Credit Score

The 7 Biggest Questions About Debt Collections & Your Credit

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The experts at frequently receive questions from readers about how a debt that goes into collection affects their credit. After all, the path that an unpaid debt makes after it goes to collection can be long.

Here are some of the most common questions, and their answers, to provide collections-burdened consumers with some facts to combat some of the myths that abound when it comes to debt collection and credit scores.

1. Is a Paid Collection Better for Your Score Than an Unpaid Collection?

The answer is no, which could be surprising to some. However, resolving a collection provides other benefits, such as preventing the debt from being sold to another collections agency that could place another collection on your report, or lead to a lawsuit resulting in a judgment — both of which could drive your score down even further.

2. Are Medical Collections Excluded from Credit Scores?

Not when it comes to FICO scores, the scores most widely used by the credit industry. Many experts, including’s Director of Consumer Education Gerri Detweiler, and other advocates for the Medical Debt Responsibility Act argue that medical debt is different from other forms of debt, as it is often beyond the consumer’s control, can knock more than 100 points off of a credit score, and can remain on your credit report for seven years. The legislation would erase medical debts from credit reports within 45 days of being settled or paid. Supporters of the current practice, such as the Consumer Data Industry Association, which represents the national consumer reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — express concern over the removal of “predictive” data, such as medical debt, from credit reports.

3. Are Multiple Collections on a Credit Report Worse for Your Score Than a Single Collection?

Not necessarily. The most important factors that affect how collections impact credit scores are those that look at how recently the collection occurred. As a result, you could, for example, be fortunate enough to get one of two collection debts removed from your credit report, yet see no score improvement if the remaining collection is the more recent of the two.

4. Does the Amount of the Collection Debt Matter?

Not at all, if the lender is using an older version of FICO — which is most likely, since the older models continue to be most widely used by lenders. Even if the newer versions are being used, the amount won’t matter if the debt is more than $100. The latest versions of FICO (FICO 8) that are increasingly being adopted by lenders, exclude collections of $100 or less. Nevertheless, whether being scored by the old or new FICO formula, consumers will see no scoring difference between collections (of the same vintage) having a $150 or $150,000 balance, nor will it matter if the debt is for a parking ticket or emergency medical procedure.

5. Will Paying Off a Collection Have the Opposite Effect and Actually Lower Your Score?

It is a commonly held belief — even taking on “urban myth” proportions at times — particularly among many in the mortgage industry, that when collections are paid scores go down. The claim is that when updated from “unpaid” to “paid,” the collection can appear to the scoring formula as having originated more recently than it did, which, if true, could lower the score. However, the “assigned” date on the credit report doesn’t change when the collection status is updated, nor do the credit scoring formulas give fewer points for a paid than an unpaid collection. So there is no evidence to support the myth that paying a collection can lower a score.

6. Will Settling a Collection Impact My Score?

No. Since, as we’ve learned, neither the dollar amount of a collection nor the paid vs. unpaid status has any bearing on the score, there’s no scoring impact from settling the debt. As in our first example above, the benefit of resolving the debt in this way lies with the prevention of further damage to your credit.

7. Will the Removal of a Collection Raise My Score?

It could, but there’s no guarantee. Because the length of time since the debt was assigned to a collection agency weighs so heavily on a credit score, the removal of the most recent collections can often be expected to raise a score. On the other hand, if there are multiple collections and it’s the older ones that you’re able to get removed, such as via a “pay for delete,” you may not see any improvement in your score following the removal of these older collections.

Collections can happen to anyone, whether you’re already managing your credit responsibly or have hit hard times financially. Separating the facts from the fallacies about collections and credit scores can help you make more of the right moves, and avoid some of the bad ones that can have an undesirable result. One way to check on the impact a collection might be having on your credit is to obtain your free Credit Report Card from or pull a free annual credit report you’re entitled to by law.

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Margaret Marquez

    Credit scores are not free they always want a credit or debit card # for a 1.00 and you have so long before they bill your card full amount so why tell people its free.

    • Barry Paperno

      Hi Margaret,
      You’re right that getting “free” credit scores often require a credit card, particularly when they’re part of a free trial offer that you have to cancel prior to being charged. However, the Credit Report Card from, that includes a free credit score, is truly free.

      We don’t require a credit card and are unable to charge you even if we wanted to! If you haven’t tried ordering yours yet, you might want to give it a try right here:


      • Barbara

        Thanks, Barry, b/c I just assumed would be the same. To those who give the CC # for one thing and then get billed every month, Ripped Off is a good place to go. I had this problem w/some makeup I ordered. The company would not stop the monthly payments. I went to Ripped Off and not only got the payments stopped, but got all my money back by going back to Ripped Off and taking away my negative comments, although I did leave a message to all to beware of the company before ordering.


    • Brian Skinner

      CAREFUL!!!! This happened to me! After the first $1 they start billing you every month for $29. Read all the little tiny boxes that are pre filled.

  • Florence Farr

    Hi I”ve found it very hard to get a copy of my own credit report, even after writing and requesing by mail with all my proper I. D. sent. My driver”s license denied for a renewal in Georgia after over fority plus years using the same name . Was told that was not my name , and refused a license . Had all required information , they still reqused a copy of my devoiced papers which was supposed to be over (40) forty years ago. Had to go to a different county and produce more info still They Put my first name, madien name, and my last name , charge me full price and gave me (30) thrity days to prove it even thou I sumitted all correst info. encluding my son”s death certificate, daugthers birth certificate. Crazy!!! Right?

    • Barry Paperno

      Hi Florence, Yes, that’s crazy! It’s hard to imagine anything other than ID theft is going on, with both the credit bureau and the DMV flagging your identity. I’d think you should be able to talk with someone at the credit bureau or DMV who can make some sense of things, and not just tell you to bring in more pieces of ID. Have you had this experience with all three of the credit bureaus?

  • Alyssa C.

