in full, the other I am paying off in full now. I live in NY and I keep reading, “Paid Collections remain on your credit file for 5 years from the last date of payment.” This confuses me. Is that 5 years from the date I paid the collection company in full or the last date the original creditor had a payment?
      If it is the later case, why do they keep telling me that it stays for 7 years no matter what? I am really lost and need help because none of the collectors want to even entertain a discussion. They just keep saying, “I’m not a credit analyst, but I know we follow the law.” What do I do????

      • Gerri Detweiler

        The New York statute is indeed vague:

        ; (iv) accounts placed for collection or charged to profit and loss which antedate the report by more than seven years; or accounts placed for collection or charged to profit and loss, which have been paid and which antedate the report by more than five years – See more at:

        So I asked Jay S. Fleischman, a consumer protection attorney with offices in New York and Los Angeles if he could shed light on it. Here’s what he said:

        “According to Experian, ‘All delinquent accounts are deleted seven years from the original delinquency date, which is the date the account first became delinquent and was never again current.’

        In New York, paid collection accounts remain on your credit file for 5 years from the date of last payment.

        If your account goes delinquent and you do not make a payment ever again, the account is deleted from your credit file after seven years. If you are delinquent then pay the account off, the delinquency is changed to reflect that the debt has been paid – and the clock begins to run anew for the updated status.

        Think of it like a pair of red socks replaced by another pair of red socks. They both look the same, but are not actually the same.”

        Hope this is helpful.

    • leesa

      GMAC is reporting my account with status of pays 61-90 days past due and in the activity designator as account transferred or sold and is showing a zero balance. This account was included in my bankruptcy in 2009. I just realized this reporting due to the fact of purchasing a new home. I tried disputing and came back verified as accurate reporting and score dropped 27 points. I am asking if this reporting is legal and if my status should be included in bankruptcy?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        I am sorry but I am confused. I just don’t understand the situation you are describing.

    • Anita Edwards

      How do I get my loan payments that are made on time reported because the loan company do no report that information

      • Credit Experts

        That can be frustrating. You cannot force someone to report, though. (It’s one reason why, if you take out a credit-builder loan or a secured credit card that it’s essential to know that the issuer DOES report to credit bureaus.

    • Just me

      How soon after you make a charge on a credit card should you pay the balance. My plan is to charge items the pay off in full to establish good history and up limit but I don’t know if paying a couple days after the charge will be too soon.

      • Credit Experts

        It won’t hurt to do it, but it won’t help, either (the exception to that would be if you are using 10% of your credit limit. In that case, paying before it’s due (and before you even get the bill) may help you. See: Will Paying Bills Before They Arrive Help My Credit?

    • Carter

      I overpaid large amounts on my loan for 3 consecutive months (not toward principle) so I haven’t had to pay a monthly payment in months. My credit report shows green, paid accordingly, but says $0 each month since I paid ahead. Is this bad or good? I have to start paying again and I am considering paying off my loan completely (4 years left in the contract) or should I do a large payment not toward principle? so that it reports monthly as “paid”?

      • Credit Experts

        Paying ahead won’t help you credit wise, particularly if it’s not going toward principal (which would reduce your overall interest). If paying off your loan early won’t save you any money, there’s nothing to be gained from it creditwise, so it’s worth doing only if you fear you might otherwise pay late (which could hurt your credit).

    • Scott

      My mortgage company has frozen my equity line because my score has dropped by 10% (currently 710), but I can find no reason why my score would have changed. No late payments, no new debt, etc. How do I figure out the date my score dropped and why it dropped?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        They sent you a notice outlining the reason for taking that action and giving you the score they used correct? Beyond that it’s going to be tough to nail down specifics. Have you tried to contact the lender to learn more?

    • David

      Waht does: No payment history has been reported by this creditor mean?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        It means that creditor hasn’t reported any payment history to the credit reporting agency. I am not sure how else to explain it…?

        • Tamika

          Does no payment history have any affect on your credit score? Can it negatively affect your score?

          • Credit Experts

            Tamika —
            No payment history would mean there is nothing on your credit report to indicate how you’ve repaid any credit you’ve been expanded. Most likely if you have no payment history, it’s because you haven’t been extended credit. In that case, you might not even have a credit score. You can check with the major credit reporting agencies to see if you have credit reports. (If you have no credit reports, you will have no credit scores, because they are calculated from information in the reports.) Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports.

