When you read the forums on personal finance, debt and credit help, lots of people advise you should demand the collection agency remove your account from your credit report as part of the negotiation. This is called “Pay For Delete”.
In theory this sounds great. Pay less than what you owe and have all traces of this debt removed from your credit report. There are even dozens of sample letters available online to help you work the magic and make the collections account disappear. But how often does it really occur?
It occurs much less frequently than those forum posters make it sound like! According to Allie Johnson at CreditCards.com, only about 10% of collection agencies will agree to a Pay For Delete. So for every successful story of a Pay For Delete there are nine other stories of rejection.
Why such a small percentage of success? Let’s look at this from the standpoint of the credit bureaus and the collection agencies. The collection agencies are paid members of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). All members of the credit bureaus promise contractually to report accurate credit information. Whether positive or negative data.
If you were a member of a credit bureau and you were considering loaning money to someone, wouldn’t you want to know the whole story about the person wanting to borrow your money?
The credit bureaus expect 100% honest reporting from their members. When a collection agency deletes negative information falsely (technically a Pay For Delete is a lie) it risks its membership being terminated by the credit bureaus. No collection agency wants that to happen.
Then why do some Pay For Deletes occur? The agency needs to collect money to remain in business. They either are splitting whatever they collect with the original creditor (an assigned debt) or they paid money and bought the debt from the original creditor (a purchased debt). In either case money needs to come in to keep the doors open!
So if you have a large debt (say $2000), the collection agency might risk an angry call from the credit bureaus if you were to pay them $1000. After all, cash talks! But if you have a $100 debt, it is doubtful that any agency would risk its membership if you offer $50 for the Pay For Delete.
Your chance for a successful Pay For Delete can increase if you can prove that you never got the bill. For example if you have a medical bill which was mailed to an old address and you can prove you were at a new address when the bills were sent out, then there is a legitimate reason for the collection agency to delete your account from the credit bureaus once you pay.
Pay For Delete was a popular trade many years ago but is very rarely accepted today. Collection agencies and creditors are required to remove inaccurate data from credit reports. But they are not required to remove accurate, negative data from credit reports.