Can you remove student loan errors from credit reports?
You may be able to remove or update information about student loans if it’s inaccurate.
If you’re wondering how to get student loans off your credit report, it’s important to know when that’s possible and when it’s not. Generally, if the loan belongs to you, it will remain on your credit report.
You can’t remove accurate information from your credit report. But if you notice an error on your credit report, you have the right to dispute it. Here are some things to know about removing student loans from your credit report, how long student loans stay on your credit report and ways to improve your credit score.
How can you dispute credit report errors about student loans?
The process for disputing credit report errors is generally the same whether it’s about a student loan or another account. It starts with checking credit reports from the three major credit bureaus—Experian®, TransUnion® and Equifax®—to make sure all the information is accurate.
In most cases, disputing errors online is fastest. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax all have resources to walk you through the process. If you prefer to do it through the mail, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has directions about how to dispute credit report errors and a sample letter you can reference.
Once you report the error, the credit-reporting bureau has to investigate your dispute within a certain period of time—usually 30 days—and report its findings to you. But if the bureau decides your dispute is frivolous or too vague, it doesn’t have to investigate. You can learn more about what information to include with your dispute below.
The credit bureaus are also required to contact your lender or servicer to investigate your dispute. But as mentioned above, it may be a good idea to do it yourself. The FTC has a sample dispute letter to help with that, too. If doing things online or over the phone is easier, it may be worth reaching out to your lender or servicer to see if they offer those options.
What to do about common student loan credit report errors
While the dispute process won’t change, the proof you need might vary depending on the situation:
If you’re still in school
Depending on your loan, you may not have to pay while you’re in school—or beyond if your loan has a grace period. That’s the case for many federal loans. Private loans may be different, so be sure to check with your lender about when you have to start paying off your student loans.
If you’re in school and you find payments are reported as late, that could be an error. If so, you can follow the procedure above to dispute it. The registrar’s office at your school should be able to help you get the right documentation to prove you’re still enrolled.
If your payments are reported inaccurately
Sometimes errors are simply mistakes. If you’ve been paying on time and see an inaccurate missed or late payment, the dispute process is the same as it is for other errors. You should include proof that you made the payment on time and in full.
If you’re approved for deferment or forbearance
If your deferment or forbearance approval wasn’t noted on your loan account, your lender could still be accidentally reporting missed or incomplete payments to credit bureaus. If that’s the case, you should include the proof that your deferment or forbearance request was approved.
If your loan accounts are closed
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says that it’s common for closed accounts to be mistakenly reported as open. The process for removing closed student loans from your credit report is still the same. And you will want to include proof that your accounts were closed.
The impact of late and defaulted student loans
Payment history is often one of the most important factors in determining your credit scores, according to the CFPB. And the CFPB says that even a single reported late payment can hurt your scores.
According to the Department of Education (DOE), your federal student loan is delinquent after you miss one payment. And if you continue to miss payments, your loan might go into default.
Many federal loans are considered in default after 270 days. If you have private loans, check with your lender about its policies.
The DOE says having a defaulted student loan can have a significant negative impact on your credit for years. And the consequences of a default can go beyond any impact on your credit.
Defaulting on your student loans can also cause the entire loan amount to be due immediately. If a loan is sent to collection, you may have to pay additional fees on top of your loan balance.
In some cases, your lender can even take you to court. And that can cause things like wage garnishment. That means part of your paycheck automatically goes toward paying your debt.
If you have a co-signer on your loan, it could affect them too. Remember, co-signers are ultimately responsible for the loan if you can’t pay.
What to do if you fall behind on student loans
It’s important to take defaulted student loans seriously. And as soon as you fall behind, consider reaching out to your lender or loan servicer to see what relief options you might have.
If your loans are already in default, you might consider loan rehabilitation, loan consolidation or another option. Talking to a financial expert could help you make a decision.
How long do student loans stay on a credit report?
According to the three major credit bureaus, a closed account in good standing—meaning one that was paid as agreed, with a history of on-time payments—can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years. And having a positive payment history can help your credit scores, too.
Most negative information can remain on your credit report for up to seven years—sometimes longer. And that includes late payments and defaulted student loans.
Perkins loans are one exception. Negative information about these loans can stay on your credit report until you pay off the loan in full. And while Perkins loans are no longer offered, you may still be paying one off.
How to improve your credit score
Having good credit is important. And whether you’re rebuilding your credit after defaulting on a student loan or just working to improve your credit score, here are a few things you can do:
- Keep credit utilization low. The CFPB says experts recommend keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30% of your credit limit.
- Pay bills on time. The CFPB says getting current on payments and making on-time payments on all your credit accounts could help improve your score. Setting up automatic payments or adding reminders on your phone or computer might help.
- Apply only for the credit you need. According to the CFPB, applying for a lot of credit—like multiple credit cards—in a short period of time can hurt your credit score. So it’s best to apply only for the credit you need and limit hard inquiries on your credit reports.
Monitor your credit
The CFPB also recommends monitoring your credit regularly. It can help you understand how student loans affect your credit. And it’s also a chance to make sure the information in your credit reports is accurate.
One way to monitor your credit is by using CreditWise from Capital One. With CreditWise, you can access your TransUnion credit report and weekly VantageScore® 3.0 credit score—without hurting your score. CreditWise is free for everyone. You don’t even have to be a Capital One customer to enroll.
You can also get free copies of your credit reports from each of the major credit bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
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Government and private relief efforts vary by location and may have changed since this article was published. Consult a financial adviser or the relevant government agencies and private lenders for the most current information.
We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.
Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models. It may not be the same model your lender uses, but it can be one accurate measure of your credit health. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Some monitoring and alerts may not be available to you if the information you enter at enrollment does not match the information in your credit file at (or you do not have a file at) one or more consumer reporting agencies.