If you’ve fallen behind on your Capital One payments, finding out that the bill has been sent to collections can feel overwhelming. Your payment history has a significant effect on your credit score, which can impact your ability to borrow money in the future.

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The best course of action is always to pay your bills on time to avoid having them sent to collections. But if you’re already past this point, there are still steps you can take to avoid further damaging your credit score.

What happens when a Capital One bill is sent to collections?

Before you can deal with the aftermath of being sent to collections, it’s important to understand how this process works. There are three steps your lender will go through to send a bill to collections:

  • The lender is unable to collect the bill: Regardless of the lender, the process always starts with an overdue bill. Different lenders will have different policies about how long they will wait for the customer to settle the debt. Once that time has passed, most lenders will sell the bill to a debt collector or collection agency.
  • The lender contacts a collection agency: Some lenders will give you long as 180 days to settle the account. At that point, most will turn the bill over to a collection agency. Once that has happened, the unpaid bill will most likely show up on your credit report.
  • The collection account is created: Once the collection account is created, future lenders will be able to see this on your credit report. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the debt can remain on your account for up to seven years even after it’s been paid.

Does an unpaid Capital One bill affect your credit score?

Regularly missing payments can have a very negative effect on your credit score. There are a variety of factors that go into calculating your score and your payment history accounts for 35%.

New lenders want to see that you have a history of paying your bills on time and in full. So the more unpaid bills you have on your report, the lower your credit score will be.

And it’s important to deal with missed payments right away. The longer you let the bill go unpaid without doing anything about it, the more impact it will have on your credit score. Leaving a bill unpaid for 90 days looks much worse than leaving a bill unpaid for 30 days.

And late payments can remain on your credit report for up to seven years. However, there are several strategies you can use to have it removed from your credit report.

How do you remove a collection from your credit report?

If you had a Capital One bill sent to collections, it is possible to have it removed from your credit report. Listed below are seven ways you can begin this process.

Check all three credit reports

Before you contact Capital One, you’ll want to find out the extent of the damage. You can request a copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus:

  • Experian
  • Equifax
  • TransUnion

Sites like AnnualCreditReport.com can send you a free copy of your credit report without negatively affecting your credit score. You’ll want to take note of the creditor, the date it was listed, and any other important details.

Find out who owns the debt

Once you have a copy of your credit report, you’ll be able to see who currently owns the debt. You need to find out if Capital One still owns the debt or if they sold it to another creditor.

If your credit report lists the debt as a “charge off” then Capital One most likely sold it to another creditor. If it’s listed as “unpaid” or as a “collection” then Capital One probably still has the debt.

Validate the debt

Once you find out who owns the debt, you should ask your credit to validate the debt. This is a good idea even if you’re planning to eventually pay the bill in full.

According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you have the right to ask a collection agency to validate the debt. This forced the creditor to prove that the debt is yours and that the creditor is authorized to collect on this debt.

Once you send your creditor a letter asking them to validate the debt, they are required to respond to you within 30 days. If they fail to respond, you can contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and file a complaint.

Negotiate with your lender

The next step you should take is to try to negotiate with your lender. If you’ve already paid the bill in full, then you can request a goodwill adjustment. You can do this by either calling or sending a certified letter to your lender.

But keep in mind, your lender doesn’t have to agree to this. You will have more luck if there was some kind of extenuating circumstances that caused you to pay the bill late.

Negotiate a “pay for delete”

If you still haven’t settled the debt, you can use this to your advantage. You can send your lender a letter asking them to remove the account and in exchange, you’ll pay the bill in full.

Before taking this route, you should be sure that you have the funds to pay the bill in full or this opportunity will be wasted even if they agree. And if your lender does agree to a “delete for pay” arrangement, make sure you get this down in writing.

Dispute the collection

If the bill was sent to collections by mistake, then you can dispute it with your lender. You can do this either by calling the number on the back of your card or accessing the contact person listed on your credit card report.

Your lender will likely want proof that this was an error, such as a copy of your bank statement or some other type of documentation. If your lender agrees the bill was sent to collections in error, you should ask for written verification. And make sure you check your credit report in a few months to ensure the collection account is gone.

Seek out help from a professional

If you aren’t having any luck having the debt removed on your own, you might want to seek the help of a professional credit repair company. They will have proven strategies to help you remove the Capital One collection from your account. They can also help with any other issues that are dragging down your score.

Next Steps

Having an unpaid bill sent to collections can have serious consequences, whether it was your fault or not. Either way, you should take the necessary steps to have it removed from your credit report so that it doesn’t damage your credit score. You can do this either by disputing the collection or by asking for a goodwill adjustment.

And most importantly, take steps to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Regularly checking your credit report and setting up autopay are good ways to protect yourself and keep your credit score in good shape.