Credit is the king of financial tools.
It provides access to mortgages, to auto loans, to credit cards, and more.
While good credit is a green light to financial gain, bad credit can be a real buzzkill.
That’s especially true if your credit report has errors that cast you in a negative light with potential lenders.
Here’s the good news: if you need to dispute a credit report, you came to the right place.
In this article, we’ll explain why your credit report matters, where you can request a credit report, and most importantly, how to dispute a credit report in a timely fashion.
Let’s get started.
What Is a Credit Report (And Why Does It Matter)?
Your credit report is a comprehensive summation of your entire credit history.
Any personal loan, auto loan, business loan, mortgage, or credit card you’ve ever used will be listed on your credit report.
Why does it matter? Because your credit report demonstrates your responsibility as a borrower.
Potential creditors and lenders will carefully review your credit report to see how well you’ve handled past and present credit accounts.
Even potential landlords and employers will access your credit report before offering you a lease or job.
In other words, your credit report plays a crucial role in the pursuit of your financial dreams—whether that means buying a car, owning a home, or simply getting access to a better credit card.
Note: Your credit report also determines your credit score—often listed as a FICO® score—which helps lenders determine an applicant’s viability and set interest rates on their loans.
What’s in a Credit Report, Exactly?
Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the three major credit bureaus in the United States, and each of them provides its own version of your credit report.
Though each report is unique, all three bureaus observe four fundamental categories:
1. Personal Identifiable Information
Your credit report will feature basic information like your name, address, employment history, and date of birth.
2. Credit Accounts
All of your loan products are listed by your lenders, along with the date you opened the account(s), your current balance, and your payment history.
3. Credit Inquiries
Whenever lenders review your credit report, their interactions are recorded into two categories: “soft” and “hard” inquiries.
As the name implies, a “soft” credit check is generally conducted for pre-approval offers from a lender (or whenever you check your own credit). Though soft inquiries are recorded on your credit report, they won’t affect your FICO® score.
Conversely, a “hard” credit check occurs after you apply for a loan product or credit card. In most cases, a hard inquiry lowers your credit score by a few points. If you request multiple loans or credit products in a short time span, your FICO® score could drop considerably.
While soft inquiries can be conducted without your permission, hard inquiries require your written authorization.
4. Public Record & Collections
Each of the major credit bureaus track public record information, including bankruptcies, debts sent to collections, and even late credit card payments.
Generally speaking, any and all delinquent payments will appear on your credit report.
How Long Does Negative Information Stay On Your Credit Report?
Most negative information, like late payments, collections, and repossessions, stays on your credit report for seven years.
Other events, like bankruptcies and closed accounts, can stay on your credit report for longer—up to ten years.
Keep in mind that the official timeline initiates from the original date of delinquency.
In other words, whether you missed a credit card bill by 30 days, 60 days, or even longer, the late payment would still register on your credit report from the first day that you failed to pay.
Even after you’ve repaid the bill, the late payment remains on your credit report until the original seven-year term expires.
How To Check Your Credit Report
It’s very important to check your credit report, and you should do it at least once a year.
Unfortunately, reporting errors are fairly common these days. In fact, recent studies show that 34% of Americans found at least one mistake on their credit reports.
Even small mistakes like inaccurate numbers and misspellings can undermine your financial health.
Fortunately, federal law entitles you to a free credit report every year from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
To get started, simply go to AnnualCreditReport.com (or call (877) 322-8228).
Whichever option you choose, you’ll be able to request a copy of all three reports at the same time (or just one, if that’s all you need).
Phone and mail orders take roughly two weeks to process. If you order your free credit report online, you’ll be able to access and review it immediately.
How To Submit a Credit Report Dispute
If you spot an error on your credit report, it’s well within your rights to dispute it.
Such errors may include personal information, like a misspelled name, an old address, or an incorrect Social Security number.
Other mistakes may include inaccurate account information, like a lender reporting overdue bills that you already paid.
In some cases, credit reports can show duplicate items or even mixed credit files between relatives that share the same name.
Of course, some errors aren’t just mistaken: they’re fraudulent, like attempted identity theft.
In such cases, be sure to notify the Federal Trade Commission.
Whatever errors you discover, federal law empowers you to file a dispute, entirely free of charge.
You should never pay for any individual or company to help clean up your credit report, however benevolent or official their services may seem.
To get started, there are two ways to dispute an error on your credit report.
1. Contact a Business Directly
If the error(s) pertain to a particular account, you can contact the business that provided the information.
This process will require you to send a formal letter to the lender or creditor.
In this letter, include your personal information and details about the specific accounts you are disputing.
To view an example letter, click here to visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Simply add your identifying/dispute information, print a copy of the sample letter, and mail it to the furnisher.
2. Contact the Credit Reporting Company
You can also contact each credit reporting company directly—online, by phone, or by mail. To dispute a credit report with:
If you prefer to dispute by mail or phone, use the following information:
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
2000 Chester, PA 19016
Note: if you find similar mistakes on each copy of your credit report, be sure to dispute with each individual credit bureau. Rectifying one credit report will not affect the other two.
What Happens After You Submit a Dispute
Generally speaking, credit report disputes take roughly 30 days to resolve.
During that time, the credit bureau will ask the furnisher in question to review their records. Any incorrect information will be updated, and any information that cannot be verified will be removed from your report.
Whenever status updates are available, the credit bureau in question will send you alerts via email.
If you disagree with the final results of your dispute, you still have two options to proceed:
- File a secondary dispute with additional information.
- Contact the business (the furnisher) who reported the information to the credit bureau.
Note: If the furnisher rejects your dispute, you can also ask the credit bureau to include a statement explaining the dispute in your credit file. While this won’t expunge the alleged errors, the statement will remain visible to future lenders and creditors viewing your report.
Patience is the key to fortifying your financial life.
It takes time to request a credit report, to carefully read the fine print, and then to file a dispute. Ultimately, while the process may be painstaking, it’s important to review your credit report at least once a year.
After all, having good credit is essential to accessing mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and everything in between.
While it takes time to dispute a credit report, other aspects of your financial life can be far faster.
With uLink, for example, you can send money home in a matter of minutes. And with great exchange rates and fees starting as low as $0, you can save more money in the process.
Miles from home—just moments away with uLink.