Some student loan borrowers find errors on their credit report. So, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking your credit report from each of the big three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — at least once a year. Luckily, you can get your credit report for free, without impacting your credit score. You also have the right to dispute inaccurate information on your credit report and have it removed. Let’s review what to check for and how to deal with inaccuracies.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) estimates that 1 in 5 consumers has an error on their credit report. In other words, credit report errors are common. Why? Private lenders and credit reporting agencies aren’t perfect.
So, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking your credit report from each of the big three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — at least once a year. Let’s review what to check for and how to deal with inaccuracies.
Can You Dispute Student Loans on Your Credit Report?
Yes. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), credit reporting agencies must report accurate information. If you notice errors or inaccurate information related to your student loans on your credit report, you have the right to dispute the information. To dispute an error, you must start the process and provide proof for your claims. Then the credit reporting agency will investigate the claim. In other words, you must take action to get credit reporting errors corrected.
What Information May Be Inaccurately Reported?
Errors tend to fall into three main categories:
Personal information or identity data
Account status or balance
There may be reporting errors related to changes with the federal student loan repayment pause and other student loan programs due to the pandemic. Federal student loan repayment has been in flux since 2020, with repayment resuming in October of 2023. You want to make sure that any loans that have been in forbearance or deferment are correctly reported.
Personal Information and Identity Data Errors
When you check your credit reports, verify all your personal information, including your full name (and its spelling), phone number, address, and Social Security number.
Sometimes people with similar or identical names find that someone else’s information is wrongly showing up on their credit report. This is just one reason it’s important to check your account information.
Account Status or Balance Errors
A lender or creditor incorrectly reporting account information may seriously affect your credit score. This is especially true if an account in good standing is reported as in default status or if late payments have been wrongly reported. These negative marks will hurt your credit score. And if your score takes a dip, you may face higher interest rates on future loans, difficulty refinancing your loans, or other consequences.
When reviewing your credit report, ask yourself the following questions to check the accuracy of your account information:
Are any of my closed accounts still being reported as open? Similarly ask: Are any loans that have been paid in full being reported as unpaid?
Is account ownership listed correctly on each account? For example, if you’re the owner, you should be reported as such; if you’re an authorized user, that should be reported differently.
Are any accounts being reported as late or delinquent that shouldn’t be? If you’ve always made on-time payments, you shouldn’t see either of these.
Are the dates related to all accounts reported correctly? Look for the date of the last monthly payment on each account, the date accounts were opened or closed, and the date of first delinquency (if you’ve missed payments).
Are there any duplicate accounts? Each debt you have should only be listed one time. If there are duplicates, report them.
Are all loan amounts and current balances listed correctly? Also, are all the payment amounts listed correctly?
Are all credit limits listed correctly (for credit cards, revolving lines of credit, etc.)?
Data Input Errors
Some errors may be simple data management errors. If you previously reported incorrect information and it’s back on your credit report, you need to follow up on your report or make a new one. It's good to check your reports for errors and check them again later to ensure the errors have been resolved.
Also, make sure that any negative information that is at least seven years old (excluding Chapter 7 bankruptcies) has dropped off your credit report.
How To Dispute Your Student Loan History on Your Credit Report
To dispute errors, you’ll need to first compare information on your credit report to your own records. Then you can report the errors to your lender and each major credit bureau.
Step 1: Get Your Free Credit Report & Gather Financial Documents
First, gather your financial documents and get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The easiest way to do this is to go to annualcreditreport.com, which is the official website approved by the government to get your free credit report. You can pull a report from each of the three credit bureaus, but you don’t have to pull them all at the same time. Some people choose to run a report from a different agency every four months over the course of the year.
To get your federal student loan information, run a report from the National Student Loan Database System (NSLDS). This article will explain how: How To Get Your Federal Student Loan Info From the NSLDS. The NSLDS is run by studentaid.gov, and it’s free to get your student loan report. You may also want to gather bank statements, credit card statements, and any paperwork or correspondence you have from lenders or loan servicers regarding your monthly payment, repayment plan, loan forgiveness, loan consolidation, etc.
Step 2: Review Your Credit Report
Once you have your free credit report, look for errors. Compare the information on the credit report to the financial documents you’ve gathered.
