How to Fix an Error on Your Credit Report

Order your reports from the credit bureaus and follow these steps to correct any mistakes.

Checking your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus is always a good idea. A misdirected bill that has gone to collections or someone with the same name but bad credit habits could torpedo your credit score. Disputing an error can be a hassle, so if the error is minor and your credit score is stellar (760 or above), you may want to skip the process.

DOWNLOAD: The Kip Tips iPad App (opens in new tab)

Start by ordering your TransUnion, ­Equifax and Experian reports from AnnualCreditReport.com (opens in new tab). You can get a free report from each credit bureau once a year (you can also request a credit score for $8). If you find an account that doesn’t belong to you or even a misspelling of your name, you can file a dispute with the credit bureau.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/xrd7fjmf8g1657008683.png

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of Kiplinger’s expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of Kiplinger’s expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

The fastest way to start a dispute is online at the bureau’s Web site. You’ll need the report number, and you typically have 30 days from the time you ordered it to begin a dispute. The bureau sends your dispute to the reporting party (the lender or collections agency) to check the accuracy, and the bureau has 30 to 45 days to get back to you. If you’re lucky, the lender will own up to the error and either modify or remove it. If not, you could take your dispute directly to the lender, who also has 30 days to investigate and must show on your credit file that the item is in dispute. If it admits that the item is incorrect, it’s required to report that fact to all the bureaus to which it furnishes data.

But the lender may say the information is correct, even if you know it’s not. You can request a permanent narrative on your report noting that you dispute the item. When you apply for a mortgage or other major loan, submit a letter explaining the dispute.

This article first appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. For more help with your personal finances and investments, please subscribe to the magazine (opens in new tab). It might be the best investment you ever make.

Jessica L. Anderson
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Anderson has been with Kiplinger since January 2004, when she joined the staff as a reporter. Since then, she's covered the gamut of personal finance issues—from mortgages and credit to spending wisely—and she heads up Kiplinger's annual automotive rankings. She holds a BA in journalism and mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was the 2012 president of the Washington Automotive Press Association and serves on its board of directors. In 2014, she was selected for the North American Car and Truck Of the Year jury. The awards, presented at the Detroit Auto Show, have come to be regarded as the most prestigious of their kind in the U.S. because they involve no commercial tie-ins. The jury is composed of nationally recognized journalists from across the U.S. and Canada, who are selected on the basis of audience reach, experience, expertise, product knowledge, and reputation in the automotive community.