Credit card companies and credit reporting agencies sometimes make mistakes. Those mistakes can result in costly errors on your credit report, unfairly lowering your credit score and making it difficult for you to get the best loan terms. That’s why it is important to monitor your credit reports. When something on them is wrong, you need to file a dispute.
Reasons to Dispute a Credit Report
It is a credit card myth that you can just dispute problems on the report because you don’t like that they’re there. You have to have a valid reason to file a dispute. Valid reasons include:
- The information on the report is incorrect. For example, it may say that you owe an outstanding amount or have a series of late fees and this simply isn’t true. This is the most common example of why would you file a dispute. You want the information on your report to be accurate.
- You are having a problem with identity theft. If you see a credit card on your report that doesn’t actually belong to you then you need to report fraud charges. At the same time you should file a credit report dispute to start the process of clearing up your report.
- You need to let the credit bureaus know about a problem with a credit card company. For example, I recently had an issue with one credit card resulting from identity theft and it took over four months for the credit card company to solve the problem. During that time they mistakenly reported me as the problem to the credit bureaus. Although the credit card company eventually resolved the problem, I filed disputes with the credit reporting bureaus as well to make sure that the problem was completely resolved.
Note that it can take as long as 90 days for your dispute to be properly handled so it’s best to take this action as soon as you realize that a dispute may need to be filed.
How to File a Dispute with the Credit Reporting Bureaus
Typically when you file a dispute you will do so with one or more of the three major credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). In many cases it makes sense to file the report with all three reporting bureaus because they may all have the same mistaken information. However, in less common instances the problem is only with one bureau and there is no need to contact the others. Continue to monitor the others closely in the months following, though, to make sure that the problem doesn’t crop up with them as well.
If you’re ready to file a dispute with a credit reporting bureau then you need to do the following:
- Order an updated version of your credit report. You are allowed to get one free copy each year from each of the three reporting bureaus but it’s worth it to pay the small fee to get another one if need be for dispute purposes.
- Review your report section by section and identify all of the problems with the report. You don’t want to miss anything.
- Gather any proof that you have that the report is incorrect. For example, you may have recent bill statements from your credit card company that show that your account is in good standing even though the report says it’s not.
- Access the dispute form. Go online to the website for the credit bureau that you want to file a report for. Access their formal dispute form. Print it out and fill out the details.
- Write a statement explaining that you want to file a dispute. Explain clearly and concisely what is wrong with the report and what you want to see changed. Include important identifying information such as your social security number or credit report account number.
- Mail the statement, the dispute form and copies of your “proof” to the dispute address shown on the website for the credit bureau. Note that it is now possible to file an online dispute with the credit bureaus. Many people do choose this option but others still find it preferable to mail a hard copy via registered mail so they have more proof of the process if the dispute isn’t handled in a timely manner. In either case, maintain copies of the dispute for your records.
- The credit reporting bureau should update you within ninety days as to the status of your dispute. If you haven’t heard from them in that amount of time then check your credit report again and contact them as needed.
Filing a Dispute with the Credit Card Company
Note that you may want to file a dispute with your credit card company in addition to filing a report with the credit bureau. If your credit card company has reported a problem to the bureaus that is incorrect then it’s worth it to do this. Sometimes the company will repair the problem with the credit bureaus before your personal dispute goes through, remedying the credit report more quickly for you. To file a dispute with the credit card company, simply contact them and ask for the fax number or mailing address to file disputes. Write out your dispute and provide any supporting documents to prove your claim. Include relevant information such as your account number. Request in writing that the company contact the credit bureau to repair the problem.
Have you ever had to file a credit report dispute? How did the process go for you? What tips do you have for others? Share your experience in the comments.