how a credit card dispute works
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So you’ve found an error on your credit report. Now what? Are you stuck with it forever or can you dispute the error and take action to remove it?

It’s not at all uncommon to find mistakes on a credit report, so much so that an entire process has been outlined and put into law for fixing these mistakes. But you can’t fix anything until you make the decision to dispute your credit report.

Here’s what happens when you do.

How Does a Dispute Work on a Credit Report?

Your Bureau Gets 30 Days to Review

First of all, know that your dispute doesn’t go into the ether once you send it in. The credit reporting bureau you send it to has 30 days to review it. That doesn’t mean they have to fix the error in one month, but they must acknowledge it within that time frame.

(If you live in Maine, your laws are different and give the bureaus 21 days, rather than 30, to review your report.)

During that time, your bureau will likely reach out to the data furnisher (the financial institution with whom you have an account) to verify their records. According to Experian, your data furnisher has to respond to the bureau within 30 days (or 21 in Maine) from the day the bureau received your dispute. The bureau will then report back to you.

Your Bureau Gets 30 More Days to Take Action on Your Report

In a perfect world, your data furnisher will verify the information quickly and your bureau will update your report. The bureau has 30 days to update the report accordingly — that’s after the initial 30 days they had to review your report. Of course, that’s if the error is proven to be just that, an error.

However, if the data furnisher corroborates the information that appears on your report, then the bureau will have the information they need to keep your report as is.

So what happens if the data furnisher never even replies to the bureau? In that case, the bureau will make the update you requested — or remove the item from the report if that was your request. In other words, your data furnisher’s silence forfeits their right to say your claim is inaccurate.

All in all, you’ll see some sort of result from your initial dispute within 60 days (51 if you’re in Maine) from the day the credit reporting bureau receives your dispute. Now, let’s talk about what happens if you disagree with that result.

You Can Appeal the Result of Your Dispute

There’s always a chance that your data furnisher is the one with the incorrect information, and thus is the cause of the mistake on your credit report. In that instance, the next step is to take up the dispute with your data furnisher.

This is easy if the data furnisher is your credit card issuer or a bank you have a loan with. However, it’s not always that simple to find out who really owns the account showing up on your credit report — especially if a past account has been sent to collections. Read through your credit report again to find the name of the data furnisher showing the error.

Once you’ve resolved the error with your data furnisher, then you can go back to your credit reporting bureau and start a new dispute with them. The same timeline as before will apply, but at least this time you’ll know your ducks are lined up to get the result you want: an accurate credit report.

Two Things You Need to Know Before Your Start Your Dispute

Before you start a credit report dispute, here are two quick facts to help you ensure you’re engaging with the right parties:

  1. There are three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion), all of which give you different credit reports. You should only dispute with the bureau showing an error.
  2. The credit reporting bureaus call your financial institutions “data furnishers” because your financial institutions are sending your data to the bureaus. If you already know your data furnisher is providing the wrong information because your financial statements from them are inaccurate, then you’d save yourself a lot of time by disputing with them first.

And finally, you can learn more about how to start a credit report dispute and where to send the dispute to via this article from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The sooner you start the process, the faster your credit report can be fixed — and your credit score improved.

FREE Tool: Worried a mistake on your credit report could be bringing your credit score down? Try this.

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