Step 1: Review your three main credit reports.
You are entitled to receive one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) each year. If you've already used up your free reports for the year, you can still gain access to them directly through the credit bureaus, but you'll likely have to pay a fee. You can view your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports for free anytime through Credit Karma.
Once you have your reports, you should review them for accuracy. In some cases, an error may not be reflected at all three credit bureaus so make sure to check each credit report carefully.
Step 2: Notice an error? File a dispute.
You can dispute incorrect information with each credit bureau or directly with the creditor that provided the information. Here are some pros and cons to weigh when considering either option.
Dispute Filed With
Credit bureaus must investigate errors within 30-45 days. This creates greater urgency for the bureaus to act quickly on your dispute.
Credit bureaus have a duty to share corrected errors with each other, but it can take additional time for the other bureaus to receive and process the change, which means you may want to file a dispute with each bureau for a quicker update.
Creditors have to notify the credit bureaus they report to when they've provided incorrect information. This could save you from having to contact multiple places.
There are some types of disputes that do not have to be investigated if a dispute is filed directly with a creditor.
You could decide to dispute with both the credit bureau and creditor, which could speed up the process. Also, if you are unsure of which method to use, filing a dispute online usually requires less documentation since your account information is more accessible.
Step 3: Follow up on your dispute.
The credit bureau is required to investigate your dispute and will usually do so within 30-45 days of receiving notification of the dispute. The good news is that it usually doesn't take this long. "With the credit bureaus, about 70 percent of disputes are resolved within 14 days," says Norm Magnuson, Vice President of Public Affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA).
In most cases, the bureau will send information about the inaccuracy to the company or organization that provided the information, such as your credit card issuer or mortgage lender. The company will then investigate the dispute and report back to the credit bureau. About 15 percent of the time, the credit bureau doesn't need to involve the information provider, according to Magnuson.
If your dispute is successful, the company is required to provide the correction to each credit bureau it reports to. The credit bureau you filed a dispute with also has to report the results back to you and include a free copy of your credit report if there was a change made on it due to the investigation. If you haven't heard back about your dispute after around a month, you can contact the credit bureau to follow up.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have to pay to file a dispute?
No, you can dispute errors on your credit report for free.
What if a credit report with an error on it was shared with a third party before the dispute was resolved?
You can ask the credit bureau to send notices of any deleted information to those who received your report for employment purposes during the past two years or for any other purpose during the past six months.
What if the dispute is resolved, but the error is not fixed?
Once there is a decision on your dispute, you may agree or disagree with the result. If you disagree, there are more steps you can take.
It's important to dispute incorrect information on your credit report because it can sometimes have a significant impact on your credit health and financial future. In some cases, it's also one of the quickest ways to make an impact on your credit score. To ensure that your credit reports remain clear of errors in the future, keep an eye on your credit with Credit Karma.
Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.