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A senior’s guide to medical expenses without going into debt

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

When it comes to managing medical expenses, seniors often face significant financial challenges. Since retirement usually means living off of a fixed income, dealing with medical bills not covered by insurance can easily put seniors at risk of landing in debt. 

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, nearly a third of American consumers have debt that’s been turned over to collections, with over half of that from medical bills. Even having a comprehensive retirement plan doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to avoid unforeseen (and expensive) health problems. 

Thankfully, there are strategies to handle daunting medical debt and to prevent debt incurred from hurting your credit. This detailed guide offers helpful information and advice for navigating healthcare costs as a senior and dealing with medical bills and debt that can harm your credit score. Read on to learn more, or click through the menu below to find the information you need.

  • How to Budget for Senior Healthcare Costs
  • How to Choose the Right Medical Insurance Option
  • How to Pay Medical Bills
  • How to Maximize Deductible Medical Expenses
  • How to Minimize the Negative Effects of Debt on Credit

How to budget for senior healthcare costs

Why budgeting for medical costs matters

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of $6,833 a year is spent on healthcare in households led by an individual who is 65 years or older. Underestimating potential medical expenses in retirement is the main mistake that leads to credit-damaging debt and the need for credit repair. The snowball effect of medical expenses is a large part of the reason why they’re important to keep under control as a senior. 

Delaying healthcare bills without a plan and ignoring medical debt are surefire ways to cause financial distress, especially when you’re 65+ years old. Creating a budget for healthcare costs is the first step to minimizing the shock of medical expenses that can lead to crippling debt and a ruined credit score. There are plenty of steps you can take to keep your medical expenses under control before you have to negotiate with debt collectors and utilize credit repair software.

What to know when budgeting for senior healthcare

When it comes to routine healthcare expenses, seniors should take into account insurance premiums, out-of-pocket costs and possible expenses associated with paid long-term care. Developing the right medical budget as a senior doesn’t have to be a grueling task. 

The key is to be realistic about the different types of costs you need to prepare for and being proactive about asking for help when needed. Account for everything (income, debt, benefits, etc.) and document every financial move so there is a paper trail that eliminates second-guessing and family conflicts.

list of things to consider when budgeting for medical expenses

Navigating the details of health insurance, medical bills, prescription costs and more can be overwhelming for anyone. As a senior preparing for your financial future, it’s wise to involve a trusted advocate who understands your situation and can help you make important decisions regarding medical expenses.

You may choose to give authority to trusted family members who are helping you, and remember you can still oversee all account activity. It’s recommended that you communicate often with your family about your finances and look into professional financial consulting and/or the need for a Power of Attorney.

How to choose the right medical insurance option

The best practices for deciding between the various insurance options as a senior aren’t always obvious. The average American Medicare beneficiary still spent well over $5,000 out-of-pocket per year for medical expenses according to one Kaiser Family Foundation study from 2019. How can you choose the coverage option that is the least likely to land you in debt? 

When it comes to covering medical expenses, seniors in the United States have some options, including:

  • Medicare: The federal health insurance program for 65+ individuals who have worked full-time for at least 10 years.
  • Medicaid: The health insurance program run by states and partially funded by the federal government to help low-income families and individuals.
  • Private insurance: Insurance not federally or state run—it can be purchased from either your employer, a state or federal marketplace or a private marketplace.

What to know about the cost of Medicare

To understand what expenses you need to cover yourself as a senior, it helps to know your two coverage options under Medicare, the most popular type of insurance for 65+ individuals. 

There is original Medicare, which consists of parts A and B. Medicare part C, which is also known as Medicare Advantage plans, is offered by a private company that has a contract with Medicare.

