Next to bankruptcy, having an account in collections is the worst entry you can have on your credit report. It will lower your score, and make it difficult- if not impossible- to obtain new credit. Creditors realize that if you have an account in collections that it went unpaid for a long period of time, and it makes them fear that if they lent you money they would not receive payments on time, either. Once you have an account in collections, your goal is to improve your credit and get the collections accounts deleted, or at the very least, updated on the credit report to say “Paid as agreed”, “Current”, or “Settled”.
The damage is done the moment the account is reported as being in collections. Before you pay off that collection account, you want to negotiate with the debt collector to have the credit report updated to one of the more favorable notations, as described above. You do not want to deal with the nightmare that many people face because they did not negotiate with the creditor and get the intention in writing for the update of your credit report- some people have paid accounts off that are in collections and their credit report is not updated. For at least seven years after the account is paid off; the individuals end up having problems getting new credit because the account still appears in negative status on the credit report.
The Best Scenario for You
The best you can hope for in terms of improving your credit is to have the collector delete the account from your credit report exclusively. Send a “pay for delete” letter to the collector, and offer a settlement payment that you will pay them in exchange for the cancellation of the account from your credit report. Get the collectors response in writing before you make a payment, to be sure you have proof of the arrangement in the event that they do not follow through with their end of the bargain.
If you prefer to call the debt collector, you chance being recorded saying something that can be used against you in a judgment case. You’ll want to get the agreement from the collector in writing anyway, so it’s a good idea to do this in writing anyway.
Debt collectors do not have to remove accurate entries from your credit report, even if you offer a settlement, so not all debt collectors will agree to this scenario.
Second Best Scenario for You
There are a number of collectors who will hold out in hopes of getting the payment in full and will refuse to delete the account from your credit report in exchange for a settlement (less than amount owed) payment. If this is your situation, you’ll have to offer to pay the full amount to get the collector to delete the account from your credit history report.
Not as Good, But Acceptable!
There are some collectors who simply refuse to remove an entry from your credit report, even when you’ve made payment. You would then want to get the collector to agree to update the notation to “Paid in Full”; whether you make a settlement payment or the full amount.
Unfortunately, a number of collectors will not report it as “paid in full” if you settle. If you get the debt collector to agree to a settlement payment, but not “paid in full”, it would still be acceptable and better than your current situation to have the account reflect “Paid-Settled” on your credit report. It will not result in an instant, huge boost in your credit score, but it is certainly better than the situation you’re in now (having the account in collections) and is the best alternative if you can not get it deleted or marked “Paid in full” for making a partial payment. (If you have the money to pay the account in full, do it because the notation on your credit report for an account paid in full is much better for you over the long term!)