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Can my credit card issuer incorrectly report a balance to the credit bureaus?

Lenders are accountable for the accuracy of consumer data they report to credit bureaus

Summary

A reader wonders if the “high balance” figure on her credit report is inaccurate, impacting her credit status and causing her to lose out on a home purchase.

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Have you ever had a question about the accuracy of your credit card balance? Reader Vickie has such an issue.

She writes, “Does Capital One have to prove to me where they get their balance information? Four months in a row now they are reporting a high balance of $904.95 and my credit limit is $600.00 I have disputed with all credit bureaus, the CFPB, and sent Capital One a certified letter asking them to show me the transactions that are relevant to this highest balance.

“They will not do it. Instead, they send me the billing statement that shows a balance due of $700.00 less than what they are reporting. How can I make them show me where they are getting this number from? They have caused me to be denied credit and I lost out on a good interest rate for a home I was wanting to buy, so I passed on that deal due to high interest rate.”

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Poonkulali a question.

High balance and credit score impact

In case you are wondering, the “high balance” or “high credit” input in your credit report refers to the highest balance ever that the lender reported on that account. It may be higher than your current credit limit. This could come about if you have had your line of credit cut down in the past.

This high balance figure could have an impact on your credit utilization rate, which is one input that determines your credit score. In case a lender does not report an actual credit limit on your account, your credit score could factor in the high balance as a substitute for a credit limit. This might have the impact of raising your utilization ratio, considering that your high balance is typically lower than your actual credit limit.

For instance, if your high balance is $7,000 and your actual credit limit is $8,000, while your actual balance outstanding is $3,000, using your high balance as a substitute for credit limit would make for a utilization rate of 43%. If the actual credit limit is used instead, your utilization rate would be a lower 37.5%.

Consumer protections for credit report inaccuracies

Considering that your credit score has a big impact on your financial life, there are consumer protections holding lenders accountable for providing input on your account to credit bureaus.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports, “As a result of FACTA [Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act] and the Furnisher Rule, furnishers have enhanced obligations to supply accurate data. Each furnisher is required to ‘establish and implement reasonable written policies and procedures concerning the accuracy and integrity of the information it furnishes to consumer reporting agencies.’ The procedures should address ‘deleting, updating and correcting information in the furnisher’s records, as appropriate, to avoid furnishing inaccurate information.’”

The Furnisher Rule, issued in 2009 by a group of government authorities, including the Fair Trade Commission, aims to hold those providing consumer input to credit bureaus accountable for the accuracy of the input. Among other aspects, the rule calls for furnishers of data to “report certain additional information when necessary to keep information they report from creating a misleading impression about a consumer’s creditworthiness.”

For one, lenders should generally report a consumer’s credit limit with the other input they provide to credit reporting bureaus. Thanks to that rule, the chances of using a “high balance” as a substitute for credit limit and thereby raising your credit utilization rate have been reduced.

High balance will stay on your report

Vickie, as a result of such consumer protections that hold lenders accountable, it is unlikely that your lender is reporting an inaccurate balance to the credit bureaus. You may have carried that “high balance” you report at some point in the past and that will stay on your report until you rack up an even higher balance, which will then be reported as your new “high balance.”

High balance does not typically factor into your credit score, considering that lenders have to report your actual credit limit, so that the use of the high balance as a substitute does not raise your credit utilization rate. So it seems unlikely that this reported high balance issue caused you to lose out on a good interest rate. There are a variety of other factors that impact your credit score, and you could work on those so that you are eligible for a better interest rate.

Bottom line

There are laws that ensure lenders are held accountable for the accuracy of the consumer data they report to credit bureaus. However, it is possible that an inaccurate balance is reported due to some error. If you have such an issue you could file a dispute with the lender and the credit bureaus.

Vickie, good luck with improving your credit score and buying a home!

Contact me at pthangavelu@redventures.com with your credit card-related questions.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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