    • Nancy

      I’ve been making my car payment on time for over a year but it was not showing on my credit reports. I reached out the the lender and they said they would start reporting it only on Experian. Is there any way I can get them to report to the other bureaus to improve my score?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Nayeli – You have a lot going on here and I can understand why it feels overwhelming, especially when you’re just starting out. As I see it you need to take things one step at a time. The first is to resolve all those collection accounts, perhaps by settling them since you have determined bankruptcy is not a good option for you. If you don’t, then the balances may grow and the debt may be turned over to new collection agencies, creating new negative items on your credit. Once they are settled, then you can focus on rebuilding your credit. If you need help with that process some low-cost DIY solutions include and

    • Kristin

      What does a D mean in the payment history?

      • Credit Experts

        It means there is negative information there — either 30-day, 60-day or 90-day late payments and/or public records.

    • Kristiaan

      Capital One stopped reporting the payments I’ve made on my credit card two years ago. On my credit report, it shows I’m current; however, the payments are not reflected. Does this have any affect on my score?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        It may. Do you have any idea why? Have you asked them?

    • Sue Martin

      Hi. I’m helping my sister try to improve her credit. 490 score. She is a chronic late payer on several accounts and has had a couple charge offs over the past 7 years. She has a ton of equity in her home and is wanting a home equity loan so she can pay off her debt (which is $8,000 total). Her goal is to improve her credit so that she can refinance her house as soon as possible. I am thinking of cosigning for her IF it is possible this may help her obtain a loan. (and i am aware of the potential ramifications of being a cosigner, but am willing and able to help my sister get back on her feet.) My question is…how long does is generally take for one’s credit to improve enough to “get back on their own feet” as she is trying to do? I hope my question makes sense and sure do appreciate your feedback. Thank you!

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Of course it’s impossible for me to say, but with what you are describing, it sounds like it could take a while. I would not count on her being able to refinance anytime soon — it could take at least a couple of years to get her credit score high enough, if not longer. And if there are any late payments going forward that could extend the time frame even longer.

    • ENJ

      Is there any way to offset the negative impact of late payments in the past other than waiting? I missed many payments on a loan years ago, but it seems like my credit is finally starting to improve. Will applying for a new credit card and paying it on time make it improve faster? Or will the change in my average age of account make my credit even worse?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        What do you have in terms of on-time payments on your credit reports? If there is nothing recent than a credit card may help.

        • ENJ

          Thanks for your reply. I’ve been paying the loan off regularly since then, and one other credit card with a really low credit limit that I never use.

          • Credit Experts

            ENJ —
            Never using the card could be a problem. Could you lightly use the card? Credit scorers are looking to see how you handle credit . . . and not using it at all doesn’t show much, and it also puts you at risk of having the issuer close the card because it is never used.

    • JandC0723

      Hi, I haven’t really used credit in the past but I want to buy a house so I obtained two credit cards. I was charging very small amounts on the cards and paying them off right away as I really don’t like to use them. I was speaking with a credit specialist who said I need to show a balance on my card when it’s reported to the bureaus in order to show payments being made. So, I let a small balance remain and my fico score did go up. My question is, do I put a small balance on both cards or only one? I’ve read online that having a small balance on both cards can hurt you because you are using all cards available to you even if the amount is very low. Please help, I’m confused and want to get the most credit advantage as I can with these two cards.

      • Credit Experts

        A small balance (less than 10% of your limit) on each card can only help you. An unused card does little to show how you handle credit.

        • JandC0723

          Thank you so much.

          • Credit Experts

            You’re welcome! Good luck.

    • KENNY07

      I was recently informed that i have a credit score of 194, is this possible?? Lol … I have opened a secured card, and have 3 pass due accounts on automatic payments…will this help me or am i a loss cause?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        I am not sure which model goes that low but I wouldn’t say it is impossible. Regardless you can always get a fresh start. It sounds like you are moving in the right direction. I’d encourage you to also get your
        free credit score so you can see where you fall on a more common score range. And you’ll get a free action plan for your credit as well. Hope that helps!

    • Jaywant

      Public Records or Collection Items how many years it reflect to you credit

    • Ash85

      I have missed payments from 2011/2012 for student loans. Some are pretty bad being 120 days late. At the time I didn’t realized I could defer the payments and didn’t have a job to pay them. Is there a way for me to counter the negative hit on my credit score? I now have a credit card that I haven’t missed any payments on and have deferred my student loans because I’m still attending school.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Unfortunately the late payments will remain on your credit reports for seven years. Is it showing you are currently 120 days late or just in the past? If the latter then over time they will carry less weight provided you are rebuilding positive credit references now.

    • Hannan

      If i pay my car payment before the last date and more than what i have to pay . Is it gonna help to make good credit fastly or not ?

      • Credit Experts

        Paying on time will help the most. Paying more than you need to will help you get out of debt faster, but it is unlikely to substantially help your credit.

    • Curious

      Does it affect credit rating in any way to change your car payment due date? Example from the 15th to the 25th?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        It shouldn’t. But be very careful the first month that it goes smoothly and you don’t wind up as late.

