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As with everything credit, it depends!  First, payment history is the largest single factor on your credit score accounting for 35%.

Now for a little good news, most lenders do not report late payments to the credit bureaus until you are more than 30 days late.  Note: AmEx and Discover will not report your FIRST time late until 60 days.  However, the lenders can charge you a late fee as soon as your payment is considered late – which is usually 5 PM ET on the date that is due.

Unless you are able to challenge them and have them deleted, all items will remain visible on your credit report for 7 years. But they typically have a negative impact for a much shorter period of time, depending on how late your account gets (these are rough averages and again will depend on several factors, including how many other accounts that you have that are in good standing):

  • 30 – 59 days late: Initially your score can drop into the 600’s. Once you bring it current, your score will rebound somewhat. It will improve again after 6 months and should recover almost fully after 1 year.
  • 60 – 89 Days late: Initially your score can drop into the high 500’s or low 600’s. Once you bring it current, your score will rebound somewhat. There should be more improvement again after 6 months and in this case, there may be some continued impact even after 1 year.
  • 90 Days late or more: Initially your score can drop into the low/mid 500’s. You should continue to see some recovery every 6 months or so, but it can continue to hurt your score after 2 years or more.
  • Charge offs (usually 120 days): Similar to 90 days or more, but slightly more severe and even slower recovery. Expect that it will have an impact for more than 2 years.

Surprisingly, the amount of the delinquency does not matter, only how long you have been delinquent for.  So, if find yourself in a bind and might need to miss payments keep that in mind.