Parts A and B of Medicare include:

  • Inpatient care
  • Home healthcare
  • Clinical research
  • Ambulance services
  • Hospice care
  • Skilled nursing facility care
  • Prescription drugs (limited)
  • Medical supplies and equipment

Part C includes all of the following in addition to parts A and B:

  • Special needs plans
  • Private fee-for-service plans
  • Preferred provider organizations
  • Health maintenance organizations
  • Medicare medical savings account plans

While Medicare covers a substantial amount, there are still quite a few common services among retirees that are not covered, including:

  • Dentures
  • Most dental care
  • Acupuncture
  • Routine foot care
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Hearing aids and fitting exams
  • Eye exams related to prescription glasses
  • Long-term care
key health insurance facts to know as a senior

Ultimately, what seniors 65 and over will spend on healthcare each year will differ depending on age, gender and health status. Although there are countless scenarios that could increase or decrease an individual senior’s healthcare spending, the general trend remains that their healthcare costs are much greater than their younger counterparts. 

Year after year, the US Department of Health and Human Services continues to show the drastic spike in medical expenses for the 65+ age group.

bar graph of average health spending by age in the united states

There are plenty of resources available for seniors looking for assistance in understanding the best insurance coverage for their situation. It’s important to keep in mind that senior advocacy centers offer helpful services when you aren’t sure how to make the best decision. 

How to pay medical bills

When dealing with medical bills not covered by insurance, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you aren’t overcharged and to prioritize your payments. By following the steps below, you’ll prevent a bill from winding up in collections, which can ultimately hurt your credit score.

1) Don’t pay until you fully verify the bill

Sometimes the way that medical services are billed is confusing. Don’t rush to pay a bill before you thoroughly check it for errors. Educate yourself on how to identify and address the most common medical billing mistakes to save yourself headaches in the future.

2) Make sure insurance was applied to the bill

Ask for an itemized bill from your provider to make sure your bill is adjusted. If you don’t see an insurance payment or discount reflected on the bill, there is probably a mistake. Also, it’s helpful to have a second set of eyes to catch inaccuracies. 

3) Check that the explanation of benefits matches the bill

Expect an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) document to arrive at about the same time as the corresponding medical bill. Confirm that there aren’t any discrepancies to avoid being overcharged.

4) Follow up and negotiate until an issue is resolved

A large component of ensuring you’re paying the right amount for your medical bills is persistence. Don’t shy away from calling your healthcare provider and your insurance company multiple times to clarify or negotiate, and record the names of the individuals you’re speaking with and the time. Your wallet will thank you.

5) Request a payment plan

If you can’t tackle medical bills in full, there are often opportunities for interest-free payment plans if you simply ask.

If you’ve done everything in your power to reduce and spread out the cost of medical bills and you’re still struggling, it’s time to ask for support. Reach out to trusted family members or consider enlisting the help of medical billing advocates.

how to prevent medical bills from going to collections

If your medical debt has already been sent to a collection agency, don’t report the bill to credit agencies right away. You may be able to protect your credit score if you’re able to resolve your bill quickly, and it might not even appear on your credit report.

Take a look at the resources below to learn more about how to best manage your insurance costs when you’re 65+:

How to maximize deductible medical expenses

When you’re a senior, it’s important to understand best practices for advocating for yourself to get as much money back on medical expenses via tax deductions as possible. Seniors can benefit from deductible medical expenses that can help them avoid detrimental debt. 

If you itemize your deductions, medical and dental expenses are deductible from your income taxes on Schedule A of your tax return as a senior. The limit is 7.5 percent of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2019 and 2020—only expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of a taxpayer’s AGI are deductible. 

For example, if someone’s AGI is $50,000, only medical and dental expenses above $3,750 (7.5% x $50,000 = $3,750) would be deductible.

Lowering your adjusted gross income may help make you eligible for other forms of federal assistance.

There are clear guidelines laid out by the IRS when it comes to figuring out which costs do and don’t qualify for a tax deduction. Take a look at a quick overview of deductible medical expenses below.

