One of the first things you can do after your bankruptcy discharge is check your credit report. You should check it 60-90 days after discharge to give creditors time to update their reporting and show your discharge. You can request your credit report for free, once a year, from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Get all three here.
Your credit report is a record of your history managing and repaying debt. It contains information about your credit activity such as past loan payments, current accounts, and collection activities. This is the thing lenders and landlords can look at when they decide if you qualify for a loan or an apartment. After bankruptcy, your credit report will show you filed for bankruptcy and should show all the debts that were discharged in the bankruptcy. It is important to make sure the credit report is accurate so you can start rebuilding your credit and get the full benefit of bankruptcy.
What should my credit report say?
To see a sample credit report and what it means click here.
Sometimes creditors “forget” to update your credit report to show discharge of a debt. They may also continue to report negative account information after bankruptcy. Carefully review the information in your report and highlight anything that doesn’t seem to be accurate. Make sure any accounts that were discharged in the bankruptcy show a $0 balance and are labeled as “discharged” or “included in bankruptcy”. If the account is labeled as active, late, or charged off, instead of discharged it may harm your credit score. Also, make sure that any accounts you reaffirmed during the bankruptcy show an active status and not discharged. By showing they are active or reaffirmed, you will continue to get positive data added to your credit report when you make each payment.
You will also see a section called “requests for your credit history” or “inquiries”. This shows who has requested your credit report or credit score. Too many inquiries into your credit report can actually lower your score. If a former creditor is doing a “hard-pull” inquiry on a discharged debt, this could be bringing down your score. This is also illegal! The last section of a credit report is the “public records” section. This is where your bankruptcy will be listed. A common error here is when one spouse files bankruptcy and the other does not. A bankruptcy should not show up on the non-filing spouse’s “public records”.
What to do if there is an error
If you see an error on your credit report, you can dispute the error FOR FREE. You can contact the credit bureau directly by filing a dispute online, by phone, or by mail. This process can take 30-45 days for the credit bureau to contact the party that furnished the data (meaning the bank or account that is not reporting accurately). The credit bureau will then contact you with the results of their investigation and if they will correct your report. If they make a correction, be sure all 3 credit bureaus show the same information as each is a little different.
To make an Equifax dispute click here
To make an Experian dispute click here
To make a Transunion dispute click here
There are also credit repair agencies that can do the heavy lifting and make disputes for you. However, these services will charge fees either based on each error they remove or charge a monthly fee for using their services. Many errors you can correct yourself and save the money you would spend using one of these agencies.
If you see an error on your credit report, make sure you report it. This ensures that you get the full benefit of your bankruptcy filing. Visit our Rebuilding Your Credit page on how to boost your credit score after bankruptcy.