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How can I Clean up my Credit Report?

By Katharine Swan
Updated Jan 25, 2024
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A credit report can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life. Potentially negative items can cause lenders to raise interest rates. A bad credit report can also make it more difficult, or even impossible, to buy a home, a car, or other possessions when borrowing money is necessary. Once a person reaches this point, he may ask himself, "How can I clean up my credit report?" For this reason, it is vital to know how to monitor and clean up a credit report.

Steps to Cleaning a Credit Report

  • Obtain a current copy: In order to clean up financial credit, a current copy of the credit report is needed from each of the three credit bureaus: Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian. Sometimes it is possible to obtain a free copy of a report if a potentially negative item has been added recently, or if an application for credit was denied. Also, some states allow residents to request a free credit report every year. A copy of the credit report from all three bureaus is recommended; even though they share information between each other, if there is a mistake or a problem, it could appear on only one of the bureaus' reports. The contact information for all three bureaus should be available on their websites.

  • Dispute negative items: Credit report clean-up is done by contesting information and a lot of letter writing. If items are found on a credit report that do not belong there or are inaccurate, it is usually most efficient to write a letter to the credit bureau who provided the report. Sending a copy of any proof that the claim is inaccurate is also recommended.

  • Wait at least 30 days: After disputing the information, the credit bureau goes to the credit company to request proof of their claim. If they do not or cannot provide the requested information within 30 days, the item should be removed from the report. However, the item may remain on a credit report if the creditor can prove its claim, regardless of whether they do so in the allotted time period.

  • Be aware of special circumstances: In some cases, negative items on a credit report may also be removed even if they are correct. If a person has otherwise maintained good standing with the creditor that reported the information, it is possible to write to them and request that they remove the item from the credit report. Even if this is not a possibility, however, the negative mark has a limited sentence: items on a credit report remain there for only seven years, after which time they go away on their own. If there is a declared bankruptcy, however, that information will remain on a credit report for a longer period of time.

Cleaning up a credit report can be a do-it-yourself project, but it takes a lot of persistence. Often it does not yield the desired results, especially after only one try, in which case it is necessary to send another letter restating the claim or request. In fact, this process may need to be repeated several times before getting a satisfactory response. There are also companies that offer credit report clean-up services, for those who don't want to go through the process of disputing their credit reports, but there may be charge for these type of services.

Prevent Identity Theft

Whether or not a credit report needs to be disputed, it is important to keep a careful watch on credit reports from all three bureaus. Such awareness prevents credit fraud from getting out of hand, as well as catching errors or other problems early on. Many financial institutions recommend reviewing a credit report once a year.

In the case of identity theft, it is possible to write to the credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on the stolen credit report. 90 days is the standard time period for such an alert, but a seven-year fraud alert is usually an option as well. A fraud alert will not change a person's credit rating, but it does require applicants to go through a more stringent identity verification process when applying for a credit card or loan.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon351992 — On Oct 18, 2013

I don't have credit card debts on my credit. It's more hospital bills, school loans and cellphone. How do I fix my credit to be better?

By anon341475 — On Jul 12, 2013

Be wary of 'credit repair', 'credit fix' or 'debt solution' companies that claim they can 'improve' your credit report. They may charge fees for services that credit reporting agencies can do for free.

By ed1234 — On Jun 15, 2013

I have a reminder notice that is supposed to be sent to me by a credit card company. They forgot to send me the reminder to my email (I checked the box on their web site that I wanted a reminder notice sent to me by email). I got an alert notice from my credit protection company. I went online and read it. It said I had a 30 day late payment. I called the credit card company and they said it was 33 days late! (three days too late!). I made the payment right there on the phone to bring it up to current. They said it was already reported to the credit bureaus. It is now showing up on my credit reports yet, but they said it will.

Is there any way to remove the 30 day late payment? I have always been current on my payments, and have a good credit record (760) This one late payment is going to cost me a 73 point hit, bringing my score down to 687! What can I do to have that 30 day late removed?

By anon283772 — On Aug 06, 2012

My ex husband ruined my credit, and because of that I had to purchase a car through my dad's credit card. Is there any way for me to use that to help my credit since I have made all the payments on the car?

