Are you interested in taking out a mortgage? A car loan? A personal loan for your kitchen remodel or Hawaiian vacation? If so, it’s important that your credit report is free of errors and accurately reflects your payment history and creditworthiness. You’ll also want to know how to dispute an error on your credit report if something is wrong.
By checking to make sure your credit report is in tip-top shape, you can increase your chances of securing a competitive interest rate and favorable terms on your next loan. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of going to AnnualCreditReport.com on a yearly basis to get free copies of your latest credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.
When you receive your reports, carefully go through the line items on each of them and make sure the information your creditors have reported to the bureaus is accurate. In the event you find an error on any of your credit reports, there are certain steps you can take to correct the inaccuracy.
What is a credit report error?
A credit report error is any information about your credit history that is either inaccurate or incomplete. The most common types of credit report errors include:
- Incorrect personal information. If you notice your report contains the wrong address or a different spelling of your first name, the credit bureau may have confused you with another person who has a similar name.
- Accounts that don’t belong to you. Loans or credit cards that you don’t believe you ever took out or opened may be a sign that your identity has been stolen.
- Inaccurate payment history. If a report lists late or missed payments that you are sure you paid on time, your credit score may be lower than it should be.
- Closed accounts listed as open. Old debts that you already paid off may increase your credit utilization ratio and lower your credit score if they are on your credit report.
- Outdated information on credit limit or balance. If your report doesn’t have the most up-to-date information on how much you owe and what your credit limit is, you may have a credit utilization ratio that is higher than it should be.
How to dispute an error on your credit report online
If you prefer to dispute a credit error online, the process will depend on the credit bureau in question. Here’s a brief overview of how you may dispute a credit error online with each bureau:
- Visit Experian’s Online Dispute portal.
- Select the “Start a new dispute online” box and follow the step-by-step directions.
- Give your dispute 30 to 45 days to be completed.
- Go to TransUnion’s Online Dispute portal.
- Create an account and follow the step-by-step directions.
- Return to the portal any time to check out your results, take further actions, or view other pending requests.
- Allow 30 to 45 days for your dispute to be completed.
- Head on over to Equifax’s Online Dispute portal.
- Enter the information necessary for Equifax to find your credit file.
- Follow the step-by-step instructions.
- Give your dispute 30 days to be completed.
If your credit report shows any of these errors, it is important to dispute them immediately. By failing to do so, you could face lower credit scores and may have difficulty opening a new credit account or getting approved for a loan. You may also find it challenging to secure lower interest rates and favorable terms.
How to dispute an error on your credit report by mail
If you choose to dispute a credit report error via mail, you can follow these steps.
1. Send a letter to the credit bureau
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), it’s vital to reach out to each of the credit bureaus that generated an erroneous report for you. In a formal letter, provide them with your contact information and explain the error you discovered. For guidance, check out these sample letters on the CFPB website. Don’t forget to include any documents that prove the information you found is a mistake.
Here are the mailing addresses for all three credit bureaus:
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Consumer Dispute Center
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
PO Box 4500
2. Contact the company that provided the information
The company that provided the information to the credit bureau is referred to as the “furnisher” and may be a bank, credit union, credit company, or debt collection agency. It’s a good idea to contact them in writing and let them know that you are disputing an item on your credit report. Feel free to use this sample dispute letter and be sure to support your position with copies of documents that reveal the error.
3. Wait up to 45 days for the credit bureau to respond
After they’ve received your dispute, credit bureaus typically have 30 days (45 days in some cases) to check the information with the furnisher. They are also legally obligated to report their results back to you within five days after they complete their investigation.
Keep in mind that the credit bureau or furnisher may state that your dispute is “frivolous.” This may be the case if the information you’ve submitted is incomplete or incorrect. If your dispute does get deemed frivolous, you may re-submit it with the proper information.
4. Review the investigation results
It is the credit bureau’s responsibility to provide you with the investigation results in writing as well as a free copy of your credit report that reflects the changes they’ve made. They must also give you the contact details of the furnisher that reported the flawed information.
5. Check for an updated credit report
Updates to your credit report will not appear overnight and depend on the bureau’s process as well as when the furnisher provides them with the updated information. If you’ve waited several months and still do not see any updates on your credit report, reach out to the credit bureau and furnisher to confirm that the updates will be made.
Unfortunately, there is no firm answer for how long it will take to see a change in your credit report after filing a dispute. It depends on your particular case and the credit bureau itself, and can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
If you find that your credit score is still lower than you’d like it to be after addressing the errors on your report, you can look into other strategies for improving your credit score.
Learn how to manage your finances and improve your financial health
Learning how to dispute an error on your credit report, deal with debt, and plan for your future doesn’t need to be hard. It just takes a little effort to educate yourself on the basics. We have developed a simple-to-follow guide to help you plan for a better financial future. Get started by downloading our free guide right now.