Are you sick of trying to fix your bad credit on your own? If DIY methods have failed, you have two choices: live with it or call in professional help.
The professional help I'm talking about is called credit repair, which means paying a professional company to clean up your credit report through legitimate, legal means.
Credit repair gets a bad rap, but here's the truth: it's like any other business. There are some sketchy companies out there, but there are also some reputable, high-quality ones. The trouble is, it can be hard to spot the gems when you don't know what to look for.
Don't worry, I've got you covered. