Reviewing your credit report regularly is as important as going to the dentist or getting your car a tune up. The good news: Keeping your credit report in good shape isn’t hard. You can find and correct errors with the three major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian — entirely online. You get to review each section of your credit report for accuracy and dispute anything that is incorrect.  They’ll send you a free copy of your report if they make any changes based on the claims you file.

Why Should You Dispute Information on Your Credit Report?

Having the most accurate, up-to-date data on your file helps prevent the stress and hassle of being rejected by lenders through no fault of your own. By reviewing your credit report and disputing any false or outdated information, you’re getting out in front of any potential issues that could impact your credit history.

It’s always best to correct errors on your report, no matter what. You’re working hard on your credit score. You don’t want a few errors to hold you back.

How to Dispute Inaccurate Information on Your Credit Report for Free

All three bureaus allow you to dispute any inaccuracies on your credit report for free online. You’ll receive a free copy of your credit report, you can review it in-depth, and you can dispute any inaccuracies you find. However, keep in mind that not every credit report contains errors. You’re only making sure your credit report is accurate. If you go through the dispute process and find nothing, good for you! Either way, it’ll be worth it.

Here’s how to file an online dispute with three major credit bureaus:

Equifax

  1. Log in or create an account to start a dispute. You can initiate a dispute online through Equifax’s dispute page. Note that when you create an Equifax account, you get six free credit reports from the bureau each year, regardless of whether you’re filing a dispute.
  2. Verify your personal information. The first section you’ll review are your personal identification details, including current and past addresses. Dispute anything that is incorrect.
  3. Review each account on your credit report. Equifax allows you to filter your account by negative information, and that’s likely where you’ll want to focus your attention since inaccuracies there can affect your credit score. However, it’s important to review your entire report.
  4. Review hard inquiries. Equifax is the only credit bureau that allows you to contest hard inquiries online. These are a record of when your credit report what provided in response to a credit application.  Dispute these if you didn’t apply for credit indicated. You can choose from three reasons for disputing an inquiry: “Not mine,” “I did not authorize this inquiry,” and “This is a fraudulent inquiry.” Soft inquiries do not impact your credit score, and Equifax does not allow you to dispute those.
  5. Look for updates on your dispute. Equifax will send you emails or update your online account as your dispute is moved through the resolution process.

TransUnion

  1. Initiate an online dispute. You can log into your TransUnion account first, or create one during the dispute process. Visit TransUnion’s dispute page and click on “Start Dispute” to begin.
  2. Check your report section by section. The TransUnion site will guide you through the different elements of your report, and you can flag any inaccuracies as you see them. You’ll have a chance to add more disputes before submitting if you missed any on first glance.
  3. Submit your report. Be sure to include any items you want to dispute now because you won’t be able to add or modify your claim until the current submission is resolved. The resolution process takes up to 30 days.
  4. Review hard inquiries.  These are a record of when your credit report what provided in response to a credit application.  If any inquiries are not yours, you will need to dispute them in writing.  You can find details provided by Transunion here.
  5. Look for updates in the coming weeks. TransUnion will send you updates through email or your online account as they review your disputes.

Experian

  1. Log into your account. Once you’ve logged in, scroll over the “Credit Support” tab and click “Disputes” from the dropdown menu. Click “Start a new dispute online.” Tip: If you haven’t created an account yet, you can click “Start a new dispute online” through the dispute page and you’ll be guided to account sign-up before submitting your claims.
  2. Review all of the items on your report. You’ll get to see your personal information, including current and past addresses and employers, as well as financial account data. Make a note of any inaccuracies.
  3. Submit your dispute claims. After you’ve reviewed your entire report, you can submit your claims online. Use the text box provided to explain your position and provide any supporting documents with the attachment feature. Click through to review and finalize your dispute.
  4. Review your hard inquiries.  These are a record of when your credit report what provided in response to a credit application.  If any inquiries are not yours, you will need to dispute.  Experian prefers to handle disputed inquires over the phone and you can find information about this in the dispute center above.  Experian has provided some information on their website as well.
  5. Check your email and online account for updates. Experian will send you emails and also post updates to your online account as they process your dispute claim.