    Hello, I recently (within the past month) paid off two credit card accounts that ended up in collections with the intent to fix my credit score by doing so. Now that I have read this, I feel foolish to have even paid them at all. How can I repair and build my credit score now? Since paying off my collection accounts would not help anyway.

    • Barry Paperno

      Hi Alyssa, You are far from foolish for paying that collection. By doing so you prevented at least a couple of things that could have either lowered your score or kept it low longer, or both, such as: 1) prevented the collection agency from selling it to another agency, which could have added another collection to your credit report; and 2) avoided being sued for the unpaid debt, which could have resulted in a judgment against you that would have also been added to your credit report, where it would remain for seven years from the filing date. Feeling better about having paid it now? As for rebuilding your score, I know it sounds trite, but keep any remaining active credit accounts current and keep the credit card balances down. Or, if you don’t have any active cards or loans, you may want to get a secured card, make small purchases, and pay it off each month – and on time, of course. Unfortunately, there truly are no quick fixes, but take some satisfaction in having done the all-important damage control. From here on out, as long as you do the above, your score should start climbing as the negatives on your credit report age and new positive history takes over. Good luck!

    • Brian Skinner

      Think about getting a secured CC. Keep the balance at 10% of the cards limit and in less than a year your score will go up. Think about doing it twice because multiple accounts count for a lot on your score. Better to have 2 Visa’s with a $300 limit than one with a $1,000 limit.

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  • K. Verner

    I recently received a notice from a collection company for a returned modem to AT&T that was never used. I paid my AT&T account in full and should be returned the balance of the unused portion of my bill when I canceled my service. An AT&T representative informed me that if the modem was sent back as return to sender, it is not processed by the sending facility but is instead logged in and re-sent to the next customer. AT&T and the collection company has refused to provide proof the MAC address for that modem has not or is not being used. This seems like double billing! I’m sure AT&T has sent this modem out and is being paid by another customer, while choosing to subtract the modem cost from my over-payment and requesting I pay the difference.
    How can I make AT&T verify this Modem was received by tracking it’s MAC address or hasn’t been sent to a new customer and refund my over-payment and remove the collection account?

    • Barry Paperno

      I seriously doubt you can require that AT&T provide proof that the modem is now being used by another customer. The simplified version of the issue appears to be that you are being required to show proof that your returned the modem, but are unable to provide that documentation.

      To resolve this situation while – most importantly, IMO – protecting your credit, it would be good to know 1) the amount they are essentially charging you (or refusing to refund) for the modem, and 2) whether or not the collection agency has reported the debt to any of the credit bureaus.

      While it’s clearly not fair for you to pay for something you didn’t use and returned, again if I were you I would be most concerned with any potential credit damage from this debt going to collections.

      While you haven’t stated the amount their asking for, I’m going to guess that it’s not enough to sacrifice your credit for the next 7 years, which is how long a collection can remain on your credit report – even after being paid.

      Assuming you can’t document the return of the modem, I would suggest either paying what they’re asking, or offering to settle the with them for less than the full amount, in exchange for their written assurance that it will not be reported to the credit bureaus. Or if it has already been reported, try and get them to remove it in exchange for payment (pay for delete). In any of these situations, always get any agreements in writing and send any correspondence or payment via certified mail with a return receipt.

      I’m also going to guess that in the future you’ll want to make sure to follow closely the return instructions for anything you might be charged for, and save all documentation for situations like this where it’s your word against theirs. I hope you’re successful in getting this resolved without damaging your credit.

  • Leroy Cumbie

    I have a couple of items now in collection. One is a medical bill, in which I’d been paying on, yet turned over to collections. Second time this hospital has done this to me while paying.This collection agency has begun placing it over & over on my credit report. The other is a T-Mobile bill that was created by a “friend” who didn’t pay & thus all the charges quickly mounted up. That collection agency has slammed my credit report 3 times in March & so far twice in April. Each time they place it, it knocks my score down some more. How many times can they continue to do this? I think once on your report is enough. They do it with extreme malice, only to damage you as much as they can. What can be done about this? Do I need an attorney & file some sort of suit against them?

    • Barry Paperno

      Hi Leroy, I’m not sure what you mean by placing the collection “over and over” and being “slammed,” as collection items are not usually placed multiple times within a month, or at all. Having said that, though, multiple items can appear on a credit report for the same debt, despite the fact that you’re making payments, and it can be very frustrating – especially when you feel like you’re doing the right thing by not ignoring the debt.

      With the medical collection you’re paying on, I would suggest contacting the hospital to advise of the payments you’re making to the collection agency, as they may be unaware, and requesting they refrain from assigning the debt to other collection agencies since you’re paying one already. If you don’t get any satisfaction from the hospital, get your current credit report from the credit bureau(s) reporting the debt, and follow the instructions for disputing inaccurate information with the credit bureau.

      You didn’t say that you’ve been paying on the mobile debt, but if you are, following the same advice as for the medical debt should help to keep T-Mobile from assigning the debt to additional collection agencies. If you haven’t been paying the mobile bill, unfortunately the debt incurred by your “friend” is now yours, and you’ll need to consider resolving it by paying it yourself if your friend doesn’t come through.

      If your efforts toward resolving these debts continue to be unsuccessful, you may want to look into taking the various parties to small claims court. For some excellent advice for dealing with collection agencies, read Gerri Detweiler’s recent post:

      Good luck! -Barry

    • Brian Skinner

      The shuffling should not lower your score. Are you sure you don’t have a higher balance on CC’s? That would account for the lower score.

  • Annie

    I am about to close in a few months on a VA home loan. My lender preapproved me based on a credit score in the high 600’s and my flawless payment history over the last 3 years. About 6 years ago I had a very difficult time financially and had 5 accounts go into collections. My lender is saying that before my loans goes to the VA underwritter for final approval, I have to settle or pay off these 5 collection accounts. I am worried that my scores will take a hit and make me ineligable for VA financing. My lender is saying ask for a “pay for delete” letter as part of the settlement, so my scores will not go down. The seemed convinced that if I don’t get these removed, that once I pay, they accounts will show recent activity and thus hurt my scores. Are they right?


