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What Does a Derogatory Mark Mean On a Credit Report?

What Does a Derogatory Mark Mean On a Credit Report?
Sarah Li Cain
Sarah Li CainUpdated August 17, 2022
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Financial missteps such as a late payment or bankruptcies can end up on your credit report as a derogatory mark. These negative marks can make it hard to get approved for new credit, especially if you already have a low score. Further, derogatory marks on your credit report can have a serious impact on your credit score.In some cases, there are steps you can take to dispute a derogatory item on a credit report. Otherwise, you’ll just have to wait it out — usually for to seven to 10 years — and see what other steps you can take to improve your credit in the meantime.

What Is a Derogatory Mark?

Derogatory marks are negative items on your credit reports that typically remain there for a long time. Examples include late or missed payments, bankruptcies, collections, foreclosures and repossessions. These remarks on your credit report generally indicate you haven’t paid back a loan based on an agreement with lenders.You can dispute derogatory marks if you believe it is due to an error. If found to be true, the credit bureaus will request that creditors update their information so the credit bureau will have the correct information. Otherwise, the derogatory mark will remain on your report and could damage your credit score. In most cases, these marks will stay in your credit report anywhere from seven to 10 years (it could be longer). Over time, the impact of these items may reduce its effect on your credit, which is why it’s so important to dig into credit card details before getting a new card. 

Do Derogatory Marks Affect Credit Scores?

A derogatory mark in your credit report will most likely damage your credit score. However, how much your score will be negatively impacted depends on several factors.For instance, the type of derogatory mark affects how low your score could go. A less serious one, such as a late payment, may not be as damaging as a more serious one like bankruptcy. Plus, if you have a low to fair credit score and a derogatory remark, it could impact whether lenders will approve you for loans, or at which rates and terms. (Don’t worry though — there are cards for fair credit scores out there).The amount of time a derogatory mark stays on your credit reports depends on what type of mark it is. Usually, the more serious the mark, the longer it stays on your credit report.

How Do Derogatory Marks Usually Happen?

There are several reasons why you’d receive a derogatory mark on your credit report, the most common being a late payment. Take a look at the following chart to see several events that can lead to derogatory marks, and how long they’ll stay on your credit report.
To find if you have any derogatory marks in the first place, you can request a copy of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus. The simplest way to do that is to head to Right now, all three credit bureaus are offering free weekly online credit reports for the foreseeable future.If you see any, how you go about removing derogatory marks on your credit report depends on whether they’re there due to an error. If so, you can ask to have them removed by filing a dispute with the credit bureau that has the error.Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for them to be removed from your credit reports — the length of time varies on the type of derogatory mark. 

How Can I Dispute a Derogatory Item on a Credit Report?

To dispute a derogatory item, you can contact the credit bureau or lender that reported the error. You can either call or submit a written request by mail or online.If you call a credit bureau, look up the phone number of the credit bureau you want to contact. Some, like Experian, will have the phone number to call on your Experian credit report. Set aside plenty of time to make the call because you could be put on hold for a while. To be as effective as possible in filing your request over the phone, have all the details ready regarding the dispute, such as the derogatory item, date it appeared on your report and any proof you have as to why the mark was made in error. It can be helpful to dig into statement details before picking up the phone.Several credit bureaus allow you to dispute items on your credit report online. You’ll most likely need to register for an online account before you can submit your request. For those who want to submit a written request, make sure to include your full name, Social Security number, date of birth and the details of your request. You can find the mailing address on each credit bureau's website.Once you've submitted your request, all you need to do is sit back and wait. It could take up to 30 days for credit bureaus to complete the dispute process.

The Takeaway

If you have a derogatory mark on your credit report, you can take proactive steps to remove it. For ones due to errors, dispute it with the credit bureau in question as soon as possible, especially if you’re looking to apply for credit soon. Even if you can’t dispute the derogatory item, there are still ways you can work toward rebuilding your credit. One of the most effective ways to do so is to make on-time payments on existing debt so you’ll be able to show lenders you’re creditworthy. Another option is to limit yourself on how much you borrow, or make sure your credit card balance is way below your credit limit.Finally, you can choose a credit card to help you rebuild your credit. There are plenty of options out there. Before signing up for one, take the time to compare credit building cards to find an option that suits your needs.
Photo credit: iStock/​​BartekSzewczyk
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About the Author

Sarah Li Cain

Sarah Li Cain

Sarah Li Cain is a finance writer and podcast producer focusing on topics such as credit, insurance, investing, and real estate. Her work has appeared in major publications such as CNBC Select, Forbes, Redbook, and Business Insider.
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