Deductible medical expenses

  • Premiums for health insurance and qualified long-term care insurance
  • Medical fees from doctors, laboratories, dentists, assisted living residences, home healthcare and hospitals
  • Cost of transportation to receive medical care, including ambulance service
  • Home modifications costs, such as wheelchair ramps, porch lifts, grab bars and handrails
  • Entrance fees for assisted living
  • Room and board for assisted living if the resident is certified chronically ill by a healthcare professional and is following a prescribed plan of care 
  • Personal care items, such as disposable briefs, and foods/nutritional supplements for a special diet, as prescribed by a doctor to treat a medical condition
  • Cost of prescription drugs

Expenses not eligible for deduction

  • Medical expenses that are reimbursed by health insurance, Medicare or any other program
  • Payments or distributions out of health savings accounts
  • Life insurance premiums
  • Non-medical care to enable the tax filer to be gainfully employed 

Although deductible medical expenses shouldn’t be relied on as a primary source of funds for senior healthcare, they can still help cover the cost of care and limit potential debt. A reduced tax burden from medical and dental tax deductions can help retirees reallocate their resources where they matter the most. 

Along with other strategies to lower your overall healthcare tab, these deductions might help make the difference in being able to afford home care without going into debt, which can hurt your credit. 

Be cognizant of the fact that deductible medical expenses should not be confused with Dependent Care Tax Credit—which is meant for dependent care expenses the primary taxpayer incurs to enable them to work, or look for work, rather than caring for their dependent.

How to minimize the negative effects of debt on credit

Not only can seniors’ credit scores suffer the damage of debt, but their health can be compromised by delaying medical care they need. According to one Consumer Reports survey, 41 percent of people said they put off a doctor’s visit because of cost. 

It’s important for seniors to realize that not only are there medical debt forgiveness programs, like RIP Medical Debt, but there are also several encouraging changes occurring. 

For example, one recent development is that major credit reporting agencies have agreed not to report medical debts until 180 days after they were incurred in order to give patients more time to resolve them. Here are a couple additional new developments that can prove hopeful for seniors grappling with medical expenses:

  • FICO released a new scoring model, FICO 9, which gives medical debt less weight than ever before. 
    • Overdue or delinquent bills that have gone to medical collection accounts no longer count as unpaid bills once they’ve been settled.
  • VantageScore 3.0 has followed suit with a credit scoring model that is more forgiving of unpaid medical bills than it has been in the past.

Here are three main ways seniors can reduce the impact of medical debt on their credit:

1) Finalize payment arrangements right away 

Start asking about payment arrangements as soon as you receive medical bills you know you can’t cover. Being proactive to figure out if your provider can give you a payment schedule option will help you minimize the detrimental effects or discount portions of your bill if you pay in advance.

2) Request to make monthly payments on medical bills 

As long as you have documented proof that your healthcare provider or collector has agreed to this payment plan, you could buy yourself time by asking to make monthly payments. If they report a negative item on your credit report, you can dispute it by showing they agreed to the payments you’re making.

3) Avoid paying medical debt with credit cards  

Think twice before paying for a huge bill with your credit card. Keep in mind that you lose new protections offered by credit scoring companies if you pay your medical costs with a credit card and then can’t pay off the credit card. This type of credit card debt from medical expenses will be treated like any other debt. As a result, it will hurt your payment history and your credit utilization ratio regardless.

Under the accommodations for COVID-19, you can check your credit score weekly for free until the end of April 2021.

When you’re 65+ years of age and struggling to cover medical expenses, it’s easy to feel overburdened. Thankfully, the tactics we’ve shared and the changes in the credit scoring and credit reporting industries can give hope to seniors dealing with outstanding medical bills.

High healthcare costs coupled with a relatively low fixed income could lead to seniors getting into debt and struggling with credit. Even if medical bills compromise your progress, there are plenty of ways to get back on the right track to reach your financial goals in retirement. 

Whether you ask a family member for help or consider using a professional service, prioritizing your financial well-being pays off in the end. If you’re concerned about your credit health while handling medical expenses, reach out to the credit consultants at Lexington Law. Our team can help you learn more about your credit report and strategize ways to improve your credit.