By anon198772 — On Jul 20, 2011

I had two loans owed to one bank. I made a mistake and paid one loan twice and missed the other payment. It took three months for me to figure out why my payment said late every month. Now on my credit report says I have three 30-day late payments. That is because they applied each payment to the previous month. Do I have any recourse?

By kdorant — On Jun 15, 2011

I had the same problem. I went through a very rough stretch for about 6 months and ruined my credit report. I tried cleaning it up myself by going to forums and such and doing the 1-2-3 punch, but its so time consuming and nerve racking...argghh

My bro recommended some pros and they did an amazing job for me. Got me clean in 3 months and they are pretty cheap. Passing along their number to anyone who needs help: 877-826-0587. Call them,

By anon154707 — On Feb 21, 2011

i do not know much about the credit system here. but i was told by a friend if i were to pay off debts I already have at credit bureau, it will clear my credit in months. is that true?

By anon149258 — On Feb 03, 2011

I always have recommended Nationwide Credit Consultants to most of my friends to clean up their credit. Also they have published a how to book named:"How to Raise Your Credit Score to Above 750." You can buy this book for $49.99.

By anon133215 — On Dec 09, 2010

If you do it yourself there is a good chance you will actually end up keeping items on your report longer and making it more difficult to have them removed later. I have always recommended Credit Rescue to all my real estate clients. Very reputable and very affordable.

By amypollick — On Nov 12, 2010

@anon126278: I'm afraid you're making the assumption I'm defending the credit reporting bureaus. I'm not. I hate what they stand for. However, the uncomfortable truth is that they exist and companies use the information they provide to decide whether to extend credit.

In any event, the post I responded to was a query about removing a legitimate late payment from his/her credit card. Whether you agree with the way the credit bureaus acquire and disseminate credit information or not, the fact is you have to pay your bills on time. I bought a car a few weeks ago and two late payments on a credit card from 2008 were still on my report. But I made the payments late. No use in attempting to cover it up. They had me dead to rights. And when that's the case, I have to be the adult and take my medicine.

When I get bothered is when items show up that are not accurate and it takes an act of Congress to get them removed. That's happened to me before, too.

I'm not a credit bureau defender or apologist by any means. I'm just saying you have to be financially responsible. That means paying what you owe, when you owe it, and not trying to game the system by getting an accurate negative mark off your report. If it's not accurate, do the legwork and get it removed. If it is accurate, accept it and move on.

By anon126278 — On Nov 12, 2010

amypollick and other justifiers/apologists: What right does a credit bureau not only to keep information about me and my private dealings but also to provide that information to those (including usurers) who will pay for it? They can only be operating illegally.

By anon113172 — On Sep 23, 2010

About 14 years ago we experienced credit card fraud and cell phone fraud in my husband's name. although we went through the all the things we were supposed to do to clear his situation up, like hand writing analysis and everything they asked for the fraud department, they told us they knew he did not acquire the card. then that bank merged with bank of america and 14 years later it is still showing up and they said we have to start over to prove he did not do this. the excuse they give for it still showing up is because it is being sold to other collection agencies every three years in order to keep it there and continue the cycle.

airtouch is now verizon and you can't even get those people to be reasonable

By anon110105 — On Sep 10, 2010

they do have 30 days and if that time passes then the item is removed from your credit. However, if later they can prove it is a deserved report, then they can have it re-added to your report, so my suggestion would be to have it removed for as long as you can and then establish some good credit while your score is up and you are credit worthy.

By anon90500 — On Jun 16, 2010

You can too get things removed from your credit report through disputing cycles.

I had horrible credit and I tried to write the credit bureaus myself and have things removed and it is just time constraining and costly.

I went through Financial Education Services and had them do it for me. All I had to do was sign the dispute letters and mail them in. I got 12 items including a public record deleted off my credit reports.

Legally, the credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate and respond to your dispute letters. If they don't, it automatically comes off.

By anon85895 — On May 22, 2010

I just think that this kind of thing should be taught to our children! My parents didn't know how to take care of their score so in return, I was never taught. At 18 I messed up my score and now at 35 and five kids, being single and ready to live on my own, I have to start over.

By anon78415 — On Apr 18, 2010

My husband and I are just getting to the point that we feel we're ready to purchase a new home. The question is how do I begin to write out a dispute letter to prepare us for that purchase, knowing that there are some things on our reports that need to be addressed.

