With so many bad credit repair agencies out there, it can be hard to know which you can trust. Here are a few credit restoration services that stand out…
After the last great recession, credit repair has become a booming business, especially for the credit repair companies. Not all credit repair services are created equally, so we've provided some questions to ask and tips to use when you are looking to repair your credit.
Want to know how much credit repair costs? Always wondered how credit repair actually works? Not sure if you can repair your credit yourself? We answer your burning questions about credit repair to give you better insight into how to get your credit fixed.
“Repair” is actually kind of a misleading term for what credit repair actually does. In a nutshell, credit repair companies generally look for ways to remove negative items from your credit report, which they can accomplish in a number of ways. The most basic forms include fixing any mistakes on your credit report (which you will have to help them identify) and contesting negative items on your credit report with the three credit bureaus, which must then find proof that those negative items are legitimate.
Some credit repair companies will take it step further and try to negotiate with your lenders, either by sending good faith letters or by reaching out to your lenders directly. A few companies might also use legal loopholes to have negative items removed from your credit report. Most credit repair companies have been doing this for a while and know the ins and outs of credit laws and know what it takes to get negative items removed.
It depends on the credit repair company that you are working with. The credit repair services that only offer the basics of credit repair are generally cheaper, ranging from $40 to $90 a month. Credit repair companies that offer extras like credit report monitoring and additional manpower can range from $100 to $150 a month. Almost every legitimate credit repair company will charge an initial fee to get things started, which is usually the cost of one month of service.
There is no magic answer to this question. Everyone’s credit report is different, so the length of time it takes to see an improvement in your score could take a month or it could take six months. Everything depends on why your credit score is low, if your lenders are willing to negotiate, or if there are errors on your report that can easily be fixed. That being said, if you don’t see any improvement at all after six month, you are either working with a scam credit repair company or your credit is probably not able to be fixed without waiting for derogatory marks to fall of your credit report, which generally takes seven years.
It does both, although it doesn’t necessarily fix it. Your credit score is based on your credit report, so when positive changes are made to your credit report, your credit score will go up. Technically speaking, credit repair companies are working on your credit report, which in turn raises your credit score. Credit repair companies, however, do not “fix” your credit report or your credit scores; they work to make positive changes to your report through negotiations and legal loopholes.
Yes, although there are regulations to help protect consumers. The government passed the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), which sets forth rules and regulations that credit repair companies have to abide by, otherwise they are fined. These rules help keep credit repair companies from scamming the consumer. Rules include requiring easy cancellation (which is why most credit repair companies have month-to-month plans), no upfront costs to the consumer (monthly payments are usually processed for the previous month after the agreed upon work is done), and companies cannot guarantee a rise in your credit score.
Yes, definitely. You can do everything a credit repair company can do when it comes to repairing your credit. This includes fixing errors on your credit reports, negotiating with lenders to remove derogatory marks from your credit report and contesting negative marks with the credit bureaus.
The only reason people use credit repair companies over doing it themselves is, first, it’s a lot of work and it’s easier to have someone else do it, and second, credit repair companies have been doing this work for decades, so they already know what works and what doesn’t work, making it easy for them to streamline the process and get results faster.
If you don't know what to look for, it can be easy to overpay for your credit repair service. Here are some tips and tricks to help you choose the right credit repair company for you and how to work with the credit repair service to get the most out of it.
DO: Research a handful of credit repair companies before deciding on one to use.
DON’T: Pay for any work done upfront. Except for the Initial Fee, credit repair companies shouldn’t charge until agreed upon work is finished for the month.
DO: Consistently check in with your credit repair company about the progress on your credit report. Some credit repair companies will drag their feet because they longer you are a customer, the more they get paid. (Note: Keep in mind that they also cannot contest all of your negative items at one time, because it upsets the credit bureaus, and the credit repair companies need to maintain a good working relationship with the bureaus.)
DON’T: Sign a long-term contract. Credit repair companies are required to give customers an easy-out, meaning they can cancel service at any time. Most legitimate credit repair companies have month-to-month plans.
DO: Work with the credit repair company to find ways that you can help fix your credit, like lowering your overall balances. The sooner your credit score goes up, the sooner you can cancel the service.
DON’T: Stay with a credit repair company for longer than six months without any progress.
DO: Get everything in writing and go over the contract thoroughly before you sign anything.
DON’T: Expect a miracle. Credit repair companies can only work within the laws governing credit reporting, which limits how much they can do. If you have a poor credit score and are expecting a credit repair service to get you to an excellent score, you have false expectations about what credit repair can do.
There are many credit repair companies to choose from, so it can be overwhelming to find one that is right for you. Here are some questions to ask yourself when shopping for a credit repair company:
What am I looking for from a credit repair company? This seems like an easy answer; you are looking for them to repair your credit. But each credit repair company offers a unique experience. Some companies offer extras like credit repair monitoring and identity theft protection. Some offer bare bones credit repair, but it is still effective at half the cost. Some companies are more personable than others. Figure out what’s important to you and choose a company based on those needs.
Is cost an issue? If cost is an issue, go with a company that charges less for credit repair basics. And it’s even better if they offer some sort of money-back guarantee if you are aren’t satisfied. Sky Blue Credit Repair, at $59/month, is your best bet, especially since they offer a 90-day money-back guarantee. The Credit People is also affordable at $69/month, and offers a 7-day trial and a monthly guarantee, so if you aren’t satisfied with the work from that month, you don’t have to pay.
Do I need any extras? If you’d like to bundle your credit repair, credit report monitoring and identity theft protection, you might actually end up saving money, but it depends if you really need those extras or not. Lexington Law is the best at extras, offering all of those options and more. Of course, it’s going to cost more at $119.95/month for the package that includes all those extras. CreditRepair.com also offers a great list of extras including in its $99/month price.
What would make me trust a company? People place their trust in companies for different reasons. Some look at the history of the company. Some look at what other customers are saying about the company. Others look to professional services like the Better Business Bureau. Use your gut and some research to find a company you really trust. For example, Lexington Law is the largest and most respected of the credit repair companies. Sky Blue, while smaller, has great customer reviews and a higher rating from the BBB.
Is customer service important to me? Some people like to have a dedicated person to talk to about their questions and concerns. Some people like to leave all the work and worry at the doorstep of the company and not be involved. If you are someone who likes a more personal approach to credit repair, Sky Blue has received great feedback for its customer service. If you want to leave things to the professionals but still be kept in the loop about progress with your credit score, Lexington Law or CreditRepair.com might be a better choice.
Credit repair can be a predatory business if you don’t know what to look out for when dealing with credit repair companies. If you want to avoid being caught up in a credit repair scam, look for these three warning signs:
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