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How to identify credit repair scams

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family learning more about credit

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

If you have poor or damaged credit and want to repair it, you may have considered using a credit repair service to help. Unfortunately, there are many companies and individuals that want to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers needing help with their credit. 

While there are legitimate companies that can help you repair your credit, there are also credit repair scams that are only after your money and your information for identity theft purposes. To keep both safe, we created this guide to help you tell the difference between legitimate credit repair companies and credit repair scams.

Five signs of a credit repair scam

There are many things credit repair companies are not allowed to do or promise customers. If it sounds like it’s too good to be true, it probably is, and you should steer clear of that company. We’ve put together a list of signs you should watch out for when working with credit repair companies.

1. Guaranteed results

Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), credit repair companies cannot guarantee results. Here are a few common examples of false promises unethical credit repair companies might make:

  • Improvement to your credit score
  • Results in a fixed time period
  • Removal of all of negative items, even if they are accurate

2. Up-front payment is requested

The CROA prohibits credit repair companies from asking for any payment before they render services. Many scammers know that most consumers don’t know this and, as a result, promise a quick turnaround on credit repair for a large upfront payment.

Some illegitimate credit repair companies may not allow you to cancel unless you pay a fee. All credit repair companies are required by law to give you at least three days to cancel services with them and there is no penalty for canceling.

3. Claims a new identity is needed 

A credit repair company can’t promise or offer you a new identity. Anyone offering you a new identity is a fraud. Besides guaranteeing results, scammers may try to promise you a clean slate with a new Employer Identification Number (EIN) or a Credit Privacy Number (CPN).

They tell you to use these numbers on your future credit applications instead of your Social Security Number. We explain more about common credit repair scams below.

4. Don’t explain your legal rights

Credit repair companies should explain your legal rights to you from the beginning. These are a few common things an unethical credit repair company might do.

  • Tells you not to contact the credit bureaus directly
  • Doesn’t give you a copy of the contract to review before signing
  • Fails to inform you that you can repair your credit yourself without the help of a credit repair company
  • Leaves out important information from the contract, like the date services will be executed or the amount you will pay

If you feel like the company isn’t telling you everything or refusing to answer your questions, you should seek services elsewhere.

5. Asks you to misrepresent information

Finally, an unlawful credit repair company might ask you to misrepresent your information. This can range from unlawfully using an EIN or CPN number in place of your social security number to claim you are a victim of identity theft when you’re not.

five signs of a credit repair scam

Common credit repair scams 

You’ll most likely see credit repair companies illegally promising results. However, it’s important to familiarize yourself with other scams so you understand what is and is not legal. We highlighted a few common ones below.

File segregation schemes 

A file segregation scheme is when a company or individual offers to give you an Employee Identification Number (EIN) to use in place of your Social Security Number when you apply for credit. It’s illegal for companies to do this, and it’s illegal for consumers to obtain one to use in place of their Social Security Number. 

Credit privacy numbers 

Like an EIN, a Credit Privacy Number (CPN) is created by scammers to use in place of your Social Security Number when applying for credit. Simply put, a CPN is a fake Social Security Number. Usually, these are created using somebody else’s identity, and using one can be considered identity theft. 

Tradeline renting 

Tradeline renting is when you pay for authorized user status so that the tradeline shows up on your credit reports to improve your score. This doesn’t repair any negative information on your credit, but adding a positive tradeline to your credit report can boost your score.

While this isn’t necessarily illegal, it can get you into trouble. There is nothing wrong with a loved one adding you as an authorized user. However, if you pay to “rent” a tradeline from a stranger, you don’t know how it will impact your credit and it may be a scam to get your money. 

credit repair scams to watch out for

What to do if you are scammed

There are a few things you can do if you realize you’ve fallen victim to a credit repair scam. Take a look at your options below.

who to report a credit repair scam to

Can credit repair companies fix your credit?