If you find federal student loan errors on your credit report, look at your NSLDS report to see who the loan holder and servicer are (they may be the same company). For private loans, look at a recent statement or call your provider or servicer directly to gather information about your student loan and payments.
If you find an error on your NSLDS report, you will need to follow a separate process to dispute it. Read more about this in the section below titled How To Dispute Student Loan Errors With Your Loan Provider.
If You Find an Error in Your Credit Report
Before you report an error, gather as much information as possible. Disputing an error is not always an easy process, and the more information you have, the easier it will be.
Have the following information ready to report in your dispute:
Your name and address
The account number of the disputed student loan
The student loan holder (where the loan originated)
The student loan servicer (the company taking payments)
The type of information about your student loan that you’re disputing (e.g., payment history, account details, account status)
A short explanation of the disputed information
Proof of errors
Make sure you have copies of receipts, court orders, bills, proof of disability, and other types of proof to back up your claim. Compare your information with that of your loan holder and servicer. You may have to contact your lender to get information about the credit report entry unless your payment history or complete account information is available online.
The Consumer and Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) monitors and fields complaints about credit reporting agencies. You can file a complaint with the CFPB if you encounter any issues.
Step 3: Write a Dispute Letter
Many experts advise writing a dispute letter rather than calling when disputing your student loans or other information on your credit history. Having a written record makes it easier to keep track of the dispute process. If you have a federal student loan, first follow the dispute steps at the studentaid.gov website. If those don’t work, contact the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Ombudsman Group of the U.S. Department of Education.
The three major credit bureaus have an online dispute resolution process. They have 30 days to resolve the issue or remove it from your report according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). After a dispute investigation is complete, the agencies have five days to send you the investigation results.
To learn more about the general dispute process, read our article: Disputing Credit Report Errors: A Start-to-Finish Guide.
Step 4: Review the Dispute Results or Follow Up on the Dispute
Within 30 days of submitting your dispute, you should receive correspondence from the agency you filed your dispute with, no matter if they agree with your dispute or not. Review the dispute result to see what action the agency has taken.
If you don’t hear back from the credit bureau within 30 days or you disagree with its reply, consider filing a complaint with the CFPB. You can also follow up directly with the agency.
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Can I Get Defaulted Student Loans Removed From My Credit Report?
It depends. If you have a defaulted student loan and haven’t rehabilitated your loan, contacted the loan servicer to work out an agreement, or otherwise repaid the debt, you can’t have the loan or its default status removed from your credit report. In other words: You can’t remove information from your credit report if it’s correct.
That said, negative information ages off your credit report eventually. Most negative entries will drop off your credit report after seven years. There are some exceptions to this. For example, if you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, that will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years. Even though negative information eventually disappears from your credit report, the debt itself doesn’t go away.
Why You Should Dispute Student Loan Reporting Errors
Your credit report and credit score affect most areas of your financial life, including your eligibility for future loans or credit cards and the interest rates you’re offered on new credit. The impact of your credit score expands beyond the financial world though. Employers and landlords may check your credit history if they’re considering you for a job or housing. Managing your student loans responsibly is a great way to help build your credit.
How To Dispute Student Loans Errors With Your Loan Provider
When you look at your student loan financial documents, you may see errors on your student loan accounts. Perhaps your student loan payment history is incorrect or there are other errors related to the amount of student loan debt you owe. If you need to dispute something about your student loans with the servicer itself, you must contact your student loan holder and provide proof of the errors you’re claiming. If you have questions about your loan balance, status, or consequences related to defaulting on a loan, check out the federal student aid website to get more information. If you have a private student loan, you’ll have to call your loan holder or loan servicing agency to dispute any errors related to your account.
Here are some common student loan reporting errors:
Let’s Summarize. . .
It’s tough to take the time to manage student loan disputes on your credit report, but the work could ultimately result in a positive payoff. Incorrect information will lower your credit score and hurt your chances for future loans, credit cards, and even housing and job opportunities. Fixing the error may improve your credit score and your chances to improve your finances, education, and quality of life. Good credit opens the door to opportunity. Investing time to dispute errors and to make things right is time well spent.