Compiled by llecs, myFICO moderator.
Many of us have made that mistake a time or two or more when we let things slide and we were late with a payment here and there. Or maybe there was a major financial event like a death in the family, divorce, disability, job loss, or others which resulted in lates, charge-offs, and collections. Based on the Fair Credit Reporting Act, these items can continue to haunt us for the next 7 years which can impact your interest rates, your credit terms, or even if you'd get approved for future or not. Thankfully there are creditors and collection agencies out there who will forgive our past and help us move on by deleting these items early off our credit reports. How do we ask for that forgiveness? We use a Goodwill (GW) letter.
What are GW letters?
A Goodwill letter is communication from you to an Original Creditor (OC) or Collection Agency (CA) asking for goodwill or help in removing specific reporting of a tradeline like lates, status, comments, or even removing the reported tradeline entirely.
Who are GW letters for?
GW letters are only for OCs or CAs. GW letters do not go to public records (PRs) like liens, bankruptcy listings, or judgments. GWs also are not mailed to the Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs). Also, GW letters are only for paid items on your credit report. If you have any unpaid items you would like off, then an alternative is to send a Pay-For-Delete letter (PFD) instead. Be sure to read What Steps Do I Take.
Why should I send a GW?
If a GW is accepted, then your credit report could look better for it. This can result in higher scores in many cases which would improve how your existing creditors view you now and improve your odds of credit approval in the future.
What's in a GW letter?
All GW letters should be customized and tailored to your own situation, though there are several examples below to give you an idea. The best GW letters out there are short and to the point within a page or less. They'll usually include a mention of your name, address, contact info, and your account number for easy lookup on their end. It'll sincerely mention your business relationship, what happened to cause the baddie, what steps you took to correct it, and what you steps you took to make sure it never happens again. Finally, it'll wrap up with your specific request like request to remove a late or lates, remove the account, and so on.
How should I send a GW letter and whom shall I address it to?
You can send it via mail, fax, a phone call, e-mail, communication through their website, or you can send it through a 3rd-party. If you mail it, mail it via a stamp and don't send it certified or CMRRR. Doing so could appear confrontational. You can also use a third-party via sites like planetfeedback.com. There are several success stories out there where sites like that resulted in GW success. Also in sending GWs, be very cordial and friendly. They are doing you a huge favor.
One good starting point is to address your letters "Dear Sir or Madam" and to use the address as listed on your credit reports. Most of the success stories in here never involved a specific person or department. If after time passes and success is limited, then certainly ask a higher up within the organization, but don't bombard that person or department with multiple requests. You want to ask for help and not annoy them.
What are the odds of success?
Can't remember who said it, but you'll miss 100% of the shots you don't take. Same applies with GW letters. Sending no letters will result in no results. It is a numbers game too. You and I can have the same baddie on our report, send identical letters on the same day and have opposite results. But never ever give up. It's not that common to see success with your first try.
What response, if any, should I see?
Most of the time, you won't get any response from the OC or CA. The response will be the correction yourself so be sure to pull your credit reports regularly or use a Credit Monitoring Service (CMS) to see if there's any success before giving it another go. On some occasions, they will contact you and will let you know what action they'll take. If denied for your GW request, they'll usually flat out tell you "no" that they won't remove it. In some examples in here, the creditor might say something like "it is illegal to remove accurate items from your credit report." Ignore it. It is illegal to report inaccurately, but not to remove items early.
Is there any risk to sending GW letters?
You should be aware of some risks to sending GW letters. A vast majority of the time, there are no issues, but you should know these just in case. First, there are a few examples in here of a GW resulting in the cross-reporting of a baddie. Maybe the baddie was only reporting on Equifax, but after the GW is received, they could report to TransUnion or Experian if they wanted to. Second, a GW sometimes leads to a dispute comment on your credit report. A dispute comment can impact how FICO reads that tradeline, like ignoring the balance and CL on a current account which would mess up utilization. Also, some lenders have been known to deny a mortgage if a dispute is reporting. Third, a GW in rare cases can result in additional baddies or lates being added. Maybe the OC was underreporting the baddies and a GW updated those. Fourth, in a few isolated cases, the GW resulted in the OC closing the tradeline entirely. Finally, there are quite a few cases in here of a GW resulting in in the entire tradeline being deleted when you didn't want it deleted. This can impact your score if it was an older account or helped your AAoA. Use due diligence in weighing risk.