Yes, a legitimate credit repair company can help you work to remove inaccurate negative items from your record that may be damaging your credit score. Here are ways to recognize a legitimate, expert credit repair company. Although you can work to repair your credit yourself without a credit repair company, ideally a credit repair company would make the process much easier. Here are some signs of a legitimate, expert credit repair company:

  1. They create a repair strategy custom to your unique situation. A good credit repair company will customize their course of action only after evaluating your credit reports and credit history. Everyone’s credit history is different, and their approach to repairing your credit should reflect that. 
  2. Maintain communication with you during the process. A credit repair company that maintains scheduled calls, emails or any other form of communication with you will help you stay up-to-date with their progress. They shouldn’t keep you in the dark as they’re conducting their services. 
  3. Informs you of your rights from the beginning. At the time of signing, a credit repair company should provide two documents: a disclosure of your right to repair your credit yourself and a detailed contract of services.
  4. Make realistic claims about their services. Like we said above, credit repair companies cannot guarantee results. A legitimate credit repair company will not guarantee timeframes or point changes, but they can guarantee the delivery of services—access to credit monitoring tools, or letters delivered on your behalf. 

How to safely repair your credit

Making payments on time and disputing inaccurate information on your credit reports can help you repair your credit. While you can do this on your own, a professional credit repair firm like Lexington Law Firm will make the process easier and more efficient.

Lexington Law Firm proudly adheres to CROA to make sure we give our clients the best experience possible. For over a decade, we’ve helped clients challenge information that is unfair, inaccurate and unsubstantiated. Give us a call today for a free, personalized credit report consultation.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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What is purchase APR for credit cards?

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Woman sitting by the sofa shopping online on laptop with bank card in hand.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

A purchase annual percentage rate (APR) determines the amount of interest that is added to an outstanding credit card balance each month. While the rate is calculated by the year, the interest charge is added monthly to the unpaid balance.

Most credit cards include a purchase APR—annual percentage rate—that is used to calculate the interest on an unpaid credit card balance. 

While APR is an annual percentage rate, credit card interest is actually applied monthly by calculating one-twelfth of the APR. For example, a credit card with an APR of 24 percent would have a 2 percent interest charge added monthly to any outstanding balance. 

Since APR is only applied to outstanding balances, interest charges can be avoided entirely by paying off the full balance of a credit card by the due date each month. 

Read on to learn more about different aspects of APR as well as real-world examples of how APR works. 

Important aspects of credit card APR

Although APR is a straightforward calculation, there are a few important details to consider when looking at a credit card’s APR. Keep in mind that credit cards often have multiple APRs and that APR can change over time. 

Credit cards often have multiple APRs

When discussing APR, most people refer to a credit card’s “purchase APR,” also referred to as “standard purchase APR.” This is the rate that’s applied to regular purchases, including goods and services. 

Different types of APR. Purchase APR, cash advance APR, penalty APR and balance transfer APR.

However, credit cards can do more than just make purchases, so there are several other APRs depending on the activity:

  • Cash advance APR: If you use a credit card to receive a cash advance, you’ll pay interest according to the cash advance APR. Often, the rate for cash advances is higher than normal purchases. Also, interest typically begins to accrue immediately rather than after the due date for the monthly bill. 
  • Balance transfer APR: After you transfer a balance from any line of credit to a credit card, interest will begin to accrue at the rate set by the balance transfer APR. Some credit cards offer a promotional period where transferred balances accrue no interest. 
  • Penalty APR: When your credit card payments are late—typically by more than 60 days—many credit card companies will institute a higher penalty APR, which can affect both the outstanding balance as well as future purchases on the credit card. Penalty APRs can also be activated for other reasons outlined in a cardholder agreement. 

Understanding all of these different kinds of APR makes it easier for you to use credit cards to their fullest while avoiding costly interest payments. 

That said, it’s also important to note that APR is not a permanent number, and it can change over time for a variety of reasons.

APR can change over time

The initial APR for purchases and other activities will be laid out in the cardholder agreement you sign when the card is issued. Typical APR ranges from 15 percent to 22 percent, but cards can have higher or lower APR for a variety of reasons. In any case, the initial APR for your credit card may change over time.