      Annie – Paying/settling a collection account won’t hurt your credit scores so it’s wise to go ahead and pay/settle if you can afford to do so. While paying a collection won’t hurt your score, it won’t improve it either. It’ll just update the account to show that it’s been “paid” or “settled.” As far as your credit scores are concerned, it’s the fact that the collection happened that counts and the date the account went into collection status (usually the 180 day late mark). When you pay the collection, the date the collection initially happened won’t change. Changing that date in order to “re-age” the collection is illegal and if a collector does this, they’ll be in direct violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and can face legal action.

      Whenever you apply for a mortgage, no matter which lender you use, the lender will require that you address any outstanding collection accounts before they’ll approve and close on a loan. There is no difference between a paid collection and a collection “settled” for less so if you can negotiate a settlement, that’s your best route.

      Here are a few resources that you may find helpful:
      Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?
      The Dos and Don’ts of Paying a Debt Collector
      Will Paying a Collection Improve My Credit Score?
      The 7 Biggest Questions About Debt Collections & Your Credit

    • Brian Skinner

      I am a mortgage broker. Ask yours if the underwriters are so concerning why don’t they make it a “closing condition?” No paying or settling these old accounts won’t hurt your score. Congrats on having good credit again. High 600s is not great credit but you are considered “medium risk”. Good luck to you.

  • Wendy Fast

    I have been paying off an outstanding medical balance and the doctor’s office still sent it to a collection agent. I was paying the amount that had been agreed upon, yet they still sent it to collections. Now the collection agent is harassing me while I am still sending payments to the doctor. I don’t know what to do about this. The doctors office said they can’t do anything once its in collection, but I don’t believe that….and they take my check every month! I feel like I just can’t win.
    Any advice?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Wendy –

      You are correct. There is something the medical office can do about it. They can pull it back from collections. I wrote about that here: Reader Stops Mysterious Medical Bill From Damaging Her Credit. Let us know if that works!

    • Michael Bovee

      Wendy – Did you set up the monthly payment you are sending to the doctor’s office in advance, and with their approval on the amount? Was this a situation where you are taking the initiative to send in what you can afford each month?

      Post a comment reply and I can offer more feedback from there.

    • Brian Skinner

      The Dr would have had to SELL it to the collection agency! He has no right to accept payments on it/ If he does he must send them to the collection agency! It is now THEIR property. This Dr. runs a real shady operation.

  • desperately in need

    Being on disability and a limited income has put me in a credit card dilemma. Recently divorced and not able to receive anything I had to depend on credit cards to keep afloat in awaiting a lengthy disability hearing. Now I receive disability, finally.
    The problem is over the last two years I have had four major surgeries and incurred a great deal of medical bills, medication costs and copays for physical therapy for almost two years.
    with paying all of these medical/hospital/home care I have gone from being current to not being able to have enough for credit cards.
    also being eligible for food stamps they have a new system that has put them behind. I have not received any benefits since March. Which also has eaten into my money.
    At this point I don’t know if bankruptcy is my only way out. Instead of getting deeper with late charges and interest.

    do I file bankruptcy? I am afra

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  • Gerri Detweiler

    If it has been removed it shouldn’t be coming back without advance notice to you first. You can either talk with a consumer law attorney who handles credit report issues (the first consult will be free) or you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    Will you let me know what happens?

  • Audrey

    If you make an arrangement to pay off a debt – in this case its an “overpayment” from Social Security to the long term disability company (64K in just under 4 years at $1300+ per month) can the LTD carrier still send you to collections? I have a 780 credit score

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I don’t know if those types of debts typically go to collections unfortunately. I haven’t heard of it but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

  • brant

    Can somebody please help me, I was preapproved for a home loan and all of a sudden got a claim against me for medical bills and im hoping to have them resolved before I buy and close on a home but does it hurt my credit eveb though I dont have a judgement out on me yet? Do I have to let my bank know about all of this and take the chance of loosing the home loan? Just dont exactly know what to do

    • Gerri Detweiler

      What happened? You received a collection call or notice about medical bills?

  • Credit Experts

    You can dispute it with the 3 credit-reporting agencies, and you can also submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Here’s information to help you get started:
    How Do I Dispute an Error in My Credit Report?
    A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes
    The Ultimate Guide to Debt Collectors

  • Credit Experts

    If they ordered the parts without your son agreeing to the repair, you are probably not responsible for the bill.

  • Michael Bovee

    Verizon may not sue, but these cancellation fee debts often end up with debt collectors who do sue.

    You may be able to negotiate a lower pay off amount with the debt collector, say 300 hundred dollars. Can you pull that together?

  • Gary

    Hi, I have 8 grand worth of collections spread across 11 accounts. Obviously my score is on the low 500s. I have the cash to pay them all off but I want to do it in a way that helps my credit score so I can get a truck. How do I do it without hurting my credit more or just not helping it. Thanks.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Paying collection accounts isn’t likely to help (or hurt) your credit scores. You may be able to negotiate a “pay for delete” deal on a few, but it’s not likely to happen with all of them.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Maybe – depends on the lender’s policies, but many auto loan decisions are heavily score driven.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    What state do you live in?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I’m not sure I understand the advice you were given. It’s true that the student loans won’t just go away but there are limits to how long negative information can be reported. If you haven’t paid those credit cards or medical bills and seven years there’s a good chance the statute of limitations has expired. What state you live in? And how are they reported now? As charge-offs? Because charge-offs may only be reported for seven years and the date they were charged off.

    And what is the status of the student loans right now? Are they federal or private?