Any last minute tips?
Be patient! Never give up!
Great threads on Goodwilling:
User-submitted GW examples:
A GW resulted in....
Chase deleted 3 TLs (1 settled and 2 had 90s)
RJM Acquisitions deletes after a GW ...scroll down a couple more posts to see the success.
Be sure to see the next post for more GW success!
Other user-submitted GWs...success, if any, wasn't mentioned:
GW for an unnamed CC for late removals.
Example GW letter for a paid medical CA.
Request for removal of lates reported by Chase.
These are just a few of hundreds of GW success stories out there. There are too many to post, but here's a select few success stories. Notice that many of these posters requested just a late or two to be removed and were successful. Some asked for 30 to 120-day lates to be removed and were successful. Some asked that the CO-reference be removed and were successful. Some asked for the entire tradeline to be deleted and were successful. The GW success stories covered credit cards, installment loans, mortgages, student loans, and collection agencies. Some of these were seemingly impossible for creditors like Bank of America, Chase, AmeriCredit, Target, Capital One, First Premier, and CAs like Arrow Financial, AFNI, NCO, and many more.
Below are some GW success mentions found within these forums:
Called-in GW resulted in success with lates being removed for American Honda Finance, Chevron, and GEMB/Dilliards.
Persistent GWs letters resulted in lates being removed from Macys and Bloomingdales.
GWs resulted in 30-days lates being removed from Citi/Shell.
Capital One removed a 30-day late due to a GW.
Citimortgage removed a 30-day late
GW success with Everhome Mortgage and Chrysler Financial
GW win for Citi/Children's Place - 2 lates, GEMB/WalMart - 2 lates, Orchard removed lates, Macys - 2 lates, & Citi/Shell zapped a CO.
Credit One removed a 30 day late.
Three paid CAs removed with help from GWs.
CapOne success all around. They removed a 120-day late, a 90-day late, and updated a 30-day TL between 2 posters via phone.
Success with Direct Loans and CapOne. SL removed 6 lates up to 120 days and CapOne removed two 30s.
AmeriCredit and HSBC partial success with a GW. Americredit deleted 2 lates off EQ and HSBC deleted a late off TU.
Phoned GW success for an unnamed GEMB store account.
Bank of America removed a 30-day late thanks to a GW.
E-mailed GW to Macys results in a 30-day late being deleted AND a refund of the late fee.
ACS Student Loans deletes several lates, including a 120-day.
RJM Acquisitions deletes after receiving a GW.
Chase GW success after using Planetfeedback.
Wells Fargo Financial (WFF) deletes a 30-day after a GW.
Asset Acceptance and CMI both accepted GWs.
Portfolio Recovery Associates agreed to delete after a GW.
Wachovia deletes after a GW.
Diversified Adjustment Services deleted after a GW.
Arrow Financial deleted thanks to a GW.
NelNet SL agreed to delete after a GW.
Capital One CO deleted with the help of a Goodwill Letter.
GW e-mail success for MOHELA (Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority)
GW deletion with ER Solutions, R&R Recovery, AFNI, and Arrow Financial.
Lexus Financial removes a 30 day late.
First Premier lates removed after a GW.
GW success for CACH, LLC (aka Square Two Financial).
Santander removed lates after a GW.
United Collection Bureau deleted after a GW.
Another Verizon Wireless GW success using Planetfeedback.
Wells Fargo CC goodwill success in removing a 30-day late.
..........and hundreds of others!
Never ever give up.