What are the legal requirements for credit bureaus after I submit a dispute?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that the credit bureaus investigate and respond to your dispute request within 30 days. If you’ve filed a dispute regarding account status, payment history, or another issue with a creditor, the bureau must send that information to the creditor, who is then required to investigate the issue. In cases where the lender or creditor verifies your claim, they have to update any bureaus where the incorrect information was reported so that your file can be corrected.

After your dispute is closed, the bureaus must let you know whether they accepted or dismissed it, and they must give you a free copy of your credit report if it was updated because of your claim.

How Will the Credit Bureau Contact Me After Submitting My Dispute Request?

When you file disputes online, the credit bureaus will update you via email throughout the process, making it easy to track the status of your claims. Online claims also help keep your data safe, since you’re providing information directly through the bureaus’ secure sites.

What if I need help with credit disputes?

If you’re interested in working with credit experts to boost your score, look for nonprofit credit management agencies. They sometimes charge a nominal fee for their services, but they can provide guidance on your credit improvement journey. They may help with disputes and negotiate your monthly payments so you can pay down balances and build your credit profile. They also provide credit counseling services to help you strategize more smart money moves for the future.

Beware of companies that make big guarantees or ask for up-front payments. You may have seen or heard ads from credit repair companies claiming to remove bankruptcies from your credit file, give you a fresh start on your credit identity, or guarantee that they can eliminate bad credit. While these claims sound promising, it’s important to proceed with caution. The Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) prohibits businesses from making false claims, and they cannot charge you before they’ve provided a service. Repairing your credit can take time, as it requires not only disputing inaccuracies but also building a history of on-time payments and continuing to keep your credit utilization ratio low.

What Happens After You File?

Once you file a dispute, the credit bureaus have 30 days to review it and respond. However, they’ll keep you in the loop through emails or account updates when you log in, even before they’ve issued an approval or denial of your dispute.

Here’s what to expect during that time:

  • The credit bureaus will notify you about updates through email or your online account.
  • If the bureaus need additional information about the dispute, they will contact you within 30 days.
  • The bureaus will contact your creditors or lenders if you’ve mentioned any in your claim.
  • f the credit bureau agrees with your dispute, the bureau will remove the disputed data from your credit report or update your report, depending on your claim.
  • The bureaus will notify you when they’ve updated the information in your credit report. 
  • Assuming your report has changed because of your dispute, you’ll receive a free copy of the report from each of the bureaus with which you filed the claim.

What Happens If You Disagree With the Credit Bureau?

Sometimes, a bureau will rule against you in a dispute even though you have a valid claim. When that happens, you can request that your dispute be kept on your credit file so that future lenders and creditors can see that you disagreed with the mark being included on your report and why.

What Are My Options if the Bureau Rules Against My Claim?

The online dispute option is always available to you if you identify inaccurate information on your report down the road as well, so regardless of how the bureaus respond to any single dispute, you’re entitled to file claims whenever you spot something you believe needs to be corrected.

To make the most of your time, only dispute valid claims for which you can provide documentation to support your claim. If a bureau approves a dispute initially but then receives information from a creditor that upholds the original data on your report, they can add it back into your file.

Should You Dispute With a Lender?

The best place to start the dispute process is with the credit bureaus since they’re required to respond within 30 days. But you can, and should, dispute any inaccurately reported account or late payment with a lender as well.

How to File a Dispute Directly to a Lender

To do so, write a letter directly to your lender, explaining your position. Include all the information about the account you’re disputing, such as your account number, dates of incorrectly reported payments, or total amounts owed. Include copies (not originals) of any supporting documents you have.

Keep in mind, though, that lenders are not legally required to respond to disputes within 30 days. You may want to contact them at least once a week to check the status of your claim, because the bureaus won’t update your report until they can confirm the information you’ve submitted with the creditor.

Final Thoughts: Online Dispute Options are the Most Efficient Method

The goal is always to prevent and remove the inaccurate information from your report. Using the credit bureaus’ online dispute options is a simple, efficient way of keeping your credit report accurate and current so you can take advantage of new financial opportunities.

The content provided on Elevate.com is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute financial or legal advice.  It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.  Elevate is not acting as a credit counseling or repair service, debt consolidation service, or credit services organization in providing this content.  Elevate makes no representations about the reliability or suitability of the information provided – any action you take based on this content is at your own risk.