    • glh1967

      I defaulted on a loan in 2013. The loan company reported it to the credit bureau. Can they keep reporting the loan as open and reporting the payment every month as 120 days late?

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Unless you caught up or rehabilitated the loan then it will continue to be in arrears and report as such. Is that what you are asking?

        • glh1967

          No, I’m asking if they are required to charge off the debt or can they keep reporting it as 120 days late. I understand that it will affect my credit negatively regardless but since they keep reporting it 120 days late month after month it shows as 20 missed payments. At some point arent they required to charge it off?

          • Gerri Detweiler

            What type of loan and lender is this? (I’m sorry when I read your question I thought you said student loan but I now realize you didn’t.)

            • glh1967

              Hi Gerri, no problem. This was a personal loan (installment loan). I’m not sure what you mean by the type of lender.

            • Gerri Detweiler

              I ask because different lenders fall under different regulations. Who is the lender?

            • Karli

              Was her question ever answered? I also have an account in charge-off status. It went to charge off status in Feb 2011. At the time I had 6 late payments on that account, now I have 56 late payments of 90+ days. I thought that once it went into charge-off they could not report monthly anymore since the account is technically closed. I am trying to dispute it but am having so much difficulty. Please help. Are they able to report this as they are, 90+ days late every month continuously, or is this incorrect?

            • Gerri Detweiler

              Karli – the credit reporting agencies I’ve spoken with say yes but doing more research…emailed you.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I believe I asked you who the lender is no? Regulators will require certain lenders to charge-off alone after a certain period of nonpayment for safety and soundness reasons. So the regulator will require it– but it depends on who regulates the financial institution that holds your loan.

      In addition, once the debt is charged-off there are some lenders that will continue to report it is delinquent each month for a full seven years. This is a somewhat controversial practice, but the law is not clear whether that information is considered accurate or not. I should have more on this topic in a few days.

      • glh1967

        Hi Gerri, thanks. I thought I replied with the name of the lender but I guess it didn’t post. The lender is NC Financial Solutions of Utah dba/ NetCredit.

        • Gerri Detweiler

          More on this -emailing you.

    • Roxanne Thelen Wieland

      I have several accounts on my report that have been paid off…but the payment status says current…some of these were back in 2006. I am wondering should these accounts be removed from my credit report? thanks.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        If they are positive references I’d say leave well enough alone. A longer, well established credit history helps your credit. Or are these collection accounts? If so then it sounds like they are too old and you should dispute them. More here: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

    • dee

      I have several accounts that are showing zero balance but when. I apply for a loan I am being turned down because it is reflecting as though I have 9 credit cards and 4 mortgages. Can this be disputed.

      • Credit Experts

        Yes. We suggest checking your credit reports. You can get see all three reports annually, for free, at If you see mistakes, here’s how to dispute them: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Mel – sent you an email. Please look for it.

    • Jamie

      When my husband and I got married I could not make heads or tails out of who we owed to who because of previous marriages. so we decided to file bankruptcy and start fresh. I have student loans on my credit which is not allowed to be included in the bankruptcy, my husbands payment history is showing 100% where as mine is showing 71% because of the missed student loan payments I had in the past. my loans have been sold several times. when can I ask for the loans that have been closed to be removed. I am working very hard to try and get our credit back on track and if I can get the old missed payments off I think it would help.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Late payments on student loans will remain for seven years. As they get older they have less impact if you are making other payments on time.

        • Jamie

          ok So for example one of the student loans that have been sold says 2007, I can request for it to be removed now?

          • Gerri Detweiler

            What exactly is reporting?

    • Jamie Jackson

      I have several negative marks on my credit and I would like to buy a house within the next year. If I pay off my negative marks will my credit score go up? I need help!!!!!

      • Gerri Detweiler

        I assume you mean collection accounts? If so, paying them probably won’t improve your credit scores–at least the ones that mortgage lenders use. Also whether you even want to pay them off may depend on how old they are. I’d suggest you look into a free homebuyer education course in your community. You may be able to sit down with a counselor and figure out a game plan. Find out how here: 6 Places to Get Free Help With Your Credit Problem

    • Shaun

      My car payment was due on August 14th. I was in the process on paying of the car, and the company I refinanced through overnighted them a check that they received on Sept. 9th. They did not post the check onto my account until Sept. 14th. Will this show as a 30 day late on my credit, or will they have to back date the check to the date they received the payoff check? I’m very protective of my credit and want to maintain my high credit score but have heard that a 30 day late can drop my credit score as much as 100 points. My current score is around 790.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        It’s hard to say. It is possible it will report as late. Keep an eye open and if it does show up as a late payment dispute it. Let us know what happens!

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