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Ask Dr. Don

Cleaning up my credit report

Dear Dr. Don,
We have some accounts that have a zero balance, but they show up on our credit reports. How can I have these removed? I've actually closed some of the accounts that are showing a zero balance.
Tidy Tina

Dear Tina,
The only things that you can request be removed from your credit report is erroneous information. Negative information about your payment history stays on your credit report for seven years with the exception of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, which stays on your credit report for 10 years. Favorable items can stay on your report indefinitely.

Closing an account doesn't take the account off your credit report. That's because the payment history on that account is still relevant to lenders. When you close an account, you should request, in writing, that the creditor state that the account was closed at the customer's request. That makes it clear to firms reviewing your credit report that the company didn't revoke your account.

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The dispute provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act provide the framework for you to get errors removed from your credit reports. This Bankrate feature will help guide you through a dispute.

It's a good idea to review your credit report at least once a year because the burden of proof to correct mistakes falls to you and because there is a two-year statute of limitations for legal action that starts from the date of the FCRA violation and not the date the violation was discovered.

-- Posted: Nov. 1, 2002

Read more Dr. Don columns
See Also
Credit Scoring 101
FAQ about credit cards
Financial advice glossary
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