While a credit repair service cannot do anything that you can’t do yourself, it may be more convenient for you to enlist their help. Just remember that the cost of credit repair varies depending on the borrower’s circumstances, what type of debt they have, and what blemishes they have on their credit report. Read more to learn how to repair your credit yourself, what the benefits might be of hiring a credit repair service, and how to find a reputable one if that is the route you end up taking.
The cost of credit repair varies. It depends on the borrower’s circumstances, what type of debt they have, and what blemishes they have on their credit report. If the borrower has defaulted on several types of loans or credit cards and has many outstanding judgments against them, it could cost the borrower thousands of dollars to raise their FICO score. On the other hand, if the borrower only has a few minor blemishes on their report, they can often raise their score by addressing those items promptly without spending too much.
What Does It Take To Repair Credit?
Ultimately, you can do just as good a job of cleaning up your credit report as most debt settlement or consolidation agencies say they can do. You can review your credit history for errors, remove old collection accounts, and improve your credit utilization ratio by getting new credit. But this takes time and effort that you may not have. You must carefully track your purchases and any charged-off debts. You also need to record the payoff amounts of each of your debts and the dates you paid them. If you work full time and manage a household, this can feel tedious and difficult.
While credit repair companies may be able to save you time, they don’t have any secrets, and they can’t do anything that you can’t do. Plus they cost money. But they may be worth the fees if you don’t have time to deal with your lenders yourself or if it stresses you out. Just be sure to hire a legitimate company. A qualified credit repair company won’t advertise that they use secret formulas to raise your credit score or that they can do things that you can’t do for yourself.
There is no shame in hiring a reputable credit repair service if you don’t have the time or energy to repair your credit yourself. People hire credit repair agencies for the same reason they hire any other professional service. Would you hesitate to call a plumber if your sink or toilet got stopped up? Probably not. Credit repair is similar. The important thing is that you’re taking steps to improve your credit report and score. It doesn’t matter how you go about it.
Borrowers can also look at credit counseling. This is different from credit repair, but it can also help you improve your credit. If you have bad credit, a qualified credit counselor can tell you which debts to pay off first. They can also help you come up with a strategy to raise your credit score and tackle your debts. Most reputable credit counseling services are offered by nonprofits like churches. Some offer help for free.
Review all of your options before choosing a service to help you get your finances back in order. And when you are done, be sure to get an updated copy of your free credit report. You can get a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus—TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax—once every year. Even if you have the best credit score you’ve ever had, it’s good to credit your credit report regularly.
How Much Does a Credit Repair Company Cost?
Credit repair companies do not work for free. In fact, the majority of them charge hefty fees. If you are considering hiring a credit repair company, prepare to fork over at least a thousand dollars in most cases. There is usually a start-up fee of between $70 and $100, as well as a monthly fee that ranges from $70 to $150. Some companies offer discounts to seniors, military veterans, or referrals, but the overall costs are still substantial.
What does this money buy you? First, many credit repair companies will review your credit report to understand your credit history and see what’s needed to correct it. In most cases, they will be able to create a plan for which debts to pay first. After looking at the big picture and creating an initial plan, these companies continue to offer monthly services including:
Monitoring your credit
Handling disputed debts or goodwill intervention letters
Providing budgeting advice
Negotiating your debt with creditors
Before you sign with a credit repair company, be sure you understand what services you’ll be getting and what these services cost. Look carefully at the contract to make sure the terms are fair and meet your expectations. Some debt repair companies provide minimal services for exorbitant fees, so be sure to read the fine print before you sign on the bottom line. Some companies have better deals than others, so it pays to shop around before making a choice. And remember, in some cases, you’ll be much better off going it alone than you would be hiring a company and paying their fees.
How To Evaluate a Credit Repair Company
Since credit repair companies can cost you $1,000 or more, it’s important to choose one that is legitimate and treats you well. You should always know exactly how much the credit repair companies charge. The Credit Repair Organizations Act gives you rights when choosing a credit repair company. By law, companies are required to tell you:
How long it will take to get results
The total cost you’ll pay
What guarantees they will make
That you can cancel within three days with no penalties.
When evaluating a credit repair company, find out what services they offer. What will and can they do to repair your credit? What won’t they do? In this process, you may find that you’d rather do the credit repair yourself.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you don’t understand something. Some companies will provide a free, no-obligation assessment upfront to see if you qualify for their services. Some companies also offer a money-back guarantee or the right to cancel within a certain period of time. But you should always do your homework before you sign up with any company. Check reviews on Yelp, Google, and the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) website before you make a commitment or give your credit information to anyone. Also, make sure you understand their credit repair process.
Credit Repair Scams
When it comes to credit repair, it’s important to do your due diligence because there are lots of scam artists out there who prey on innocent people. This is why you should always read customer reviews before you pay anything to anyone. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, scam companies will frequently do the following:
Charge large upfront fees before doing anything. This is about the surest sign of a scam that there is.
Promise they can remove negative items like late payments, charge-offs, or delinquent accounts from your credit report. It’s impossible for anyone to do this if the items are accurate.
Promise you that they can fix your credit if you will buy certain financial products from them.
Refuse to provide their background information or explain their methods of improving your credit. A bogus company will rely on your confusion to get you to sign up with them.
Refuse to explain your legal rights when you sign up with them.
Tell you not to contact the credit reporting companies directly.
Tell you to send dispute letters to all of your creditors, including for debts that you know are valid.
Tell you to falsify the information you use when applying for a loan or new credit.
Promise you a “new credit identity.” These companies often sell Social Security numbers illegally, and if you go along with them, you can face fines or even jail time. If they tell you to lie on a loan application, misrepresent your Social Security number or obtain an Employer ID number from the Social Security Administration under false pretenses, then you will be considered an accessory to identity theft.
If you discover that you have fallen victim to one of these scams, contact your state attorney general or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) immediately. You should probably also report this to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB has resources that can help you to undo the damage caused by the swindler, and they will also work with the FTC to enforce regulations against the bogus company that you used.
The Credit Repair Organization Act specifies the rights that you have as a consumer. It is illegal for any credit repair company to charge you anything upfront or lie to you about what they can do for you. They also cannot charge you before they have performed any services. Federal law requires all credit repair companies to explain:
Your legal rights in a written contract that also details the services they'll perform
Your right to cancel within three days without any charge
The length of time it will take to get any results
The total amount of money that you will pay
Any guarantees or promises
If you have already given money to an illegitimate company, you still have several options. You can sue the company in federal court for damages or the amount that you paid them, or you can seek punitive damages for the company’s violations of the law. You can also join others in a class-action lawsuit. If you win, the debt repair company will have to pay your legal fees.
You have the power to clean up your credit report yourself and regain control of your personal finances. While a credit repair service cannot do anything that you can’t do yourself, it may be more convenient for you to enlist their help. Just remember that this will cost you potentially hundreds of dollars.
No matter which route you choose, you cannot remove any legitimate negative information from your credit report. Any credit repair company that tells you they can do this is lying and is probably a scam. Though there are many scammers out there offering credit repair, you can find a legitimate one by doing research, reading reviews, and watching out for the red flags we listed in this article.