Many companies featured on Money advertise with us. Opinions are our own, but compensation and
in-depth research determine where and how companies may appear. Learn more about how we make money.

Illustration of a hand changing their credit score from a negative position to a positive one.
Money; Getty Images

Like most people, you probably don't think about your credit report until there's a problem. And by then, it can be challenging to get the errors corrected. Your credit report is one of the most important financial records you have, so it's essential to understand your rights and how to dispute inaccurate information.

Read on to learn more about the process for disputing inaccurate information on your credit report and get some tips on making the process as smooth as possible.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
Take the first step to improve your credit
Credit Saint works with credit bureaus and creditors to resolve issues with you credit report. Why wait? Select your state to start today!
HawaiiAlaskaFloridaSouth CarolinaGeorgiaAlabamaNorth CarolinaTennesseeRIRhode IslandCTConnecticutMAMassachusettsMaineNHNew HampshireVTVermontNew YorkNJNew JerseyDEDelawareMDMarylandWest VirginiaOhioMichiganArizonaNevadaUtahColoradoNew MexicoSouth DakotaIowaIndianaIllinoisMinnesotaWisconsinMissouriLouisianaVirginiaDCWashington DCIdahoCaliforniaNorth DakotaWashingtonOregonMontanaWyomingNebraskaKansasOklahomaPennsylvaniaKentuckyMississippiArkansasTexas
View Plans

How to dispute your credit report the right way

There are many ways to dispute errors on your credit report, but not all of them are effective or even ethical. If you are going to do this on your own, without the help of a credit repair company, then you need to know exactly what to do. This guide will provide you with tips on the most effective ways to dispute your credit.

Identify errors in your credit report

The first step is to request a copy of your credit report. If you don’t know how to check your credit, you can get started with a copy of the free credit report you’re entitled to annually. Most platforms will walk you through each section so you know what you’re reading and what you should be looking for, which may help if you aren’t quite sure how to read your credit report.

Once you get your credit report, identify any errors you find. You should pay special attention to your demographic details to ensure they are correct. For instance, mistaken identity can be a problem for people with a common first and last name or who share a name with a family member (think Bob Smith Sr. and Bob Smith Jr.) These names could cause others' information to appear on your credit report by mistake.

You should also verify:

  • Name and aliases
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Current and past home addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Current and past employers

After making sure this information is correct, you should check out the financial information on your credit:

  • Credit and loan accounts
  • Public records such as bankruptcies
  • Soft and hard credit inquiries

When checking this information, pay attention to:

  • Dates
  • Balances
  • Status (open, closed, charged-off, late payment, missed payment, etc.)

The three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) all have different reporting procedures and rules for accuracy, but the basics are the same when you need to dispute items on your report. It all starts with finding the errors before you can do anything about it. Below, we'll cover what you should do after finding errors on your credit report.

Types of errors you can find in your credit report

There can be many types of credit report errors. Here are some of the most common:

  • Incorrect personal information (name, current address, etc.)
  • Inaccurate account histories or balances
  • Accounts listed as open that have been closed
  • Duplicate accounts
  • Incorrect statements
Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
What's your credit costing you?
You deserve an accurate and substantiated credit report and score. Let Credit Saint help dispute questionable items on your credit by clicking below.
View Plans

Understand how the credit report dispute process works

Once you've identified errors on your credit report, it's time to start the dispute process. The first step is to contact the credit bureau where the inaccuracies appear. In some cases, only one bureau may have inaccurate information. In others, all three may be reporting the same negative information.

You can send a letter or fill out an online dispute form to contact the bureau. Include all relevant documents supporting your claim and explain why you believe the disputed information is inaccurate.

The credit bureau should then investigate your claim and notify you of the dispute results. If they find that the information is incorrect, they'll remove or update it on your report. You should also receive a copy of an updated credit report reflecting any changes.

It's important to note that some disputes may take longer than others to resolve, and the credit bureaus are not required to remove or update anything that is determined to be correct information.

It's also important to remember that disputing information on your credit report may negatively affect your credit score. For example, there's a slight chance that an attempt to remove a collection account may actually update to show recent collection activity. Make sure you weigh all the pros and cons before deciding to dispute an item on your credit report.

