How to Dispute a Credit Report Error in 10 Steps

Errors in your credit report can have negative consequences for your financial well-being. Luckily, disputing these errors is a manageable process that can lead to their removal.

If you’re dealing with a credit report error, whether it’s related to student loans or not, follow these 10 steps to dispute it successfully.

1. Look over your credit reports

Whether you saw them just a couple of months ago or it’s been well over a year, the first step to ensuring your credit report is free of errors is to check your information regularly. You can request your credit reports for free from each major credit bureau — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion  every 12 months through

You can request a free copy of your credit reports within 60 days of being turned down for credit, insurance or employment; however, that only applies to the credit bureau the creditor used to make its lending decision. You may also request a free credit report if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, if you’re on welfare or if your report is inaccurate due to fraud.

Outside of the free credit reports you are entitled to, you can purchase your credit reports at any time from the three major credit reporting agencies. Keep in mind that your credit reports are updated all the time, so when you’re ready to start the process of disputing a credit report, it’s important to ensure you’re looking at the same information the credit bureaus will be referencing.

2. Make note of errors

Some mistakes might just jump out at you when you’re disputing credit reports — others may require a closer look.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), some of the most common credit reporting errors include identity errors and incorrect reporting of your account status, as well as data management and balance errors.

So, as you’re going through your credit reports, ask yourself:

  • Are my name, address and phone number correct?
  • Do all the accounts I see belong to me?
  • Are any accounts showing as open that I know are actually closed?
  • Are there any delinquent payments on accounts I’ve always paid on time?
  • Are there any dates that don’t match up with when I opened the account, made my last payment or the first time I was late with a payment?
  • Are there any multiple listings for the same account?
  • Are there any debts listed on my reports that should have fallen off by now?
  • Has any information that was previously corrected reappeared on my reports?
  • Do any accounts show incorrect balances or credit limits?

3. Prepare your supporting documentation

Before you file your dispute, you’ll want to have all documentation in front of you. Start with a copy of the credit report that has the inaccurate listing. You may circle the listing in the credit report for the credit bureau’s reference.

Beyond that, the documentation you include will depend on the situation. For instance, if the report says you made a late credit card payment that you know you paid on time, include a copy of a bank statement that shows the date the payment cleared your account. Do the same for a late mortgage payment or any other kind of payment that is erroneously listed as late or unpaid.

4. File a dispute for each error: Online

Have you found one or more items on your credit report that you know are incorrect? It’s time to file your dispute.

You can file your dispute online for each bureau, and the advantage of this method is speed and ease.

For Experian, you’ll register first to get access to its dispute center (if you’ve not done so already). You’ll just have to provide some basic information, such as your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. You can also directly contact Experian by phone to get the dispute process going, but the online process may be faster and easier. You can go here to get started with registration.

For TransUnion, you will need to set up an account as well, then select “New Investigation” to begin the process. Go here to get started.

Equifax also requires you to create an account in order to submit an online dispute; you can go here to do so.

Once you’ve registered for an online account with one or all of the credit bureaus, you can file your disputes as directed. You may also upload your supporting documents as needed.

5. File a dispute for each error: Traditional mail

While the online dispute process may be the fastest and easiest method for many, there are some people who may prefer to deal with traditional mail when it comes to financial disputes. If that’s your preference, you can sit down and write or type a dispute letter for each error you find.

Experian’s address for disputes:
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013

Equifax’s dispute address is:
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256

TransUnion’s address is:
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000

Get right to the point in your letter and be sure to include the following:

  • Note general information, such as:
    • The date
    • Your name, address, phone number and Social Security number
    • The name and address of the credit reporting bureau
  • State that you’re writing to dispute an inaccurate listing and ask that it be removed or corrected.
  • State the account name and account number of the listing you are disputing.
  • Describe the inaccuracy in your credit report.
  • State why you believe the listing to be inaccurate, providing a thorough explanation and citing any supporting documentation you are including with the letter.

6. Make copies for your records

Before dropping your dispute letters in the mail, make copies of them for your files.

