Because credit reports and credit scores are so important to American consumers, the federal government has implemented credit report protections and legal rights via the FCRA: the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If your credit score has one or more errors and you need to dispute information for the health of your credit, you need to fully grasp your rights and means of filing a dispute.
This guide will break down the best way to file an FCRA credit dispute and more.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides all American consumers with certain rights in regard to their credit scores and reports. Specifically, the FCRA says:
In summary, you always have the right to look into credit errors and get them corrected at the earliest opportunity. So don’t be afraid of filing an FCRA credit dispute with one or more credit bureaus if it’s necessary. It’s easier than you think, and the credit bureaus do have a vested interest in maintaining accurate records wherever possible.
The best time to file an FCRA dispute is right when you notice a credit problem. If you keep track of your credit report and the health of your credit score, you may notice some inaccurate line items, like duplicate charges or duplicate debts, that could drag down or negatively affect your financial options.
Once you notice those issues, file a dispute ASAP. The sooner you file a dispute, the faster the credit bureau can look into it and correct the negative information before it has an outsized effect on your credit score. Most credit disputes take over a month to complete, so time is of the essence (especially if you’re looking to apply for a loan or credit card soon).
Furthermore, filing an FCRA dispute shortly after an error shows up makes it more likely that the credit bureau will agree to your request. If you take too long to dispute an error, it could appear as though you don’t care too much about the debt or otherwise cast doubts on your motivations.
You may wish to file an FCRA dispute in situations like:
If you need to file an FCRA credit dispute, the best way to do so is online. Each of the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – has an online portal through which consumers can file online credit disputes.
Filing online is advantageous because it’s fast, efficient, and it gets the information to the credit bureaus immediately. Again, the faster you bring an issue to the attention of the bureaus, the faster the problem can be solved.
To file a credit dispute online, simply go to the website of the credit bureau with the affected report (e.g., if you notice a problem on your Experian credit report, go to the Experian website), then locate the dispute page or portal. Follow the on-screen instructions to file your report.
Whatever you file a credit dispute, you should include the following information at a minimum:
Don’t forget to include a copy of the credit report you’re disputing. If you file online, this should be available as a PDF or Word file.
If you don’t want to file a credit dispute online, you can file an FCRA dispute in two other ways.
Firstly, you can write a letter to the credit bureau(s) you need to contact. Each bureau has a mailing address you can use for this purpose. Be sure to include the above information in your physical dispute letter, but be prepared to wait for several weeks before you get a response.
Secondly, you can contact the credit bureaus by phone. Each maintains a phone number for customer complaints or dispute questions. The credit bureaus will most likely direct you to the online or physical letter methods, however. It's best to use the credit bureau phone numbers if you wish to inquire about the status of your dispute.
Even though the credit bureaus and credit furnishers are both legally obligated to adhere to the rules laid out by the FCRA, sometimes, credit disputes are ignored. If this happens, you do have options.
Firstly, you have the right to add a statement to your credit file. If a credit bureau investigation doesn't resolve a dispute with a credit reporting company, you can request that a statement of the dispute be attached to your file and summarized for all future credit reports. In some cases, this can help explain a poor financial situation to lenders/creditors.
However, you also have the right to bring a lawsuit against a credit reporting company if you believe it is violating the FCRA. In this case, the company could be held liable for attorney fees and actual damages, including statutory and/or punitive damages. But there are time limits or statutes of limitations before which you have to bring a lawsuit forward.
Due to these facts, it’s a good idea to get in touch with legal representatives, who can explain your options and help you determine the best path going forward.
When your credit report has one or more errors, the best way to fix them is to file a dispute online with the appropriate credit bureau. Each credit bureau maintains an online filing portal for just this purpose. But remember, you can also file a credit dispute letter or call the credit bureaus to explain the situation if needed.