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Key takeaways

  • A delinquent account is any credit account where the minimum monthly payment has not been met.
  • Address delinquent debt promptly to minimize its impact on your credit score and financial stability.
  • Paying off delinquent accounts and disputing inaccuracies on your credit report can improve your creditworthiness and financial health.

A delinquent account is a credit account in which the borrower fails to pay a bill on time. Any time you borrow money, the lender expects at least a minimum payment by the due date. If you are unable to make the payment, your account may become delinquent.

What does a delinquent account mean for your finances? Missing a payment here and there doesn’t sound too bad, but it can actually drag down your credit score and make borrowing in the future more challenging. If you can, a delinquent account is best to be avoided.

Here’s what you need to know about delinquent accounts and how to deal with them.

What is a delinquent account?

A delinquent account is a credit account where the borrower has failed to make a payment by the due date. When the minimum amount due is not paid by the deadline, the account becomes overdue and is classified as delinquent. Delinquent account meaning extends to any credit line, including credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, or other forms of borrowed money. The severity of delinquency increases as the outstanding balance remains unpaid, typically progressing from 30 days past due to 60, 90, and even 120 days past due.

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What are the potential consequences of a delinquency?

The consequences of a delinquent account depend on how long it remains delinquent. The longer you fail to repay the money, the more severe the consequences.

For instance, if you don’t make your minimum credit card payment or make a late payment on your personal loan, you may be hit with a late fee or penalty. Even if you’re only a few days late. The longer you wait to repay, the more late fees and penalties you’ll receive.

In the case of credit card delinquency, the credit card company may impose a penalty APR (annual percentage rate) that is 29.99% or higher. The penalty APR makes the delinquent credit card account even harder to repay.

Once you’re 30 days past due, most lenders will report the delinquent account to the three major credit bureaus, resulting in a lower score. If the delinquency persists, your account will continue to be reported to the credit bureaus, late fees and penalties will pile on, and the lender may hand the account over to debt collectors.

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How does a delinquent account affect your credit score?

A delinquent account can significantly hurt your credit score, as delinquent payments are seen as indicators of financial unreliability. Payment history is the most important factor in all credit scoring models. It accounts for 35% of how your FICO score is calculated. Therefore, late payments will have a negative impact on your score.

delinquent account

When you miss a payment, the lender or credit card issuer typically reports the delinquent status to the credit bureaus after 30 days. Each subsequent missed payment—60, 90, 120 days—further harms your score.

The severity of the impact depends on your prior credit history and the length of the delinquency. If you have a good score, a single missed payment will have a more severe impact on your rating than someone with a poor score. This is because a missed payment is seen as the beginning of payment issues, while for someone whose score is already bad, it is seen as normal. If your account becomes severely delinquent, your score will drop even further and it will be harder to recover.

A delinquent mark will remain on your credit report for up to seven years from the first missed payment. The good news is that the further you get from the delinquency, the less effect it has on your score.

Other effects of a delinquent account

Beyond damaging your credit score, a delinquent account can have several other adverse effects.

Consistent late payments lead to accumulating late fees and penalties, which can add up quickly and make repayment more challenging. Moreover, a delinquent account can strain your relationships with lenders. They may reduce your credit limit or close your account altogether, limiting your ability to borrow money. A closed account may be considered charged off and sold to a debt collection agency.

Mortgage lenders will likely initiate foreclosure proceedings, and auto lenders may pursue repossession. In severe cases, legal action may be taken to recover the owed amount, potentially leading to wage garnishment or liens against your property.

Delinquent accounts can also affect your ability to rent an apartment, as many landlords check credit reports as part of the rental application process. Addressing missed payments promptly is crucial to avoid these adverse outcomes.

How can you find delinquencies in your credit report?

The first step to fighting delinquency is to know about them.

  • Start by obtaining a copy of your report from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You are entitled to a free report from each bureau annually through AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Once you have your reports, carefully review each section. Look for any accounts marked as late or in collections, as these indicate delinquencies. Pay special attention to any entries labeled as “serious delinquency,” as these signify accounts that are significantly overdue – 90 days or more past due.
  • Check for accuracy by comparing the report details with your payment records. If you spot any errors, promptly dispute them with the respective credit bureau. Regularly monitoring your report helps you address any delinquencies before they escalate.

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What should you do to remove delinquent accounts from your credit report?

Removing delinquent accounts from your credit report requires proactive steps. You have three basic options:

  1. Pay for delete agreement
  2. Ask for a goodwill deletion
  3. Dispute an inaccurate delinquency

Start by contacting your creditor to negotiate a payment plan, settlement, or lump sum payment. Often, creditors are willing to work with you to resolve the debt. Once the debt is settled, request a “pay for delete” agreement. This is when the creditor agrees to remove the delinquency from your report upon payment.

Another option to fix delinquency on your credit report is to bring your account current and then request a goodwill deletion. Creditors are not obliged to do this, but they may be willing to do so if missing a bill is a rare occurrence.

If you spot an inaccurate delinquent account on your report, you should dispute it directly with the issuing bureau immediately. Gather documentation supporting your case and submit a formal dispute online or by mail. The bureau must investigate and respond within 30 days of your submitting the complaint.

How can you avoid delinquent accounts?

The best thing you can do is avoid a reported delinquency in the first place. Here are a few tips to try:

Talk to your lender before the payment date arrives

If you anticipate difficulty in making a payment, contact your lender before the due date. Lenders often offer options such as extending the payment deadline, setting up a payment plan, or temporarily reducing the payment amount. Being proactive demonstrates your commitment to resolving the issue and can prevent the account from becoming delinquent.

Ensure that your other accounts are paid on time

Consistently making on time payments is essential to avoid delinquency. Set up automatic payments or reminders to ensure you don’t miss any payment deadlines. Prioritize your bills and allocate funds accordingly. Even if you can only make minimum payments, staying current on all accounts helps maintain your score and financial stability.

Consolidate your debts

Debt consolidation can simplify your finances by combining multiple debts into a single loan with an affordable monthly payment. This can make it easier to manage your debt and ensure timely payments since you only have one due date to worry about. Consolidation often comes with a lower interest rate, reducing the overall amount you owe and making repayment easier.

Create a budget and stick to it

Create a budget based on your income. List your essential expenses – rent, utilities, groceries, etc. and subtract them from your income. Then, set aside 10% to 20% of your income for savings or debt payments. The rest you can use for discretionary spending. A well-planned budget ensures you have enough to cover all your financial obligations and prevents overspending.

Look for debt and credit counseling

If you are falling further into credit card debt, seek assistance from a nonprofit credit counselor. Credit counseling services can help you manage your finances, learn how to budget, and offer advice on improving your credit score. They also provide debt management plans and negotiate with your creditors to help you effectively pay off your debts, often with reduced interest rates.

Frequently asked questions

If your account is delinquent, it means you have missed one or more payments. This status indicates that your account is overdue, and the longer it remains unpaid, the more severe the delinquency becomes. Delinquent accounts can lead to late fees, a lowered score, and potential legal actions if not addressed promptly.

To fix a delinquent account, first contact your creditor to discuss repayment options or negotiate a settlement. Make the agreed-upon payments promptly to bring the account current. If there are errors on your credit report, dispute them with the issuing bureau. Additionally, seek guidance from a credit counselor to develop a sustainable budget and avoid future delinquencies.

You should pay off a delinquent account. This will stop further damage to your credit score, halt additional fees and interest, and prevent legal action. Contact your creditor to negotiate a payment plan or settlement.

Yes, you can remove delinquency from your credit report in certain cases. If the delinquency is inaccurate, you can dispute it with the issuing bureau. If it is valid, you can try to negotiate a “pay for delete” agreement with your creditor. They may not agree, in which case you will have to wait seven years for it to fall off your report.

Bottom line

A delinquent account can be stressful and damaging to your finances, but they are not insurmountable. By taking informed and deliberate actions, you can mitigate their effects and prevent further damage to your credit score.

Start by paying off delinquent accounts and trying to remove them from your credit reports. Then, work to establish a positive payment history. Set up automatic payments or reminders so that you never miss another due date. Over time, the delinquency’s effect will fade, and your score will improve.

Stay diligent and prioritize your financial responsibilities to avoid the pitfalls of delinquency. With the right approach, you can overcome delinquencies and build a stronger, more secure financial future.

About the author

Rachel Alulis

Rachel Alulis has been the lead editor for Moneyfor’s credit cards team since 2015 and for the financial rewards team since 2023. Before joining Moneyfor, Rachel worked at USA Today and the Des Moines Register. She then established a successful freelance writing and editing business specializing in personal finance. Rachel holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an MBA.