Disputing your debt

You can dispute a collection account with one or more credit bureaus by phone, online or by mail. Here’s the contact information you need to do that.

Online Mail the dispute form with your dispute letter to: Phone
Equifax Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30348
(866) 349-5191
Experian Experian
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
(888) 397-3742
TransUnion TransUnion LLC
Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Starts at $250

Provide all the information required to dispute your credit report

The more information you provide regarding your dispute, the better. You don't want to delay the process by leaving out the information needed to update your credit report.

Write a letter to the credit reporting agencies

When disputing incorrect information on your credit report, it's important to provide all the necessary documentation and information the credit bureau will need to investigate your dispute. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website, your dispute letter to the credit bureau should contain the following information:

  • Each item in your report you dispute
  • State the facts regarding those items
  • Explain why you dispute the information
  • Request that it be removed or updated
  • (Optional) Enclose a copy of your credit report with the items in question circled or highlighted

You may also consider including a copy of your identification, proof of address like a utility bill and copies of any relevant documents, such as bills or receipts, to back up your claim about the information being incorrect.

If you need help writing your dispute letters, there are a few consumer advocacy sites that can provide dispute letter templates and details regarding the information you should provide:

File a dispute letter with the furnisher

If the credit bureau doesn't remove or update the information you are disputing, you can file a dispute letter with the furnisher of the information (i.e. the company that reported it, such as lenders and credit card companies). This letter should outline why you believe the information is inaccurate and request corrections to your report.

You should also explain why you are filing the dispute with the data furnisher and include any supporting documents. Once you've sent this letter, the company or creditor has 30 days to investigate your dispute. If it finds that the information is inaccurate, it must inform all three credit bureaus so they can update your report accordingly.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
If this sounds overwhelming, contact a Credit Repair expert
Credit Saint can identify and challenge questionable items on your behalf. Click below to start repairing your credit.
View Plans

What happens after you file a credit report dispute?

Once the credit bureau has been informed of your dispute, it will investigate your claim and notify you of the results. If they find that the information is incorrect, they'll remove or update it on your report. You should also receive a free copy of an updated credit file reflecting the changes made.

You should also know that if a credit reporting bureau or furnisher doesn't respond within the 30 days allotted, the credit bureaus should remove the item from your report. However, if the furnisher responds later with information proving the item's legitimacy, it could be reinserted into your report.

The furnisher is required to alert you of the reinsertion. You can dispute the item again, but you'll likely have to dispute it with a new reason or new information supporting your stance on why it’s incorrect.

Also, keep in mind that many negative items will eventually drop off from your report if they are older than the reporting period. So, if you aren't successful with your disputes, you can rest assured that these items will be removed at some point.

Credit report dispute FAQ

Is it worth it to dispute my credit report?

In most cases, disputing inaccurate negative items can help your credit score. In others, it could revive old debt accounts with new activity, temporarily decreasing your score. Make sure to consider all the pros and cons before filing a dispute with one of the credit bureaus.

How long does it take to dispute your credit?

Generally, the process can take up to 30 days for the credit bureaus to respond and act on the dispute. Although the average timeline is around 30 days, these companies can take longer to act.

Can disputes hurt your credit score?

Disputing incorrect information on your credit report will not hurt your credit score. However, if the furnisher of the disputed item responds with valid information to support the negative item being reported, then it could result in a temporary decrease in your credit score.

What happens if my credit report dispute is rejected?

If your credit report dispute is rejected, the negative item you contested will remain on your credit history. You can always file another dispute with additional information or a new reason why said item should be updated or removed.

Summary of Money's Guide on how to dispute your credit

Disputing inaccurate information on your credit report is a time-consuming process, but it offers the potential for significant improvement in your credit score. By knowing how to remove negative items from your credit report, you can increase your approval odds for accounts that require a good credit score — from credit cards and bank loans to apartment leases.

Make sure to consider all the potential outcomes of the dispute process before getting started. There are no guarantees, and there's a small chance that your credit score could decrease. Your best bet is to develop healthy financial habits, which will ultimately lead to a better credit score.