  • missy123

    I issued a pay to delete letter to the sole collection agency on my credit report. They updated the “last report date” on my account which lowered my score and told me they would not honor my request. ( I offered to pay a lesser amount). I then called them as ask to make payments on the account but was told since it is $355, they will not accept payments and I have to pay in full. They are not trying to work with me at all. I’m now saving to pay the collection off in full which i hoped would raise my score but after reading this it seems it won’t. Is there ANYTHING I can do to get them to STOP reporting the collection after I pay them in full?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Unfortunately no. If it’s accurate that it went to collections can be reported for seven years +180 days from the date fell behind with the original creditor.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Cynthia – are you saying that you had medical bills of $1 million that were reduced to $600,000? If that’s as low as you can get them, and you can afford to pay them, I think you need to talk with a consumer law attorney about filing for bankruptcy. Visit: NACBA

  • Alex

    Good Morning,

    I live in the state of Colorado and I am attempting to buy a house. I need my credit score to be, at minimum, a 620. My score is currently sitting at a 616. I have one account in collections for a total of $2,000 from the university I attended. I called the debt collector today and asked for a pay for deletion. They acted like they had never heard of it before and advised that I reach out to my school to settle the issue. Who do I speak with regarding the pay for deletion? The amount sent to collections was not for a student loan, but unpaid bills to the university itself.

    • Credit Experts

      Pay-for-deletions are frowned upon by credit reporting agencies (because they make scores less valuable). Some agencies, by policy, do not do them. It is possible that if it’s a relatively new collection, the university might pull it back from collections. However, you also need to be aware that your credit scores fluctuate — that 616 could be higher or lower than your score normally is, and your score will also depend on which scoring model is used and when your credit is pulled. You can find more information on credit scores here:
      The Credit Score Range
      The 7 Biggest Questions About Debt Collections & Your Credit

  • Credit Experts

    Please check your email. We responded to your questions there.

    • Collection Problem

      I am in a similar situation as this person. I had gone to the hospital via ambulance. All of my hospital bills were taken care of, so I thought. My hospital bills were all paid, except for the ambulance bill which was sent to a previous address. It was addressed to the incorrect person as well, not to myself. Now the collection agency says that I can settle but I have already taken the credit hit. I only found out about the debt when I wanted to know why my FICO score was not going up, and pulled my actual credit report. Found that I owed a collection agency with not shot of paying to the original creditor. Please advise, pay the settlement, or ask for a payment plan? The charge being $1400, I am not rich and have other priorities, one being imminent.

      • Credit Experts

        How very frustrating. Either way, with a settlement or a payment plan, your credit score will suffer because of the collection. However, time diminishes its impact, and you are paying all your other bills on time and keeping balances low, you are doing all you can. If a settlement would strain your budget to the point of your having to pay minimums on credit cards or (worse) pay late, then a payment plan may be the better option.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Can you check out this article? We wrote about that here: Removing Collection Accounts from Your Credit Reports

  • Credit Experts

    Yes, if they report it to the credit bureaus. The original creditor almost certainly has. You can check to see by looking at your credit reports. Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports. In addition, we recommend keeping an eye on your credit scores. Here’s how to monitor your credit score for free.

  • Credit Experts

    It might be smart to contact the original creditor, explain what happened, and see if you can pay, assuming you agree that you owe for the trip you took. It’s possible they can pull it back from the collection agency. Otherwise, continue to monitor your credit. If it shows up, then you can begin complaining to everyone involved. And keep careful records, with notes of whom you talked to, when, and what was said.

  • Confused

    I have a credit card that has been charged off. I have brokered a settlement to 40% w/ the original creditor, but it is still a HUGE amount of money to me (from 12K to 5K) that I will have to borrow. It will be reported as “settled in full”. Which I understand is BAD, but the damage is already done. And they are unmovable on that entry. If I don’t act, they are selling it off to a collector in the next day or so. I don’t know my current credit score, but I know it is already very bad.

    I am thinking that given I was able to get 40% now, if by chance a collection agency can catch me w/ a summons – that I can settle w/ them out of court to prevent a judgment entry (?) – to prevent the new 7 year entry. But I’m prepared to make myself scarce to avoid being served for the next 8 years, my states SOL.

    So each time a collection is reported on the same account, is it really that bad? Isn’t it really the age that matters? And that even though it is a new collection effort – they need to report the date of the original delinquency (the first missed payment).

    Given that my credit is already low, will this unpaid debt and potential multiple collection entries w/ sold debt on it really be that bad as time goes on? Or will new collection efforts prevent me from recovering from the hit I’ve already had to take?

    Any advice will be appreciated. Thanks.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Certain versions of the FICO score ignore collection accounts with a balance less than $100, but not all do. If the bill is accurate it can remain on your credit reports for up to 7 years. For suggestions on how you might be able to get it removed read: Removing Collection Accounts from Your Credit Reports

  • Credit Experts

    You can check your credit reports to see whether it’s on there, but it’s unlikely that it is. Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports. It is unusual for a creditor to report a late payment until it is at least 30 days late, but it is very odd yours would have been turned over to a debt collector so quickly. You may want to contact your former Internet provider to see whether the account can be pulled back from collections. You can read more here:
    How Long Does Negative Info Stay on My Credit Report?

    5 Sticky Utility Bill Problems & What to Do About Them

  • Credit Experts

    Art —
    If there was activity on the account (such as making a payment), the time would reset. Selling the debt should not reset it. For more, see Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Credit Experts

    Jess —
    A creditor does not have to send an account to collections at all . . . but they are not required to do it within a certain time. Many choose to do it after an account is 90 days past due. We have a couple of resources that may help explain time limits:
    Statute of Limitations On Debt Collection by State
    Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Credit Experts

    Gabby —
    Unfortunately, a collections on your fiancé’s credit report is a serious negative. How much it will hurt his score is hard to tell, but in general, the higher the score, the more a negative item hurts it. It can’t hurt to ask the collection agency to remove it from his credit report. We wish we had better news for you. You can read more here:
    How Long Does Negative Info Stay on My Credit Report?

  • candy

    I want to give furniture back. I am not behind in payments but interest is ridiculous. How bad Wil it affect my credit. I have very good credit.

    • Credit Experts

      Yes, it will affect your credit. And unfortunately, the higher your score, the more a blemish on your credit hurts. Have you considered trying to get a personal loan from a bank or credit union? That would almost certainly lower your interest rate.

