Have you ever missed a loan or credit card payment deadline? If so, you know the repercussions. Besides incurring late fees and higher interest rates, payments delayed by over 30 days can harm your credit score.

But there’s good news: a late payment doesn’t have to haunt you forever. You might be able to turn things around with a goodwill letter.

While a goodwill letter won’t get you a refund on late fees or better terms from your lender, it might help tidy up your credit report and boost your score.

What is a goodwill letter?

A goodwill letter is a formal letter to a creditor or lender, such as a bank or credit card company, to request forgiveness for a late payment or other negative item on your credit report.

In the letter, you typically:

  • Explain the circumstances that led to the late payment or issue
  • Express remorse and your intention to pay on time going forward
  • Request that the creditor consider removing or adjusting the negative item

The lender may then decide to make the requested changes to your account as a gesture of goodwill.

While there’s no guarantee of success, a well-written goodwill letter can persuade a creditor to make a positive adjustment to your account, which can help clean up a negative mark on your credit report.

When should you write a goodwill letter?

Consider writing a goodwill letter when you’ve had a late payment or other negative item reported on your credit report due to circumstances beyond your control. Suitable situations might include a temporary financial hardship, medical emergency or personal crisis.

It’s crucial to ensure that the late payment or issue was a one-time occurrence and not a recurring problem. Also, only proceed with a goodwill letter if you plan to maintain good financial habits going forward. Writing one can be beneficial when you believe your situation deserves understanding and you’re committed to repairing your credit history and boosting your credit score.

Keep in mind that many lenders offer financial hardship programs that can help get you through difficult times. Most lenders prefer that you leverage these programs right away rather than ask for forgiveness later.

Ultimately, if the late payment in question is part of a pattern of irresponsible financial behavior, a goodwill letter may not convince the creditor to make adjustments to your account.

How do you write an effective goodwill letter?

Writing a formal letter, like dressing formally in a courtroom, can show your lender that you take your late payment seriously. It shows respect for the process and a willingness to act professionally, which can work in your favor.

An effective goodwill letter requires the following:

  1. Address the creditor or lender respectfully and thank them for their time.
  2. Clearly explain the situation that led to the late payment with relevant details and/or documentation to support your explanation.
  3. Own up to the mistake without excuses. Acknowledge any errors and express genuine remorse for any inconvenience caused.
  4. If applicable, emphasize your good payment history with the creditor. Mention previous instances of on-time payments or your long-standing relationship with them.
  5. Reassure the creditor that the late payment was a one-time occurrence and not typical of your financial behavior. Explain any steps you’ve taken to prevent future issues.
  6. Clearly state what you’re asking for, whether it’s the removal of the negative item from your credit report, a late fee waiver or another form of leniency.
  7. Thank them for their time and express hope for a positive resolution.

Before sending your letter, carefully review it for clarity, accuracy and professionalism. Make any necessary revisions to ensure your message is clear and persuasive.

By crafting a well-written goodwill letter, you can increase your chances of a positive outcome and potentially improve your credit situation.

What to include in a goodwill letter

When writing a goodwill letter, consider following this template:


[Your Name][Your Address][City, State, Zip][Phone Number][Email Address]


Recipient’s information

[Creditor/Lender’s Name][Creditor/Lender’s Address]

Dear [Creditor/Lender’s Name],

I am writing to address a recent late payment on my account with [Creditor/Lender’s Name].

[Explain the circumstances that led to the late payment or negative item on your credit report. Be honest and provide relevant details. Note any documentation you can enclose.]

I take full responsibility for the late payment. [Acknowledge any mistakes made and express genuine remorse for any inconvenience caused.]

Despite this incident, I have maintained a positive payment history with [Creditor/Lender’s Name]. [Highlight any previous instances of on-time payments or your long-standing relationship with the creditor.]

I assure you that this late payment was an isolated incident. [Reassure the creditor that the late payment was not typical of your financial behavior and explain any steps taken to prevent future issues.]

I kindly request [specific action, such as the removal of the negative item from your credit report, a waiver of late fees or another form of leniency].

Thank you for taking the time to consider my request. I appreciate your understanding and cooperation in this matter.


[Your signature]

Also, list any additional documents included with the goodwill letter, such as proof of payment or hardship letters.

How do you send a goodwill letter?

Once your letter is ready, address the envelope by writing the creditor’s name and address on the front and your own name and address as the return address.

After that, attach the necessary postage to the envelope. Then, simply send the letter by dropping it in a mailbox or taking it to the post office.

If you want proof of delivery, consider sending the letter via certified mail. You will pay a little extra for this option, but it can be worthwhile to keep detailed records.

Finally, after sending the letter, you may want to follow up with the creditor to ensure they received it and inquire about its status.

What expectations should you have when sending a goodwill letter?

Checking your expectations with a goodwill letter is vital to avoid disappointment. Remember, a goodwill letter is a request for leniency, not a guaranteed solution. Knowing this helps in managing your expectations from the outset.

Additionally, it’s crucial to evaluate the circumstances surrounding your late payment or negative item. Assess whether it was an isolated incident due to a legitimate hardship or part of a recurring pattern. Researching the creditor’s policies regarding late payments and goodwill adjustments can also provide insight into the likelihood of success.

When crafting your goodwill letter, be realistic about what you’re asking for and understand that the creditor may choose not to grant your request. Patience is also key — it may take time for the creditor to review and respond to your letter, so don’t expect an immediate resolution.

Have alternatives in mind, such as:

A backup plan can help manage expectations in case your goodwill letter doesn’t yield the desired outcome.

Finally, maintaining a positive outlook throughout the process, regardless of the outcome, can help you navigate the situation with resilience and determination.

What do you do if you never made a late payment?

If you’ve always made timely payments but see a late payment on your credit report, you should take a different course of action.

In this case, you can reach out to the creditor to address the inaccuracy. If the creditor finds that they misreported the late payment, you can request that they report the error to the credit bureaus.

If this doesn’t work or as an alternative, you can dispute the misreported payment with the bureaus. You will want to dispute with the three major credit bureaus, Transunion, Experian and Equifax. Each credit bureau has options for convenient online disputes.

Next steps

Goodwill letters can be an effective tool to tackle late payments on your credit report. It’s all about understanding what these letters are for, crafting them carefully and keeping your expectations realistic.

If you missed a payment, take a look at your situation to figure out if a goodwill letter is the right move. If so, get to work crafting a solid letter and send it off to your creditor.

If a goodwill letter doesn’t do the trick, you have some backup options. In some cases, counseling, settlement or a dispute with the bureaus could be a better way to go. Take it step by step, stay patient and remember — you can control your credit, one letter at a time.

Frequently asked questions

  • It varies. A well-written goodwill letter can often persuade a creditor to help, but there’s no guarantee.
  • No, lenders are not required to reply to goodwill letters. Whether or not you get a response depends on the lender’s policies and is done at their discretion.
  • People write goodwill letters to explain late payments due to financial hardship, emergencies or crises, asking for understanding from the creditor.