How One Late Payment Can Kill Your Credit Score

Don't Be LateFICO gave a small peek behind the curtain at how their scoring model works and showed just how much mortgage delinquencies affect your credit score.  The example they gave drew attention to three different FICO scores on the higher end of the spectrum (680, 720, and 780) and how one late payment of 30 days affected each score.

According to FICO, the impact of a 30-day late payment on a consumer s mortgage varies greatly depending on how high the consumer’s credit score already was.

FICO broke it down like this:

  • People with a 680 saw their score drop to 530.
  • People with 720 saw a drop down to 525.
  • People with 780 saw their credit scores drop as low as 620.

The article then went on to calculate how long it would take for the scores to recover.  Most consumers probably already know it ll take a while for their credit scores to bounce back from a negative mark in their profile, but I bet you didn’t think it would take THIS long:

  • It takes a 680 up to 9 months to recover.
  • 720 scores can take up to 2.5 years to recover.
  • 780 credit scores take 3 whole years to fully recover.

Interestingly enough, consumers don’t lose more points for going forward with a short sale; the impact to their credit scores is just as bad as an outright foreclosure.

So what can we pull from this report?

As you can see, the higher your credit score already is, the more you have to lose by missing a payment and the longer it takes to recover, according to FICO.

Indeed, their scoring methods almost remind me of how I was graded in high school.  You had to work hard to achieve and maintain an A+ in class, but the minute you slipped up and missed an assignment, your grades began to fall  – and fall FAST – leaving you to fight a long, uphill battle to get your grades back up.

Similarly, those with the highest credit scores get hit the hardest by slipping up on something as seemingly innocuous as missing one payment date.  I mean, just look at the 780 score: one late payment means losing as many as 160 points and having to wait up to 3 years for a full recovery.

So what have we learned? That every little detail matters to your credit history and scores, so don’t slip up! If you are looking to refinance a mortgage, get a car loan, borrow money for school, or get a job, it is imperative that you not only know your credit score, but also know that your credit report is free from errors. Studies have shown that roughly 30% of all credit reports have errors.


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A credit score is important when trying to get the best loan terms possible for a mortgage, car loan, or personal loan. Because of a delinquent $8 electric bill payment my tenant didn’t pay, I unknowingly had a credit score in the 600s that almost torpedoed my mortgage refinance! Finally, it’s simply a great idea to have constant monitoring to get a complete financial picture. You just never know with so many credit report errors and identity thieves out there. Sign up for your free credit score with Credit Sesame today. 

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Updated for 2015 and beyond


Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. Pickapen says

    I missed a $9.99 charge on a low use credit card that was for some magazine subscription service. reported as 30 day late went from a 795 to a 726. took 6months to get back to 763 and stuck at 769 1.5yrs later but I also added some new accounts in that period.

    FICO is truly a scam and they have sold the world into drinkng the kool aid, everyone from cellphone companies to utilities to employers pull credit reports and each hard inquiry is a negative according to the fico formula and penalizes your score but u can’t get any credit without a hard inquiry these days. Many banks will pull your credit simply to open a savings account which is silly.

  2. says

    i have heard that rating agencies and lenders are becoming a bit more realistic / sophisticated in reviewing credit risk where they are now looking for patterns rather than one offs. whereas 1 missed payment could have hurt more some time ago, today the damage may not be as severe. they also look at the amount from what i have heard. i agree however that one should never miss a payment to begin with

    • Steve says

      The comment from Sunil is 100% incorrect! I have had zero missed payments on my mortgages for over 25 years and always pay off my credit card balances on time and have always had a strong credit rating. This past summer I under paid a mortgage payment because the mortgage company increased the total payment because of an escrow miscalculation on their side. I underpaid (auto payment monthly) by $40. They rejected the entire payment (but only after they took the payment in and then sent me a check back…WTF?) By the time i was notified, they already had sent a missed payment notice to the credit companies. My record shows 1 blemish in over 25 years of making payments and that was enough to drop my score, plus put a note in my record of a missed payment…shortly after that i was denied a refinance for my home because of this one blemish…THINGS HAVEN’T CHANGE MUCH FROM MY VIEW!!! Best advise…don’t miss a payment!!!!!

  3. says

    I hear people talking about what affects credit scores all the time… this is a good piece of info to have! There is a lot of misinformation out there. What is even more shocking is that the impact to someone with a 720 credit score is WORSE than someone with a 680 credit score…go figure.

  4. says

    I knew it was bad. Had no idea just how much late payment affect your score. It’s also interesting that the higher your score the more you seem to be affected….now that doesn’t seem fair. Thanks for the good info.

  5. says

    Wow, that was an eye opener! The surprise was how one missed payment can affect your score. I never paid much attention to my actual score, because I handle my payments very well. Roughly 25 years ago, a department store reported that they wrote off a balance on my account. I disputed it since I had not moved and I always paid my bills, but it took six months to fix it.