  • Linda

    Collection agencies have to give you 30 days to pay before they can report it.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It will if the judgment is more than 7 years old. If it is reported as satisfied and is older than 7 years it will no longer appear on your credit reports. But if it’s more recent, then probably not. Judgments are negative whether they are paid or unpaid.

  • Sarah R

    My roommate is going through some hard times with a collection agency and from her original bank loan. She took out a loan from a reputable bank for school. They told her over the phone (after she finished school and the deferment period was over) that she had to pay the entire 60K now and would not work with her to set up a payment plan. That was in 2011 (last contact from the bank). In December 2014 she received a letter and phone call from a collection agency that she has to pay everything now, or make ridiculous payments before they will consider a payment plan. They are not even working with her based on her income to make affordable payments. I thought the bank should have given sufficient notice before sending to collections? The collection agency is calling every 2 weeks to harass for a payment, even if a payment is already scheduled, they call the day after. I know this goes on her credit report, but I feel like the bank did not notify her of any account changes since 2011 when the loan first went into repayment.
    Any thoughts/comments would be helpful, is it a credit issue or is it a legal issue? Should she speak to a lawyer?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I’ve never heard of a bank demanding the entire $60K on a student loan immediately – especially if it wasn’t in default. Something doesn’t sound right here. Does she have a private student loan or a federal student loan? If she is not sure tell her to check the National Student Loan Data System to find out. If it’s a federal student loan it should be in NSLDS. It also sounds like she may need to get a consultation with an attorney who understands student loan law to figure out what her rights and options are here. (She can find one through the website This is a lot of money and interest is probably continuing to accrue, which means the bill could be $100K when all is sadi and done. It sounds like it would be well worth it to have someone with expertise review the situation with her.

  • james

    i was wandering how much if any my score will be impacted from paying off recent collections maybe 6 months old ? they wont remove them the collection debt agency said but would report as paid …

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Getting it reported as paid won’t boost your credit scores under most models used today. Getting it removed means it would not impact your credit scores. But collection agencies aren’t supposed to delete items just because you paid them. If there was a legitimate dispute underlying the debt then sometimes they will work with you.

  • van

    My dad took out a credit card in my name and left the debt unpaid at 400.00 my credit score is 750 how bad will affect my credit if it goes into collections

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Your credit score can drop 50 – 75 points or more with one collection account.

  • angie

    I had a TJMax store card and got turned into collections for nhaving late soon as that happened i paid it was only 245.00.apparently what got me into this troible was this..i had already had a card and when i went to get scjool clothes i applied for another..when i called to make payment arraingment they told me i had a 0 balance and was very confused about it..i mean i jist opened the card in August of 2014 so i didnt even have it long but what im wondering is becaise i was turned in did that ruin my credit??

    • Credit Experts

      Why don’t you check your credit to see? First, see if it was reported. Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports. You can also see how your credit generally stacks up. Some credit cards put that information on your credit card statements. You can also get a free credit score from that will also help explain why your score is what it is and how to improve.

  • Mr.F

    I received a bill from a collection agency that is over 5 years old and I was never sent a regular bill. What’s going on with this.

    • Credit Experts

      Mr. F. —
      It’s possible that the collection agency recently purchased the debt. You have a right to request what is called a “validation of the debt” within 30 days of being contacted by the collection agency. Federal law requires that they send you that information, via postal mail. As for the debt itself, it can stay on your credit report for seven years and 180 days after the original debt was reported late.

  • Carolina

    I just received a collections letter in the amount of $82 from an unpaid final cable bill. I don’t have any credit cards or a mortgage and plan on paying the amount in full tomorrow. What does this mean for my credit score?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It really depends on everything else in your report, namely how you rate for the other factors besides payment history (age of credit, debt, inquiries, mix of credit). If that other information is positive, given that this is a recent negative item, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw a good lift.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    You should be able to dispute the older collection account that is for the same debt. And collection accounts that are older than seven years +180 days from the date of first delinquency should not be on your credit reports. You can dispute them. Here are two articles that may help:

    Credit Report Double Jeopardy Means Double Damage

    Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?

  • Mary B

    I have a credit score of over 900 and my husband an 898. In 25 years of marriage, never missed a payment and always pay the balance off on credit cards each month. My husband has been disputing a $250 medical bill from a radiologist that was not “In Network” with our Insurance company when he was assured the scan would go to a radiologist In Network. The radiologist has now sent it to collections and my husband refuses to pay the bill on principal. How much is this going to hurt his or my credit score? I want to keep qualifying for 0-percent financing on vehicles in the future and I’m afraid his stubborn ways may hurt us down the road. What do I tell him?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Unfortunately, a collection account can cause your credit scores to drop significantly. But if it’s already reported the damage may be done. You may want to encourage him to get his free credit score and/or his free credit reports to check. The one silver lining in this is that it probably isn’t on your credit reports since it wasn’t your debt. He may also want to file a complaint with this state attorney general and the CFPB. The latter in particular has been looking into medical billing issues and how they affect credit reports and credit scores.

  • Dawn

    When I was 18 I got 4 c.c.’s and maxed them all out due to an injury and loss of work. By the time I was 22 they all had gone to debt collectors, I am now 35, have not had another c.c. or debt since but I cant get approved for ANYTHING. I have no documentation of those past debts to dispute the validity of any claims on my credit.- some agencies have refiled my debt as late as 2014 (w/o any contact- other than a bill being sent to me in my maiden name) What do I do to get that creditor to stop putting the 13 year old debt on my credit? But more importantly, what do I do to repair my credit when I cant get approved for anything?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You can go one of two routes in terms of the old information. One is to file a complaint with the CFPB. The other would be to talk with a consumer law attorney familiar with the FCRA.