Do the same with all of your documentation, but be sure to keep the originals and send the copies — after all, items can get lost in the mail. Keeping the originals will give you peace of mind, and ensure you have everything you need if you have to resend the letter and documentation.

To avoid the possibility of your letter being lost without your knowing it, send your disputes through certified mail with a return receipt requested. Upon receipt, the return request postcard will be mailed back to you, providing proof that the document was received and on what exact date.

7. Wait for a response

The credit reporting bureaus typically have 30 days to respond to your dispute. One exception may be if they find your dispute “frivolous,” per the FTC. (Of course, you should always ensure the dispute you are filing is 100% legitimate.)

Note that if you send in additional information during the 30-day period, the credit bureau is allowed to extend its response time to a total of 45 days.

You may also receive alerts from the credit bureaus noting that they have received your dispute and are working on it. If you do not hear from them once 30 or more days have passed, you should contact them by phone to reference your previous correspondence and ask about the status of your dispute.

8. If the credit bureau does not correct the error

You may not get the result you’re hoping for at the end of a credit dispute investigation. If that’s the case, you can ask the credit bureau to include the statement of your dispute in your file and in future reports. That way, it will remain on record that you have disputed an item that is still on your credit report, though you will likely have to pay a fee for this service.

In an extreme case, you might opt to hire a lawyer who specializes in credit disputes to fight the inaccuracy on your report.

9. Directly contact the information provider

Your dispute does not only have to include the credit bureaus: You can dispute an item directly through the information provider (the institution that reported what you think is inaccurate information in the first place). The Fair Credit Reporting Act notes that both the credit reporting company and the information provider are responsible for correcting inaccurate information on your report, so you can exercise your rights by contacting both.

Put this dispute with the information provider into writing, just as you did with your communications to the bureaus. You may be able to find the information provider’s address on your credit report. If not, you can contact them directly to get it.

If you file a dispute with the information provider, a notice of your dispute should be included any time the institution reports the information to a credit bureau. If the information does indeed prove to be incorrect, the information provider must tell the credit reporting agency to update or delete the inaccurate item.

10. Continue to keep tabs on your credit reports

Once the disputing process has ended, ensure the item has been removed from your credit report or reports. Then continue to be vigilant about checking your reports in case another error occurs. Always take advantage of those free annual credit reports noted in step 1, and put them to good use.

How to dispute student loans on your credit report

Like mortgage loans and credit card charges, student loans, both federal and private, are also included in your credit report. For the most part, this is a good thing, as regular, responsible student loan payments can help you boost your credit.

As with any other institution that reports to the credit bureaus, however, you may experience student loan errors on your credit report. Perhaps a late payment is reported, even though you know you made that payment. Maybe you consolidated a student loan, yet the lender you’re no longer dealing with still has you listed as a borrower. Perhaps you’ve even paid your student loans off, but they’re still showing up with a balance on your credit report.

A student loan dispute will be handled in the same way you handle any other dispute on your credit report; the above steps will generally suffice. That said, here are a few things specific to disputing a student loan entry on your credit report:

  1. You may want to contact your student loan lender as a first step, before filing a dispute with the credit bureaus. Student loans are, in many ways, more flexible than other types of loans (for example, they offer income-driven repayment plans, as well as forbearance and deferment options). Student loan lenders may be willing to work with you to correct the error and contact the bureaus.
  2. If this does not work, file the dispute with the bureaus as detailed above.
  3. If the dispute cannot be resolved, you might consider contacting a student loan lawyer.

Read more on how student loans affect your credit score.

Managing your credit

Dealing with an error on your credit report is frustrating, especially if you’re always careful to pay your bills on time. However, all is not lost if this happens: You can dispute the error and request it get taken off your report if you follow the above steps. If need be, you can also consult legal counsel to deal with an error that remains on your report even after the dispute.

Overall, in order to keep your credit reports and credit score in good shape, be sure to make all your payments on time, keep your credit utilization ratio low and hold on to your older credit cards to maintain a longer history.

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