Fine print, Protecting yourself

‘Goodwill adjustment’ preserved my credit score

Craig Guillot

I’ve held an 800+ FICO score for almost eight years. It’s a number that not only lands me low interest rates and low insurance premiums, it’s a source of pride.

So when something threatens my credit, I act. In a recent snafu that resulted in a late credit card payment, I found a little research and persistence can go a long way in protecting your score.

In September, I was dumbfounded when my Capital One Quicksilver was declined twice for an online purchase. I logged into my account to discover I had missed payment on an entire billing cycle.

I knew I had paid. It was logged in my accounting program. I had never even received a late notice.

With a toddler and 2-month old, our lives had been in total disarray at the time. The only explanation is that I abandoned the transaction on the last step and failed to click “submit.”

I immediately made payment then called Capital One to explain. They voluntarily waived the $35 late fee but said “there’s nothing we can do” about my 34-day late payment being reported to the credit bureaus.

I hated the thought that after nearly a decade of perfect credit, I’d take a hit for this oversight. And to make matters worse, the higher the FICO score, the greater the negative impact from a late payment.

Through online searches I found stories of “goodwill adjustments” where creditors don’t send the delinquent notice to the reporting agencies, or go back and retract it.

Creditors won’t publicly acknowledge they do this, yet there are plenty of posts on forums by cardholders saying they’ve landed adjustments.

Unwilling to simply roll over and take the hit, I figured I’d at least ask.

I had two things going for me. First, my payment was only four days past the 30-day period and my immediate payment upon discovery added validity to my stance that it was a mistake.

Second, I had a 10-year history with Capital One with not a single late payment. I also held bank accounts, investment accounts and a car loan with them. Hinting to take my business elsewhere could provide some incentive for them to act.

I drafted a script that introduced myself, explained the situation, highlighted my relationship with Capital One, and then politely asked for an adjustment.

My first call was a failure. I smooth-talked the rep before being shot down with “There’s nothing we can do, it’s automatically reported.” I pushed again but it went nowhere.

Two days later, I called back. Another customer service rep gives me the same story.

The following week I called again. I presented my case and politely asked if there was anything we can do to “resolve this situation” because “I would like to remain a loyal Capital One customer.”

The representative paused for a brief moment then responded “Yes, I think we can help.”

A notation was made in my file to remove the mark from the credit reporting files. Three cycles later, all balances have been reported and my credit remains intact.

It’s an uncommon practice, and unlikely to work for very late payments or those with poor track records, but it worked for me.

Goodwill adjustments do exist.

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