Reasons APR may change over time.

Here’s what you need to know about how and why APR changes over time.

  • Introductory APR: Some credit cards include a lower introductory or promotional APR for a set period of time, usually between three and 24 months after the credit account is opened. After the introductory period ends, a higher APR takes effect. 
  • Variable APR: Some credit cards have a variable APR that is tied to economic factors, like the “prime rate,” which is published by the U.S. Federal Reserve. As this number changes, the APR on your credit card will change as well. 
  • Penalty APR: As noted above, certain actions—like late payments—can lead to a penalty APR that is often significantly higher than the standard APR. The APR often decreases again after six months or more of on-time payments. 
  • Credit score change: If you have a significant change in your credit score, the credit card company may raise or lower your purchase APR accordingly. 

Although APR can change, credit card companies are generally not allowed to change your APR in the first year of your account’s existence. Credit card issuers typically provide notice at least 45 days before increasing a card’s APR. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however, like if your promotional period ends within the first 12 months of your account being opened. 

Let’s take a look at some examples of how purchase APR works. 

Examples of purchase APR

Looking more closely at different purchase APRs makes it clear that interest rates make a big difference when you carry a balance on your credit card.

Example of how purchase APR works.

Let’s imagine that you purchase a $2,500 exercise bike with your credit card and plan to pay off the balance over the next 21 months. 

With a credit card that has a 25 percent APR, you’ll spend $148 each month to pay off the balance for that purchase, and you’ll have paid for more than $600 of interest along the way. 

With a credit card that has a 15 percent APR, your monthly payment will be $136 until the balance is paid off, and you’ll accrue $358 of interest as you make payments.

With a credit card that has a promotional 0 percent APR for 12 months (then a 15 percent APR), your monthly payment will be $122, and you’ll only accrue $66 of interest over the course of the 21 months.

Clearly, different purchase APR can make a big difference when it comes to paying off credit card debt. 

Getting a card with a low APR may depend on a person’s credit history, if you need help managing your credit profile, Lexington Law Firm provides qualified credit repair services. 


Reviewed by Horacio Celaya, Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Horacio Celaya was born in Tucson, Arizona but eventually moved with his family to Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. Mr. Celaya went on to graduate with Honors from the Autonomous University of Baja California Law School. Mr. Celaya is a graduate of the University of Arizona where he graduated from James E. Rogers College of Law. During law school, Mr. Celaya received his certificate in International Trade Law, completing his thesis on United States foreign direct investment in Latin America. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Celaya has worked in an immigration firm where he helped foreign investors organize their assets in order to apply for investment-based visas. He also has extensive experience in debt settlement negotiations on behalf of clients looking to achieve debt relief. Mr. Celaya is licensed to practice law in New Mexico. He is located in the Phoenix office. 

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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3 ways to remove a closed account from your credit report

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

You can remove closed accounts from your credit report in three main ways: dispute any inaccuracies, write a formal “goodwill letter” requesting removal or simply wait for the closed accounts to be removed over time. That said, removing closed accounts can affect your credit score, so make sure you consider your situation first.

While it’s not always possible to remove a closed account from your credit report, it is straightforward to attempt to do so. However, it’s not always beneficial to remove closed accounts, and in some cases, it could even lower your credit score.

In general, you should try to remove a closed account with inaccurate negative information, but you should probably leave any accounts that are yours that are having a positive effect on your credit history.

Below, we’ll talk about whether you should try to remove closed accounts from your credit report, how closed accounts may affect your credit score and how to remove closed accounts. 

Should you remove closed accounts from your credit report?

You should attempt to remove closed accounts that contain inaccurate information or negative items that are eligible for removal. Otherwise, there is generally no need to remove closed accounts from your credit report. Inaccurate information could be pulling down your credit score and should be addressed, but older accounts with a good history may be helping your score. 

