Your credit report contains important information about your finances and can impact your ability to get loans, open new lines of credits or access better lending terms and interest rates. Despite the role that credit scores play in our finances, one in five consumers has an error that a credit bureau corrected after the consumer disputed the mistake on at least one report, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The importance of an accurate credit report
Your credit score helps lenders decide how likely you are to repay your debts. Factors that weighed when calculating your credit score include:
Your payment history
Your credit utilization ratio
Whether you've declared bankruptcy
How many credit accounts you have
Whether you have experience managing different types of accounts
How many new accounts you've applied for recently
If you've recently opened new credit accounts
The length of credit history, including your average age of accounts and the age of your oldest and newest account
Review your credit report regularly for inaccurate or incomplete information so that you can take steps to dispute these mistakes and get them removed.
Did you know?
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Credit history used to stop at the border—until now. Your existing international credit history could help you get credit in the United States. No SSN is required to start your credit history today.Learn More
How to check your credit score
You can request a free copy of your credit report from Equifax, Experian or Transunion, the three main U.S. bureaus, at AnnualCreditReport.com once every 12 months. However, these reports don't come with a credit score. If you want to check your credit scores, you'll either need to pay for your scores or sign up for a service that gives you a free credit score.
To avoid unnecessary charges, check first to see if your bank, credit union, lender or a nearby nonprofit credit or financial counseling organization will provide you with your free FICO scores. You can check which companies offer free FICO scores to customers here.
There are also companies like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame that give you free credit reports along with scores based on those reports. These non-lender providers often offer VantageScore 3.0 credit scores and you can check your scores for free without having to open a new account or credit card. They may also free credit monitoring which alerts you if there's a change in one of your credit reports. You can find a list of free options on the VantageScore website.
If you're checking your score at multiple places and find you have different credit scores don't worry. The companies may offer different types of credit scores or the scores could be based on different credit reports.
You can also receive a free copy of your credit report if you fall into one of the following categories.
You received an adverse action notice.
Issuers must give you an adverse action notice if you’re denied credit or given less favorable financing terms based on your credit history. You may also get an adverse action notice. If your application for a credit card was denied, you’re entitled to receive a free report from the credit bureau that issued the denial. To receive a free copy of your credit report, request one within 60 days of receiving the notice.
You are unemployed and are seeking employment.
You can get a free credit report if you are not employed and you plan to apply for a job no more than 60 days after your last request of a free report.
You receive public assistance.
You are eligible for a free credit report if you receive any form of public welfare assistance, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.
Your state provides free credit reports.
Some states have laws that grant you an additional free copy of your credit report. These states include Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont.
You suspect fraud.
You may request an additional free copy of your credit report if you believe fraudulent activity has been reported to credit bureaus. For example, you can request a free report if you believe your identity was stolen and credit cards have been issued in your name without your knowledge.
Common credit report errors
There are several common errors you should regularly check for on your credit reports:
Your credit reports contains personal information like your name, current and former addresses, date of birth and Social Security number. If you find an error, correct it as soon as possible. For instance, if you have a common name, you might accidentally find that a loan or credit card payment has been accidentally applied to your account and ended up on your credit report.
Look over the accounts listed on your credit reports to ensure that they belong to you. If you notice a loan you didn’t take out, there’s a chance your identity has been compromised and fraudulent activity has been reported to the credit bureaus.
If debts that you have successfully paid off are still listed on your credit reports, your credit score is likely to be lower.
Payment history errors.
Even though this one late account can lead to multiple negative marks on your credit reports, so check to make sure your payment history is accurate.
How to dispute credit report errors
After you’ve assessed your credit report and found that there are mistakes, report them as soon as possible. Here’s how you can dispute any errors that you may find:
1. Contact credit bureaus
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) suggests contacting the credit reporting agency that furnished the report containing the error. You can report errors either online or by mail.
Online: Credit dispute page
P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Online: Credit dispute page
Experian P.O. Box 4500 Allen, TX 75013
Online: Credit dispute page
Mail: TransUnion, LLC Consumer Dispute Center P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016
If you’re disputing directly with a credit bureau, file your dispute with each bureau that holds a credit report containing incorrect or outdated information.
2. Consider if you should contact the furnisher
The CFPB also suggests contacting the company that provided the information to the credit bureau: the furnisher. Examples of furnishers include banks, lenders and credit card companies.
In some cases, you may be able to contact the furnisher and have the error corrected prior to contacting the credit reporting agency if the error is a late or missed payment, for example. However, if the error is related to fraudulent activity or incorrect personal information, contact the credit bureau directly.
3. Wait for a response
Credit bureaus must typically investigate claims within 30 days of receiving a dispute.
If you discover an error on your credit report, dispute the error as soon as possible. Incorrect information on your credit report can negatively affect your credit score and can make it difficult for you to apply for a credit card or a loan. To learn more about managing and building credit in the U.S., visit Nova Credit’s resources for newcomers.
Use your international credit history to start your U.S credit history
New to the U.S.? Check if you can use your country's credit history in the U.S. to apply for credit cards and start your U.S credit history using Nova Credit. No SSN is needed to start your U.S credit history.Explore Credit Cards
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