  6. says

    I believe a 30 day late is Considered an R1. I’m actually surprised by those numbers, seems just a tad bit exaggerated. However, it’s really difficult to say if those numbers can be indicative how one late payment can kill your score. There are so many different variables that are considered. (Amount of Available Credit, Length of Credit History, Other Tradelines, Etc). But this is definitely an eye opener to everyone to keep your credit report intact!

  7. says

    The last paragraph that starts “So what have we learned?” should continue “Don’t be so dependent on the credit industry that any of this matters to you.” :)

  8. says

    Wow-This one really shocked me. I am obsessed right now with keeping our credit score REALLY high as we will be taking out a new mortgage in the next sixth months. I am going so far as paying off the credit card 2 weeks early and keeping the balance really low. Even if you pay your card off in full every month, I think having an unpaid balance show up can hurt!!!! I am actually checking several times per month to make sure I didn’t miss paying a bill! I can see my persistence is not irrational :)

    • Pickapen says

      actually having a small balance report seems to help your Fico score for some odd reason. Supposedly there are les than ten variables that raise your Fico and about 100 that can negatively affect it. No one truly knows because Fair Isaac does not release that type of information

  9. says

    Whoa! That’s a huge hit. I personally know someone who is going through a short sale (a terrible option in my opinion) and had to miss one payment to proceed with this type of sale. They are already talking about buying a home within a year of the sale. I’m afraid they will be sorely disappointed by how much their credit will take a dive. I think I might need to write a follow up post on this, hmmm…..

  10. says

    Wow, this is extremely useful information. I’m usually pretty good with paying on time, but I’ve had a few credit card bills slip (only to pay them off the next day!) Granted, that’s not a mortgage, but still… I didn’t realize how many points you’d drop for one late payment. My credit score is ok right now but I don’t have anything that really builds credit that I’ve purchased, maybe it’s for the best with the risk of missing a payment!

  11. Charlie says

    Wow I didn’t realize it could impact scores that much. I’ve been pretty good at paying bills on time but will definitely be really careful about it now.

  12. says

    It would seem to me that those point drops are maximums. That is to say that you might fall from 680 to 530 if you miss a payment and have only one open credit line. However, if you were to have a 680 with 6 aged credit lines and were to miss one payment, you probably wouldn’t fall by the full 150–not even close.

    Still, this does show the huge ramifications for not keeping on top of your personal finances. Thanks for sharing!

  13. says

    I was just wondering this myself as I just opened a shutoff notice for my cable bill. We had been on auto-pay and forgot to update the credit card on file and I was wondering if it would do any harm. Apparently so. I haven’t actually checked my number in a long time. I should do it.

  14. says

    I guess always paying on time is your insurance things will stay on track with your credit. It may lead you to be anal about due dates, etc. but it’s worth it.

  15. says

    This is such an important post! So often people blame the aspects of a credit score that are far less heavily weighted for their deflated numbers. For example, someone deep in debt and who has a horrible payment history is worried about what a debt management plan or an inquiry will do to their score.

  16. Natalie says

    I just checked my credit after a mess up with my bank. They said they never received my transaction. I had excellent credit and now I’ve been docked at least 120 pts. I feel sickened because I spent the last 7 years of my life building this credit and now this is ruined. Why is the system set up to punish those who do everything right. With this bad economy they’ve really set up a system where most people will eventually just say…. screw it.

  17. Chrissy says

    This is very upsetting to read about. Without my knowing, my parents opened loans and a credit card in my name and defaulted on payment up to 90 days. I don’t know what my credit score was before but it is now in the mid-500s. They are now making payments diligently and I am looking at having to just pay off my mom’s credit card in my name to get it off my record. Does anyone know how long it may be until I can get back to a reasonable number? I am only 23 so it’s not a big deal now but I of course am concerned if it may take more than 5 or 10 years for it to clear up.

  18. neal says

    After ruining my credit during my college days i began trying to fix it several years later. i started at about 530 and it took me 7 years to get to 780. I went on a long 2 month vacation, and during that time i accidently let a payment slip for 50 dollars. my score dropped to 670. Here i am 6 months later and now my score is 695. Seems like you are penalized heavily for minor mistakes and not rewarded much at all for doing the right thing.

  19. Fed Up says

    I was about to lease a new car. Checked my credit and found that I missed a $21 payment in the mail. My Score dropped from 790 to 648. It took me 11 years to get that score up there from the low 500s when I finished school; five years to get from the mid-600s to 790. I’m devastated. Maybe even suicidal. No wonder there are all those people camped out on Wall Street. Too much of one’s life revolves on unforgiving and secretive financial mechanisms. That I made six figures last year for the first time in my life means nothing, nor that fact that I’ve never missed a $600 student loan payment nor have I ever missed my $3400 mortgage payments, but a $21 accident sinks my entire financial reputation? WTF America? (and I’m a veteran too.) This country is going down hill….deservingly so.