By anon76014 — On Apr 08, 2010

I have several companies that will not take themselves off my credit report even though it has been over the seven year period. Is there anything I can do?

By sparkles2007 — On Feb 26, 2010

well what do i do to improve my scores. and what if someone stole my identity and made my credit worse? what should i do because this is the situation i am in now. i now am just paying off some negative stuff on my reports and i made a settlement with one of the companies.

i'm now trying to pay to fix my credit. my situation is i'm trying to get an apartment with my boyfriend. my credit isn't great; it's very poor -- it's now 546, and i don't have my old landlord's leases. how do i get the leases?

By anon65011 — On Feb 10, 2010

Education is the key to all of this. There are laws that will protect you from the more unscrupulous collectors and creditors.

If you have the money, you should use a financial advisor that you can pay to have all of this done. If you don't then it is up to you to handle it yourself.

Like anything else in this world, if you are going to try to "do-it-yourself" then it is critically important that you educate yourself. There are many places where there is good information to be found.

Two that I prefer are the FTC and another called Weathering Debt. Both of these are great places for educating yourself and can answer most of your questions as well as give some guidance as to how to deal with some of the issues you are having. Hope this helps some.

By anon64811 — On Feb 09, 2010

i have good credit but i think i have too many cards - seven. they up my credit line but was told those monies are used against you. there are pages on my credit report that has been there for 15 plus years. can i get a simple one page report and have all this taken off? I was also bankrupt 17 years ago. Does this still harm my credit?

By anon61113 — On Jan 18, 2010

I need to clean up my credit. I am trying to pay off the negatives on my reports,and make current payments on time. How do I know which ones from the report will yield the best credit repair.(prioritize who gets paid first) Also, should I obtain a credit card from a major credit card company? i read somewhere the fact that I have none is affecting my report.

By anon60821 — On Jan 16, 2010

the writer meant that after the 30 day claim mark, if the creditor cannot/did not produce proof on the legitimacy of claim, that specific trade is removed. However, if later on the creditor does find the proof then the tradeline is put back on. Most companies have a monthly "check-up" in which they send to the credit bureaus, their opened trade lines they have with you.

this monthly timeline may occur before or after the dispute letter 30 day time limit to produce proof. --former debt collector

By amypollick — On Nov 18, 2009

Anon53034, you don't get to remove information from your credit report if it is correct or even if it has been resolved. It just has to rotate off, usually in three to seven years or so. If people could remove negative reports, no one would have anything bad on their credit reports, which would make them useless.

Like the rest of us, you just have to live with your past, and try to improve your credit report by paying everything on time and not getting the collections people after you.

By anon53034 — On Nov 18, 2009

So this says you can have information removed you believe to be inaccurate, but my question is how to remove information that is correct (like a 30 late payment) but which you still consider important removing. It says you can do it, but it does not say how?

How do you remove a legit 30 days late? Or a collection that you did pay off but no longer want on there?

By anon44844 — On Sep 11, 2009

to malena post #1: generally yes... closing cards that you don't use can hurt your credit score. a good chunk of your FICO score is based on the percent of the credit that you use - you want this percentage to be low.

so for example, if you have one credit card with a limit of $10,000 and you usually spend $5,000 then you use 50% of your available credit. potential creditors like to see you use a small percentage, so one way to do this is to have higher limits (that you don't use) on your existing cards, or to have more cards.

a good and simple way to increase your score is to request every six months or so, that your credit card company increase your limit. they won't always do it, but if they do then your utilization rate will be lower, and your credit score is likely to go up.

By anon44701 — On Sep 09, 2009

That does not make sense! You state that the company you are disputing has 30 days to respond and if they do not then it is removed but in the next sentence you state that basically that have unlimited time if they have proof! which is it 30 days or forever?

By anon18685 — On Sep 27, 2008

If they do not or cannot provide the requested information within thirty days, the item should be removed from your report. However, the item will remain on your credit report if the creditor can prove its claim, regardless of whether they do so in the allotted time period.

Either they have 30 days to prove their proof of claim or they don't, which is it??

By malena — On Feb 01, 2008

Is it true that closing credit cards, even canceling credit cards that you never use, decreases your credit score?

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