How Does Payment History Affect Credit Scores?

Your payment history outlines whether you pay bills on time and is the single most important factor in your personal credit score.

On personal credit reports, payment activity is measured in 30-day increments, with payment penalties categorized as 30, 60, 90, or 120 days late. This means most lenders will not report a late payment on an account until it is a full 30 days late, so if you miss a payment by a few days on your personal credit card, car loan, or mortgage, it may not hurt your credit score.

However, some lenders will report a missed payment immediately, and you will likely be charged a late fee. Your best bet is to pay on time.

A late payment that is reported to the credit reporting agencies will remain on your credit reports for seven years, and will affect your score based on several factors, including:

How late was your payment?
Credit scoring models take into account the severity of late payments; 90 days late is worse than 30 days late, for example.

How many times were you late?
The frequency of your missteps is evaluated. The greater the number of occurrences, the more your score will suffer.

How recently were you late?
Recent information carries more weight. Late payments in the last two years will have the greatest impact on your score. Ironically, the better your score to begin with, the more it’s likely to drop due to a reported delinquency. In fact, a single late payment can drop a high score by 50–100 points or more!

What can you do about your payment history?
If your credit report lists delinquencies that are accurate, paying on time from here on out can help. Remember, with most credit scores, recent information has the greatest impact. As your late payments “age,” they won’t hurt your score as severely, especially if your payment history has been stellar ever since. It’s important to check your credit score often, so that you can identify any incorrect information and dispute any errors.



Some information on this page is adapted from content that originally appeared on, a Venturize supporter.

Want to know what your credit score? Click here to find out for free from our partners.