      As far as rebuilding your credit goes, have you tried getting a secured card? How Secured Cards Help Build Credit

  • CMK77

    Two and a half months ago a credit card reported I was 60 days past due. I had paid my bill, however when the credit card agency tried to collect from my checking account (the same one I pay all my bills with), they input the wrong number and listed it as returned. I paid it off as soon as I found out the payment had been ‘returned’ due to an incorrect account number. Yesterday, after having a conference call with both the bank and the credit card company, they agreed it was a banking error and have reported as much to the credit agencies. The challenge is, I need to buy a car as soon as possible. Because it was recent, I know it has a more significant impact (other than that, my credit is virtually flawless). With the negative, my score is 724. How much should my score go up after the bad account is removed, and will that have a big impact on my car payment if I don’t wait for the score boost before taking out a loan?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It’s very hard for us to predict exactly how much your scores will change; credit scores are a moving target and based on information available at the time they are requested. But if this is the only negative information on your credit reports, and it is recent, then getting it removed may make quite a difference. (When you say your score is 724 I’m not sure how to gauge that because I don’t know which credit scoring model is being used.)

      Waiting would be your safest bet, but if you can’t wait then you can’t wait.

      Can you get a letter from the credit card company for your records in case this pops up again in the future? Would recommend it.

  • Taca

    Hi! I just learned that my CC was transferred to collections two days earlier than I made the full payment. I also checked my credit reporting and the original creditor did state that the account went to collections. What is my best move on getting it removed. Every time I’ve asked either the original creditor or the collections if they will report to my Credit Reporting they’re saying it will state “Paid in Full” and that my collections agency does not report to credit bureaus. I’m waiting to see how it will report, but in the meanwhile what can I do since I’ve already made the payment to prevent it from not showing (collections) on my report. I’ve never never had a account go into collections, and I’m just in fear it will show on my credit reporting. I’ve recently graduated college, and can not afford the chance of collections showing on my credit reporting. Please help!!! Thx!

    • Credit Experts

      Taca —
      How late was the payment? And did the card issuer accept your payment? Really, all you can do is wait to see what happens, and then react if something does. If what you’ve heard is true, then it won’t show up on your credit report. (You are wise to check your credit report anyway; mistakes can and do happen, and regularly checking can alert you to potential identity theft.)

  • Leonard

    At one time I had many collections. All have expired now and are off my credit report with FICO scores in the high 700s. However lately I have had an intensive flurry of collection calls and letters, far more than when these were on my credit report. I am concerned that they are “Ping Ponging” these collections between themselves to somehow refresh them even though they have long since expired. Can this be the case?

    • Credit Experts

      Anything is possible. Continue to monitor your credit and dispute any information that is accurate or outdated. If you find something that is time-barred or inaccurate, dispute it. Here’s how:
      A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes.

      But if you are certain you no longer owe the debts you are being contacted about, feel free to tell the collectors not to contact them again.

  • PZ

    I have 30k credit card debt over 5-6 accounts. All those accounts will be removed from my credit report next year. I have one credit card with $2500 limit. Should I pay all those old debt now or wait for them to be removed?

  • Amanda Robertson

    I have collection accounts that are about ready to drop off my credit report. I am looking to get a mortgage for a home in the future once those collections get off my report. I am paying down all my debt as well, so I won’t have much debt left and am using credit cards to keep making monthly payments to maintain credit history.
    My question is this: do I need to be concerned that my mortgage lender will be asking for credit history that no longer is listed on my reports and whether I’ve ever had debts go to collections? The debts will most likely be at the 10 year mark at the time I’m applying for a mortgage?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      If the debts aren’t on your credit reports they don’t affect your credit scores and should not be an issue for you.

  • Cindy E.


    I have a pesky debt in collections that keeps popping up on my credit report. An unpaid debt from almost five years ago has been reported on my credit, even though I never received a final bill from the cable company to whom the debt supposedly is owed. I have disputed the item with the credit bureaus and had the debt successfully removed, only to have it pop back up with a new collection agency. How do I have this thing successfully settled and not have it affect my score? Will it help to wait it out (two and a half more years) to let it fall off my credit report, or just pay it off? Also, will it help to pay off the cable company directly, and then the collection agency reporting? At the end of the day, I still have not received a final bill, so I don’t even know what I’m paying, but at this point I want to figure out the best route to have this paid.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You can do two things: 1. Ask the collection agency to validate the debt. (You can send them a certified letter stating you don’t believe you owe the debt and asking them to validate it.) and 2. You can dispute the item on your credit reports with the credit reporting agencies. You don’t have to pay a debt you don’t know you actually owe. At a minimum, you should get documentation of the debt.

      • Cindy E.

        Thank you. I have already disputed the item, and it has now come back as “past due as of June 2015” as the status. I’m not sure what else I can do aside from dispute the item, as I’ve already done, with the credit reporting agencies. If do request the collection agency to validate and I do in fact owe the balance, what is the best way to proceed to have it not affect my credit any more (pay the collection agency, continue to dispute it until it falls off my report, or pay the underlying creditor (cable company))?

        • Gerri Detweiler

          Collection accounts may be reported for seven years plus 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor. The date it was placed for collection is irrelevant in terms of how long it can be reported.

          It sounds like they may have incorrect information in their system which is affecting the dates reporting. You can either file a complaint with the CFPB or consult a consumer law attorney with experience in debt collection/credit reporting.

          If it turns out the debt is valid, you could try to push the collection agency to agree to stop reporting it if you pay it, given the circumstances. These articles go into these topics in more detail: Can a Debt Collector Come After Me If I Never Got a Bill? and The Most Important Dates on Your Credit Report

  • Robbie

    Hey I really appreciate this article. The debt collections agency i have been dealing with does not know this information, doesn’t want to tell me this information or both. This helped me a lot. Thank you so much !

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Our pleasure!

  • jason

    I have a collection on my credit report from a no fault wreck that happened last march. We have taken the trucking companies insurance to court. This collection was reported after all creditors from the wreck we notified that to contact our attorney. The hospital had already filed a settlement lien before they sold this to a collection agency. Is there any thing I can do to fix this problem?

    • Credit Experts

      Jason —
      You should get in touch with your lawyer for advice on dealing with this. We are not lawyers and can’t give you legal advice, but your attorney should be able to tell you how to proceed.

      • jason

        Ok ty.

  • Stephanie

    Hello i went threw a company that say that can delete stuff off my credit.i was paying 100 a month. But its a slow process. I stop paying cause it was adding up.i had a freind that paid out 1000 but her score went up.but she paid them for 10 month.i cant afford that.i really want to get stuff remove off my credit. I wonder how do they do it?.I’ve been threw alot money wise.i just want to start over.please help.

    • Credit Experts

      Stephanie —
      You should be able to do what credit repair agencies do. Go over your credit reports carefully and begin disputing debts that may be time-barred, any you don’t believe you owe, etc. Here’s how credit repair works: The truth about credit repair. You can get one free credit report per year from each of the credit bureaus at And here’s how to monitor your credit score for free.

      Good luck to you.

  • Karen

    Hi I just got a letter today from a collection agency for a medical bill for 75.00. It was 150.00 I have been paying 25 dollars a month on this for 3 months and was surprised when it was turned over to collections. I have read that medical bills under 100 dollars wont be posted to your credit report is this true? Thanks

    • Credit Experts

      It is not true, but you may be able to contact the medical office and get the bill pulled back out of collections if there is an “implied contract.” You can read more here: Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?

      • Ranger

        Only the newer FICO system doesn’t consider under $100 medical bills, but the older model one used by 99% does. So to say that’s not true isn’t actually 100% factual.

        • Gerri Detweiler

          It is not true that they aren’t reported (they are) but you are correct that some FICO models ignore collection accounts where the original balance is less than $100.

  • James

    You should read the article again. It says the exact opposite of that.

  • Jim

    i had a medical bill recently sent to collections because of a postal error. The post office returned the letter stating my address had changed. My bill went straight to collection instead of them calling me by phone. How do i correct this issue? Can it be removed?

  • Sissy

    Hi. I consigned a note through medical financing for a family member who promised to pay a few years ago. Hard times fell on her and she has not paid a note since October 2014. I found this out about a month ago as I kept taking her word for it that she was taking care of it. The collection agency will settle with me if I pay what we agreed on And I received a letter from them stating they will contact the 3 major credit bureau and have the account deleted from my credit. My question is, if I do this will my credit score go back up like it was before she started being delinquent? Please help as I want to take care of it if it only brings my score back up.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      If it’s deleted it will be as if it didn’t existed. Whether your score will be where it was before depends on what other information is in your credit reports.

  • Bruno Ferra

    I have just one collection account listed on my credit reports. My official FICO 8 scores are EQ:645,TU:630 and EX:620. The collection is a 5 months old for $134. This was an error placed on my reports for someone else, and the collection company has agreed to remove the listing from my reports in 10 days. My credit report show: oldest account 10 years, average age: 7 years, 3 opened revolving accounts, 3 closed car loan paid as agreed.What can I expect as far as an increase in credit scores?Hows is good jump? about 50 points? Thanks a lot.

    • Kali Geldis

      Hi Bruno —

      A credit scoring model like the FICO 8 model you’re looking at have a TON of data and factors that go into the calculation of your credit score, so we can’t say how much it will go up, but getting a collection account removed from your report will certainly help, especially if it’s one of the only negative marks on your report.

      Best of luck to you, hope you get a big boost!

      • Bruno Ferra

        Thank you very much Kali.

  • Joey

    Hi, I was living in another country for the past 7 years. I tried to pay my Chase credit card as late as 2011. But was unable to keep up with it due to difficulties in converting money and wiring it over all the time. I’ve recently come back to California and my credit report states that I owe Chase $4600. But it’s not in active collection. Last payment was in May of 2011. I have a fico of 640 and have no other delinquencies or negative remarks on my record, with several accounts fully paid on time, including a car loan. In your experience, is it possible to negotiate with Chase to delete this record all together, in return for a potential full payment? Thank you

    • Michael Bovee

      You would not be able to offer double the amount owed to get a major credit card issuer to delete their derogatory reporting.

      I would try not to get hung up on a negative item remaining on your credit. If it is a collection or charge off account, paying or settling the debt will get your credit updated to show a zero balance owed and a resolved account. You can begin to accomplish most of your credit and finance goals from there, or within a reasonable time frame after.

  • Carlos

    Hi Everyone,

    Last week, I received the letter from American Coradius International LLC in an attempt to collect a debt of $350.00 on some Paypal. Currently, My credit hasn’t been affected, and I open an investigation since I am not the owner of the Paypal account that owes that money. Anyway, My FICO is currently 750 and I don’t want it to be affected at all. What are my options? Should I offer to pay the debt in return for removal of the account? If yes, What exactly do I need to do in order to make sure that they do remove my account.

    Please help

    • Credit Experts

      First, ask for a “validation of the debt.” You may also want to reach out to PayPal to get this situation resolved. Hopefully, you can clear this up without it affecting your credit.

  • Brady Cone

    I have a question: I am in the process of refinancing my mortgage. I have worked really hard at increasing my credit scores. They are all 3 about 695. My lender is okay with that, but would really like it to get up to 720, because I’ll get better rates. The only blemish on my reports are 3 late payments from 22 months ago. I’ve never had anything in collections, any judgements or anything like that, just the late payments. I have heard that late payments don’t have as much of an effect on your score after they are 2 years old. Is that true? Is it worth waiting 2 more months for the refinance in hopes that them getting to the 24 month mark will increase my score enough? I find it hard to believe that it would increase my score by 25 points. But, if it’s possible it might be worth it if I have a better rate for the long haul.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      That’s a tough one. Yes, as negative information gets older it can carry less weight but I’d hesitate to say that the two year mark will have the effect you want. (There are many different scoring models, and many different factors affecting your scores.)

      And it’s hard to predict where mortgage rates will be in two months.

      Ultimately it’s your call, but think about your tolerance for risk and whether you will be happy overall if you lock into the rate for which you qualify for now.

      • Brady Cone

        Thank you for you reply!