    • SILLY IN La says


    • Sri says

      I agree with you! one $30 missed payment ends up costing thousdands in interest for mortgage or car loans! The credit score is for the lenders and anti-consumer. Thats why income and other history dont matter and its far easier to drop your score than raise it!

  20. kmackenz says

    It’s weird how everyone just accepts this ridiculous practice, ‘Oh boy I better not screw up’ ‘I’ll never be late now’ blah blah blah.

    There is not a single voice that says, ‘That is an absurd practice, let’s protest or even just get angry instead of just rolling over.’

  21. NR says

    This sucks! My average monthly credit card spending is 4K which I always pay off in full. And then, I missed a $75 Macy’s card payment by more than 30 days (I can swear I paid it on their site and didn’t even know that I had missed a payment until my credit monitoring service notified me on the change in status!) and got dropped from 760 to 680. I am planning to buy a house next year, but seems like I will have a tough time now with my new credit score. F*%# Macy’s!!!!

  22. shannon harvey says

    I missed a payment on my student loan i just paid today. it was 38 days past due. Will this effect my credit score as much as missing a mortgage or a credit card bill. This was a complete oversite and i have excellent credit. I could kick myself in the butt.

  23. mike says

    it is no surprise that the higher the score is to start with, the greater the impact of negative information. This is how the risk formula propogates itself as accurate. Lenders don’t have to lend, when they do they want zero losses. sadly the fico model can be miles off which excludes borrowers 30% of which are actually sound investments, since they are not lent to; the banks dont lose and the fico model does indeed protect lenders. “doesn’t mean it’s accurate”

  24. Brandon says

    So If I mailed off my House payment, now with it being due on Feb 1st and Todays the 16th.. will that affect anything at all? Or do they consider 30 days late the cut off mark?

  25. Chris says

    There was a bug in my bank’s autopayment software that resulted in a $5 credit card bill going unpaid for 30 days. My credit score is still under 700 two years later–it was over 780+ before that.

  26. Kelly sible says

    My credit score was 714 and out of 4 years I was late one time and my score went down to 636. I was so angry at the credit card company for turning me in to credit collection for being late one time. The bad thing is I didn’t even get the bill that month I only got a letter from
    Collections. So I got punished because of them. :(

  27. Shanna says

    I knew all along. Last night, my husband was shocked that he have three late fees on his mortgage payments but all of this are not true when we were ready to buy a new vehicle. We never paid late on our mortgage payment and I checked my bank to see if we have any late payments for more than 5 years and I showed everything are perfect on time. I have to dispute all of three credit bureau and proof that we do not have any late payments! How long it will take off on my husband’s credit report? His credit score is 637 but we know we had 782 credit score.

  28. Jerry Curl says

    I just checked in your post and the banner and it is pretty good. Thanks for the recommendation!

  29. Beck says

    My mom is purchasing a house for me due to me having to foreclose on mine because my husband picked up and left me with two kids under the ago of 4. She lives in a house that my step dad owns, has not debt, a quite a bit of money saved from selling the house a i grew up in.

    She went to get pre approved and for some reason she only has two credit scores. One is 780, the other 605. So she got denied! Come to find out it was from a leased car she turned in and they had charged her for damages, which the bill was being mailed to her old address for months before they finally reached her. She had paid the bill, but not the late feesshe didn’t know about. She talked to the finance company and they admit its their error and are taking off a 30, 60, and 90 day late blemish off of her report. My question is, how much will this raise her score if its completely removed? We are looking to get it up to at least 680.

    • says

      Argh, sucks about the credit score. This is really why everybody needs to check their credit scores and make sure there’s nothing funky going on!

      When my utility company screwed me for an $8 missing payment, they smashed one report score by around 100 points from 780 to 680. Delayed my mortgage refinance process by another 2 weeks and was a total disaster. But, once I got my score back, I bounced back to 780 for this score.

      Hence, I think once the error is removed, it might take 30 days or 90 days, you should see at least back to 700, if not maybe even 780.

  30. New says

    The credit reporting laws have changed. You can increase your score drastically within a few months. Previously, it took about six to nine months for your score to update – now it takes around 60 days. So there is hope out there!

  31. Will says

    I have a roommate and I am worried if having to pay on the last day my shared cell phone bill that is under my name for both my friend and me, has an effect on my credit score, I already have a 300,000 medical student loan so I will avoid any possible threat to my credit score, besides my grandfather will kill me! Can any one answer me if there is an effect on my credit score if I always pay a tmobile cell phone bill the very last day said on the bill that I CAN pay? I would appreciate this greatly.

    • says

      Will, you should be OK, but why risk it and pay one day earlier than the last day?

      You should click the link in the article to check your credit score that’s on file now for free. Just cancel within the allotted time if you don’t want to pay credit monitoring service.

      With $300,000 in debt, a 1% increase in rate due to a bad credit score which you can fix is an extra $3,000 a year!

  32. says

    Can’t you appeal one late payment? Ever since Singer started selling sewing machines on a credit almost 100 years ago, our society has been worshiping at the altar of FICO.

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