Credit repair can clean up your credit report, but how do you know when you should pay a price for it?
Living with bad credit can place a few restrictions on your life, so the number of people with bad credit turning to credit repair companies comes as no surprise.
There are a few things you should consider before you go directly to a credit repair service. Seeking professional help could be a worthwhile investment for your credit score, but it’s not necessary if you can do the research and commit to putting in the work. Let’s discuss your options and explain how much credit repair can cost.
How much does credit repair cost?
Credit repair can either be free or it can cost upwards of a thousand dollars — it’s up to you how you want to handle it. Here are your options:
DIY credit repair: $0
You don’t have to pay someone or a service to repair your credit, you can do it yourself, however it’ll take time and patience to do the research and implement what you’ve learned. You’re entitled to a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus each year, so start there to begin auditing your credit report for mistakes.
If you find any suspicious information on your credit report, each credit bureau has an online form where you can make a dispute to remove errors for free. If you’d rather make your dispute via mail, you can find a number of sample dispute letters online and then send them to the bureaus — your only cost here would be postage.
Credit repair software: $30-$400+
Credit repair software can be minimal or very in-depth. On the minimal side, you can purchase software relatively cheap and it’ll come with a sample dispute letter and give you directions on how to handle each situation regarding incorrect details on your credit report.
The in-depth software can cost a few hundred dollars, but it’s loaded with sample dispute letters for different situations, alerts notifying the progress of your dispute, plus it can track your credit score. The really high-end software can even provide a credit expert to walk you though the process.
Professional credit repair services: $10-$100 setup fee + $30-$100 monthly
Professional credit repair services means hiring a state licensed credit repair attorney to do all of the legwork on your behalf. This option can save you time, but will be the most costly. The service is typically priced with an initial setup fee and then you pay per month — about $60 to over $100 — until you’re satisfied with the credit repair program.
Professional credit repair services will generally:
- Pull and review your credit report
- Identify any issues that need to be disputed
- Make disputes on your behalf
- Monitor your credit report
- Provide you with credit score updates
- Refer you to lenders and creditors
- Coach you one-on-one and educate you on credit management
- Protect you from identity theft
Start rebuilding your credit with these services
Is credit repair worth it?
Make the decision on which type of credit repair you need based off of your current situation. If you’re someone who hardly uses their credit score and won’t be applying for a credit card or loan anytime soon, you probably have time to repair your credit yourself.
Successful credit repair can ease burdens that come with having poor credit like:
- High interest rates that lead to more debt
- Trouble getting approved for financial products
- Debt that’s difficult to manage
- Limited access to quality financial products
- Expensive insurance premiums
- Trouble finding employment
Do credit repair companies work?
They can depending on what the current state of your credit is. Just remember it won’t happen overnight and everyone’s situation is different.
However, if you’re beginning to eyeball houses and plan on taking out a mortgage soon, paying for a professional service to improve your credit score could potentially save you boatloads of money by allowing you to lock in a prime interest rate.
How credit repair can improve your credit score
If you take no action to shine up up your credit report, it may take a good amount of time before your credit score improves — that’s if it ever does. Lower credit scores lead to unfavorable interest rates, high fees and difficulty finding approval for credit.
When it comes to errors on credit reports, the Federal Trade Commission estimates that nearly 5% of Americans have an error listed that could be negatively impacting their score.
By repairing your credit, you can make sure that your credit report is completely accurate and free of errors like:
- Bankruptcy or court judgements that aren’t yours
- Accounts that you never opened
- Credit inquires you never made
- Items that should have fallen of your report with time — collections, bankruptcy, defaults
- Unverified debts
- Incorrect dates and personal information
How to choose a legit credit repair service
A reputable credit repair service will have a state licensed representative who’ll work side by side with you to reach the goal of repairing your credit. What you should look out for are companies that make guarantees about removing negative information that’s accurate — these items only come off your credit report with time.
Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies are required to:
- Provide you with a contract in writing
- Give you an accurate estimate of the credit repair timeframe
- Let you cancel within three days without penalty if you’re not satisfied
- Present you with a price estimate without demanding payment in advance
Can I repair my own credit report?
Absolutely. But bear in mind that the entire process could take months and would involve getting in contact with a number of creditors individually.
It can also be a complex and confusing process, so seeking the help of a professional may ensure a more thorough clean up of your credit report and better results.
If you suffer from a lackluster credit report, credit repair can be a worthwhile strategy to improve your credit score. The decision you have to make is if you want to pay someone else to do it for you or dive in yourself and untangle the knots in your credit report.
Know that credit repair isn’t instant, so whichever method you choose, it’s better to start sooner than later so you have a better chance of approval for financial products in the future.