Your credit report is a breakdown of your financial history put together by the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). They keep track of the financial moves you make, put them into a report, and then provide that information to the credit lenders that are trying to decide if they want to loan you money.
Your credit report usually has six parts:
- Your Personal Information
- Your Employment History
- Your Consumer Statements
- Your Account Information
- Your Public Records
- Your Credit Applications
Before we break down how to dispute your credit report, let's review how you can get your credit report in the first place.
How to Get Your Credit Report
And if you apply for credit and don’t get approved, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from whichever bureau provided your report to the lender that didn’t approve your credit application.
What Does Dispute Mean?
To put it simply, a credit dispute is an inquiry sent to a credit bureau about an error on your credit report.
Of course, to know if there are errors on your credit report, you have to check it. Errors are any inaccurate information and you don’t want those staying on your credit report because they can lead to issues getting credit cards, loans, insurance, and even jobs down the line.
How to Dispute Your Credit Report
#1. Send a Dispute Letter to the Credit Bureau
If you’ve checked your credit report and found an error, you want to reach out to the credit bureau with the error as soon as possible. You can file a dispute with the bureau online or by mail.
In your dispute letter, give them a way to get in touch with you, the error, and the reason behind it. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has sample letters you can use if you’re not sure where to begin or how to write yours.
Be sure you include proof that the error is wrong in your letter. And make sure you keep copies of whatever you send to the credit bureau and send your dispute letter by certified mail (remember to get a receipt if you mail it.)
Where to Send Your Dispute Letter
Equifax: PO Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374 | File Online
TransUnion: PO Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016 | File Online
Experian: PO Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013 | File Online
#2. Figure Out If You Need to Reach Out to the Loan Furnisher
Don’t remember who you owe money to? You’re going to want to check your credit report to find out who to reach out to.
The CFPB recommends that you reach out to the company that provided that information in your report to the credit bureau aka a furnisher (the person you gave you the loan in the first place).
Sometimes, you can go directly to the furnisher which will actually save you a step because if you’re correct, they’ll be responsible for reaching out to the credit bureau to correct your report.
But, if the error is identity related, like somehow your social security number is wrong, you’ll want to reach out to the credit bureau itself because they own that mistake and can fix it without reaching out to anyone.
#3. The Credit Bureau or Furnisher has about 45 days to Investigate
Credit bureaus have 30 days from when they receive your dispute letter to investigate (which often involves checking in with your loan furnisher). Once the investigation is complete, they have 5 days to share its results with you.
Note, the same timelines apply to the furnisher if you go to them directly.
#4. Check Out the Results of the Investigation
Whichever credit bureau you sent your dispute to is required to share the results of their investigation with you in writing. If you succeed with your dispute and your credit report needs to be updated, they have to give you a free copy of your new credit report. They also have to give you the contact information of the furnisher that caused the error in the first place.
#5. Check Your Credit Report for Changes
The dispute process is a bit involved so it can take some time for updates to the impacted credit report to show because credit bureaus have their own update cycles and furnishers have their own schedule for sending new information to the bureaus.
If your credit report has changed months after the dispute was resolved, make sure you contact the credit bureaus and furnisher to see what’s behind the delay and make sure that your report gets updated.
Remember, it’s so important to dispute anything wrong on your credit report as soon as you notice it. Make sure you’re checking your report at least once a quarter (though once a month would be better). The dispute process can absolutely feel overwhelming, but it’s well worth the work if it improves your credit report and score.
EXTRA is motivated to help you along your credit journey. We want to give you the knowledge and tools (hint: an Extra debit card) to empower your financial situation.