        • Gerri Detweiler

          You’re welcome. Let us know how this turns out for you.

  • Joe

    Hi I had a collection removed from my Equifax and my score dropped 18 points!! I am confused. Please help??

    • Credit Experts

      As the post says, “Because the length of time since the debt was assigned to a collection agency weighs so heavily on a credit score, the removal of the most recent collections can often be expected to raise a score. On the other hand, if there are multiple collections and it’s the older ones that you’re able to get removed, such as via a “pay for delete,” you may not see any improvement in your score following the removal of these older collections.”

      Scores also fluctuate month to month, and an 18-point change is not all that unusual.

      • Joe

        Thank you for your response and helping me understand.

        • Credit Experts

          You’re welcome!

  • momo

    I recently moved out of the old apartment which I shared with 2 other people.
    We got the final bill and it was over $600 because one of the roommate left a huge stain on the carpet that had to be replaced and because of that the other 2 room which was fine had to replace the carpet as well to make all 3 bedrooms match according to the leasing office.
    We calculated the bill but the person who left the stain may not pay her portion which is around $500 due to the replacement of the entire carpet.
    Anyway, the payment needs to be made in 14 days and if it’s not it will go to the collection company.
    All 3 of us were on the lease so if it goes to the collection company it’ll be all 3 of us even if me and the other roommate paid our portion. How can this affect my credit score?
    Currently I have an excellent credit score so I’m very concerned. Never have my bills been to a collection company, I always pay on time.
    if she refused to pay, the other roommate and I are planning to go to the court.
    Please let me know what’s the best option and what can happen to my credit score.

  • Meghan

    My name is Meghan. I have been searching the best way to clean up my debt and I’m still a little unclear of the best route. I eventually want to buy a house (hopefully in the next 3 years). I have about $1200. in debt. I was originally going to try to settle but a lot of articles say that is not the best. My score is only 583 so I need to increase my score but also get rid of my debt. Should I make monthly payments or try to settle with the agencies?

  • Smithy

    Hi. I am currently making payments to a collections agency, however, they are still reporting it monthly. Would that lower my score, although I am making payments? If so, what can I do if I don’t have the money to pay in full?

    • Credit Experts

      A collections account, whether you are paying it or not, has a significant negative impact on your credit score. The best you can do at this point is make sure you pay any other credit accounts on time so that you have some positive information to help offset the negative.

  • Deb Janveau

    Hi Barry, After paying off a proposal by selling my house about 7 years ago I receive a call from a collections agency for a utility company for a bill they say I incurred at the same time I sold my house. I believed this to be settled as the new owners were on my bill and the company said they would follow up. I finally have the opportunity to move forward with my credit. My score is presently at 778. The utility company is finally off my credit report, how does it happen that after all this time, a collection company calls me. I told the person this was almost 8 years ago, She said if I don;t pay, it can affect my credit rating. Is this true?

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      Hi, Deb,

      You can request written verification of the debt to learn what the collector is referring to. Negative information generally takes seven years to age off of your credit report so you could possibly dispute any information that appears on your credit report. Beyond, you can consult a consumer attorney as to what you legal options may be.

      Thank you,


  • KG

    Hi There,

    My Health Care company can’t seem to send their bills to my correct address. I get EVERYTHING else they send, but never any bills. I recently called them to find out why I never get bills, do they have my correct address. It was unclear if they had it. They seemed to say it needed to be updated but then said, oh no we do have the correct address. To which I said, why haven’t I received any bills. They said they were going to send me something to confirm or something like that (I don’t recall the specifics of it). Fast forward about a month, I never received anything and come to find out they’ve sent my bill to collections. My view is it’s THEIR fault for not sending me the bills correctly and for not calling me to collect. They tried to blame me for the fact that bills were “never returned” by the US Mail. It’s unbelievable that every other department at that major health care company has my correct address but the billing department can’t figure it out. Long story short, it’s not a lot of money and I have no problem paying it, but I’m concerned that if I pay the collections agency, it’s going to hurt my credit. What should I do about this?

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      HI, KG,

      An unpaid collections account can hurt your credit score (though credit scoring models are trying to move away from unpaid medical collections unduly affecting someone’s credit.) You may want to consult a consumer attorney about your options when it comes to paying. However, if the account does appear on your credit report, it may impact your score.

      Thank you,


  • Tonia

    I just paid off on Nov 6 a total of 6 negative items on my report . one is a credit card which had a $1,200 amount on a $1,000 credit limit which i still now have open with a zero balance. I have always paid on time but my score and my score is 509. How much should my score go up and should i go back and get my 5 collections deleted since all of them is under 2 yrs old?

    • Credit Experts

      Paying off a collections doesn’t erase it from your credit report, but it does eliminate the possibility that you will be sued and possibly get a judgment against you (which is worse than a collections). It might be smart to use the card with the $1,000 credit limit, but keep balances low (no more than 30% of your credit limit, and less is even better). Paying on time is the very best way to raise your credit score. (And you may not be able to get the collections deleted; fortunately, time and positive history reduces their impact.) Here are some tips on rebuilding credit:
      How to Rebuild Credit

  • wilma

    We are having a dispute with Direct Tv over us opp out of a 2yr contract of which, we left them because they didn’t put our refund or credit back to the credit card they put it on there statement. Now they are charging us because we left after 1 year if we pay a small amount can the send it to collection???

    • Credit Experts

      If you are asking if paying at least something can keep an account out of collections, the answer is often no. You can read more here:
      Can I Pay a Creditor Less Than I Owe?

  • Tom W.

    I just found out I gave a personal guarantee by virtue of signing the contract for a company credit card for myself and 2 colleagues at my old company. The card had a zero balance when I left, but one of the other 2 maxed it out (10,000) after I left. He had agreed (in writing) to take my name off as personal guarantor of the card, but never bothered too do so. The credit company is now chasing me for the 10,000. My credit score currently is about 790. What would my score reduce too if I refuse to pay? I am pretty sure they will not sue…

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