Key takeaways

  • Disputing errors with credit bureaus can improve your credit.
  • Steps to clean up your credit report include disputing inaccuracies, addressing delinquent accounts, establishing a positive payment history and using credit wisely.
  • You can’t erase bad credit overnight, but the benefits of a clean report are well worth the investment in your financial future.

Your credit history is a cornerstone of your financial well-being. It affects your loan eligibility, interest rates and even insurance premiums.

Because your credit is so important, it’s wise to periodically check your credit report to make sure it’s accurate and truly reflects your financial status. If it doesn’t, you’ll want to dispute inaccuracies with lenders.

Why should you clean up your credit report?

Cleaning up your credit report is crucial for several reasons.

First, lenders rely on it to assess your creditworthiness. Negative marks can lead to higher interest rates, lower credit limits and even rejections on credit applications. A clean report increases your chances of qualifying for favorable loans and credit lines.

Additionally, landlords, employers and utility companies may check your credit to gauge financial responsibility. Bad credit could limit your access to jobs, housing and essential utilities. While negative marks may not disqualify you, they can necessitate higher upfront deposits for new accounts. With a clean report, you alleviate this concern.

Insurance companies also use your credit to determine your insurance score, which impacts premiums. Negative marks lower your score, resulting in higher premiums, while a clean report can lead to lower premiums.

In essence, a clean credit report opens doors to better opportunities, saves money and facilitates access to superior financial products.

How to clean up a credit report fast

Complex credit situations can take time to rectify, and legitimate debt can’t simply be deleted from your credit report without a valid reason. It is a good idea to document everything along the way in case you need to reference it later.

From start to finish, here are the steps to clean up your credit score as quickly as possible.

1. Get copies of all three of your credit reports

While you may already monitor your credit, to clean up your reports, you’ll need a copy of your original reports directly from the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Many credit monitoring services offer single-bureau or even two-bureau credit monitoring. For example, if you monitor your credit with CreditKarma®, it only pulls data from TransUnion and Equifax.

For a thorough clean-up job, you need to know exactly what information has been reported to all three bureaus.

It used to be that you could access your credit reports annually at Now, you can access them up to once per week through the platform. You can request and download a new copy of each report. You should be able to do this right away, even if you have done so recently.

2. Study your reports for errors and derogatory marks

Next, scan your credit reports, first for unfamiliar accounts or inaccuracies, then for negative (“derogatory”) marks.

Credit report errors can include:

  • Accounts that don’t belong to you
  • Signs of fraudulent activity
  • Errors in legal matters such as bankruptcies, judgments or tax liens
  • Faults in credit limits, account balances or utilization rates
  • Incorrect reporting of late payments or missed payments
  • Information from someone else’s credit report
  • Mistakes in your personal details
  • Multiple listings of the same account
  • Negative items that should have been removed after the legally mandated time frame
  • Reporting of accounts as open when they’re closed, or vice versa

Derogatory marks, meanwhile, might look like:

  • Accounts that have been turned over to a collection agency
  • Accounts that the lender has written off as “uncollectible
  • An excessive number of recent credit applications
  • Debt settlements
  • Foreclosures or repossessions
  • Late or missed payments
  • Legal proceedings like bankruptcies, judgments, or tax liens

Inaccuracies and legitimate derogatory marks will need to be handled separately. Take note of each error and derogatory mark, along with the bureau(s) reporting.

3. Dispute errors with each credit bureau or lender

The third step to clean up your credit is to dispute all of the errors on all of your reports. You can do this by mail, online or over the phone.


Submit a detailed letter to the appropriate bureau(s) via certified mail at:

  • TransUnion Consumer Solutions, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016-2000
  • Equifax Information Services, LLC, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA  30374-0256
  • Experian, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013

If you submit a dispute letter by mail, include the following details:

  • Your name, date of birth, address and Social Security number
  • The name of the company that reported the disputed item along with the partial account number as shown on your credit report
  • A clear explanation of the reason for your dispute
  • Any necessary corrections to your personal information, such as address or phone number


Use the online submission form on the relevant credit bureau’s website:


Dispute or follow up about the status of a dispute via phone:

  • Transunion: 1-800-916-8800
  • Equifax: 1-888-Equifax (1-888-378-4329)
  • Experian: 1-888-Experian (1-888-397-3742)

Some credit report errors will need to be addressed with the lender, including mistakes with your personal information like a misreported mailing address.

The Federal Trade Commission suggests that it’s not just the credit bureau’s responsibility to ensure the accuracy and completeness of your credit report. It’s also the duty of the business that provided your information to the credit bureau. Both parties need to rectify any errors or omissions in your report.

Credit bureaus must investigate disputes within 30 to 45 days and notify you of the results within five business days of resolution. But, if you provide more information during the investigation period, the process can be extended by up to 15 days.

4. Address derogatory marks to the best of your ability

Dealing with legitimate derogatory marks on your credit report can be a challenge, but you can take steps to address them. Keep in mind that success isn’t guaranteed, and each situation is unique.

Here are some methods that might help you clean up your report:

If you have past-due accounts or debts in collection, tackle them right away. Proactively address old negative items on your report, and make sure you know how to avoid resetting the clock on old debt.

Credit report clean-up services

If the DIY approach seems like too much work, help is available. You can pay someone to clean up your credit report.

Credit report clean-up services can include:

  • Credit counseling and education
  • Credit monitoring and report review
  • Error disputes
  • Debt negotiation
  • Identity theft protection
  • Personalized credit score improvement strategy

Credit counseling agencies, specialized attorneys and credit repair companies can help you understand your credit report and get it cleaned up. They can do most, if not all, of the hands-on work for a fee.

If you’re going to go this route, there are signs to watch for. First, a reputable credit repair agency needs to employ specialists certified with a reputable agency. Next, the service provider should have a transparent pricing model — you have a right to know at the beginning how much you can expect to pay.

Finally, when you shop around for credit services, make sure you can obtain free information up front without sharing your personal details. Consider it a warning sign if an agency insists you immediately provide personal information.

For a list of approved agencies, look to trustworthy resources like:

Credit report clean-up services can help you take control of your credit health, rectify errors and build a strong financial foundation, all without the time and effort required to do it yourself.

Next steps

Once you’ve cleaned up your credit report, it’s time to build and maintain a positive credit history. Make timely payments on all your bills and debts. Maintain low balances and avoid opening multiple new accounts at once.

If you have trouble making payments, communicate with your lenders. Many lenders are willing to offer repayment plans or alternative arrangements. Keep the lines of communication open to help prevent further negative marks on your credit report.

Continue to monitor your credit for any new errors or suspicious activity. Use free credit monitoring services or request credit reports periodically to stay informed about changes to your credit profile. Early detection of errors or fraudulent activity can help you address issues quickly and minimize their impact on your credit score.

Frequently asked questions

  • It’s not possible to wipe your credit history clean. Negative items like late payments, collections and bankruptcies typically remain on your credit report for several years. However, you can rebuild your credit with on-time payments, debt reduction and responsible credit account management.
  • A 609 dispute letter is a formal written appeal to credit bureaus for the removal of incorrect entries from your credit report according to section 609 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. However, the notion of a “609 loophole” is a misunderstanding. These letters are not typically effective in removing accurate negative items or debts from a credit report.
  • While most negative information generally falls off your credit report after seven years, it doesn’t mean your credit is automatically clear. Some items, like bankruptcies, can remain for up to 10 years. Plus, the impact of certain negative marks can linger even after seven years.