Even after closing an account—like a personal loan or credit card—the information related to your balances and payment history stays on your credit report for many years. In fact, both accounts closed in good standing and negative items or collection accounts may remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years. 

Deciding whether to try to remove a closed account ultimately comes down to understanding the factors that affect your credit score.

Deciding whether to remove closed accounts. Try to remove close accounts if they are: inaccurate, negative, fraudulent. You can leave closed accounts if they are: in good standing, helpful for credit utilization, beneficial for credit history.

Your credit score is calculated based on five main factors: payment history (35 percent), credit utilization (30 percent), length of credit history (15 percent), different types of credit (10 percent) and new credit (10 percent). 

Because a credit report includes both open and closed accounts, some of these credit factors can be affected by a closed account being removed from your report. For example, if you made payments on a personal loan for a number of years and that account is removed from your report, your length of credit history could decrease.

Having a closed account removed from your report may not affect your score, but in many cases, it is wise to leave accounts in good standing on your report, as they could have a positive impact overall. 

However, closed accounts with negative items eligible for removal and inaccurate information can lead to a lower score, so working to get those accounts removed is part of a sound credit repair strategy. 

Read on to learn how to get rid of closed accounts from your credit report.

How to remove closed accounts from your credit report

If you need to attempt to remove a closed account from your credit report—especially one that includes inaccurate information or negative items—there are three ways to do so. You can either dispute inaccurate information with the credit bureaus, write a formal “goodwill letter” to request removal or simply wait until the account is removed after a period of time. Each of these approaches can be useful depending on your particular situation.

Three ways to remove a closed account from your credit report: dispute inaccurate information, wait for the account to drop off your report, write a "goodwill letter."

Read on to learn more about when to try each of these different methods for getting a closed account off your credit report.

1. Dispute inaccurate information

If a closed account on your credit report includes inaccurate information, you can dispute the information and potentially get the item removed from your report. 

You can dispute the information using the following process:

  1. Send a letter to the three major credit bureaus—TransUnion®, Experian® and Equifax®—that explains what information you are challenging, why you believe it is inaccurate and that you would like it removed.
  2. Similarly, send a letter to the financial institution that provided the information to the bureaus.
  3. Wait for responses, then look at your updated report and score.

We have a guide that details the dispute process to help you along the way. 

2. Write a “goodwill” letter

A goodwill letter is a formal request to a creditor asking for a negative item to be removed. 

Although creditors are not required to remove negative items upon request, they may be willing to do so if you have a long history with them or if there were special hardships that led to the negative item. 

However, goodwill letters are generally useful only for late or missed payments rather than collections, repossessions or other more significant negative items.

In addition to goodwill letters, you can also request that an account is removed using a “pay for delete” letter. These letters can lead to an agreement with a collection agency to remove an account in exchange for a set payment. That said, the collection agency may decide not to remove the account, and the original account that went to collections may remain on your report. 

3. Wait for the closed account to be removed over time

Closed accounts do not stay on your report forever, so it’s possible to simply wait it out until a closed account is removed.

Accounts that were closed can remain on a credit report for around seven to 10 years. 

When an older closed account with negative information is potentially lowering your score, eventually it will drop off your report. Additionally, positive information about closed accounts also leaves your report over time, so it’s important to continue to practice good credit habits with a variety of account types.

If your credit report contains closed accounts with negative items or inaccurate information, the team at Lexington Law Firm can assist you with credit repair. By analyzing your credit report and assisting with disputes, our team can help you make strides in improving your credit score.


Reviewed by Kenton Arbon, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Kenton Arbon is an Associate Attorney in the Arizona office. Mr. Arbon was born in Bakersfield, California, and grew up in the Northwest. He earned his B.A. in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, while working as an Oregon State Trooper. His interest in the law lead him to relocate to Arizona, attend law school, and graduate from Arizona State College of Law in 2017. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Arbon has worked in multiple compliance domains including anti-money laundering, Medicare Part D, contracts, and debt negotiation. Mr. Arbon is licensed to practice law in Arizona. He is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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