Can I fix my credit history? Should I?
August 13, 2009 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Botched online credit card applications: can I have them removed from my credit history since they were due to an unresponsive website, and does it really matter anyway?

I tried to apply for an American Express credit card online, but the website was behaving badly and would be unresponsive for several minutes after I submitted the application. I tried several more times throughout the day, and on the 3rd or 4th attempt it finally gave me a response (more or less immediately). Since I've only been in the US for a few years, my credit score is apparently still too low, and I was denied.

Fair enough, that was not completely unexpected. The problem is that one of the reasons I was given for the denial was something like "too many credit applications in the past 12 months". Concerned that all of those earlier applications that got lost in the tubes actually made it to American Express, I called their customer service. Sure enough, they were all recorded and now 3 or 4 denied credit card applications will show up in my credit history. I was told unequivocally that American Express couldn't remove them from my history, despite the fact that most of them were due to their dodgy website.

Can I fight this? Should I fight this? Despite having a low credit score, I have already successfully applied for a car loan and a mortgage through my employer's credit union, so I don't have much need for a glowing credit history. I'm only interested in the credit card for the cash back benefits; I wouldn't be too upset if I never got a credit card. Is there any reason why I'd benefit from not having this string of denied credit card applications on my record?
posted by ocha-no-mizu to Work & Money (5 answers total)
At the very least, something you can do is attach an explanatory letter TO your credit history, stating that "the credit card applications on [date here] were all, in truth, because of [explain what happened]."

A number of denied credit card applications is the sort of thing that does make people look at your credit history funny, but if there's a letter explaining, "so, yeah, this is the story behind THAT" then most creditors should be okay with that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:45 PM on August 13, 2009

There are basically three big credit bureaux in the US: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. If you pay to see your credit history there, you can review all the entries in your file. When you see one that is erroneous, you can file a complaint with the bureau through the website and explain why you want it removed. In my experience, it will take time, but they will generally expunge it if its actually wrong. You'll also probably learn that there's all sorts of junk associated with your credit report, like mortgages you took out before you were born, or store charge cards you opened for chains that went out of business when you were three.

I had to do this a few times over the years due to an identity theft issue, but I found all sorts of other problems and had them cleaned up. Also, if you have an identity theft/fraud issue they refund you the charges for accessing the reports.

Now, as for your second question of "should I fight this" I have no idea. My suspicion is yes, but that's probably because my dad raised us to believe that when you get to the Pearly Gates the first thing St. Peter does is call up your credit report.
posted by jeb at 12:46 PM on August 13, 2009

Best answer: Interesting situation, it's hard to give a definite answer. In general, I recommend against disputing credit inquiries. Their total impact on your credit score is at most 10%. Usually, your time is better spent elsewhere. Additionally, it can turn a creditor against you. That is, if that inquiry was connected with a credit line, the creditor would close the line as well. Even though there is no credit line in this case, it might make a bad impression and you may need Amex in the future.

And in the most literal technical sense, they are legit inquiries. You did click the button 4 times.

So, no, I would not dispute them.

When your credit history is new, large numbers of inquiries are expected. The negative impact fades after a year or two. Still, it's best to use them wisely -- try to find out a creditor's standards before applying. Start with things like gas cards or secured credit cards and work up. Find out what credit report they are likely to pull and use that to balance your inquiries across all three reports.

I don't want to advocate too hard in public, but I can give you specific creditors to apply to if you memail me.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 1:04 PM on August 13, 2009

Most often, credit reports don't get updated as often as they should be. So if you are thinking of retrieving your credit report from either of the 3 bureaus, I would recommend waiting for a month or so for the report to reflect the latest additions etc.
posted by bbyboi at 1:15 PM on August 13, 2009

Please use -- in a month or so -- to retrieve free copies of your credit reports. You are entitled to one a year, which you can request directly from each of the three, or through that site which they jointly established. Avoid scams like which actually sells subscriptions to a credit monitoring service.

FYI, in future, when you get a time-out during what could be a critical transaction, you're best off contacting the firm's customer service rather than resubmitting the web form. It is very often the case that the submission went through, but you just didn't get the response.
posted by dhartung at 1:25 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

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