Do ‘pay for delete' letters work to clean up your credit report?

Consumers with subpar credit scores and derogatory marks on their credit reports are often encouraged to reach out to their creditors — specifically collections agencies — to see if they can work things out. One way of doing this is by writing a “pay for delete” letter.

In this article, we’re going to cover whether a “pay for delete” works and should you spend time writing one.

‘Pay for delete’ letters: Do they work?

A “pay for delete” letter is correspondence that you send a creditor to have a negative mark removed from your credit report.

It could be a delinquent collection due to a forgotten bill or one that was so huge, you couldn’t handle it. But whatever the case, the thinking behind a “pay for delete” letter is to gauge whether a debt collector is open to helping you repair your credit.

Typically, these types of letters happen concurrently with attempts by the consumer to negotiate a debt.

But here’s the thing: Usually, the creditor will require that your debt be paid in full or that you agree to a payment plan before they will do anything to try to help.

Why ‘pay to delete’ letters are not reliable

We ventured up to Clark Howard's Consumer Action Center (CAC), which provides free advice to consumers, including those dealing with collections agencies.

We asked Lori Silverman, manager of the CAC, if “pay to delete” letters work. She said they are simply not a reliable option when all creditors want is their money.

in essence, a “pay to delete” letter may sound like a great resource for consumers looking to clean up their credit reports and raise their credit scores — but there’s no guarantee they will work. It really just depends on how generous the creditor feels like being — they’re not obligated to do anything for you.

Sending a nice letter to a company you’re indebted to may work in some cases — Lori says she’s seen it with medical debt — but generally sending these letters is probably a waste of time.

How to handle a debt collector

Money expert Clark Howard says if bill collectors are harassing you, one way to get them to back off is to send a "drop dead" letter.

A “drop dead” letter is written notification from you to any collection agencies that are harassing you. It informs them that you’re aware of your rights under FDCPA and that you’re requesting they stop contacting you about a given debt — effective immediately! This doesn’t mean the debt will do away (it won’t) but it could mean a little less aggravation in your life.

Here are 3 other ways to deal with debt collectors

  • Ask for a debt validation letter: Debt collectors are required to send you a written debt validation notice that explains what you owe.
  • Know your rights with debt collectors: If you legitimately owe a debt, you have specific rights under federal law.
  • Consider whether you should pay a debt: You may revive the statute of limitations if you pay an old debt. Learn more here.

All that being said, the best way to keep a clean credit report is to always pay your bills, put together a budget and try to save more!

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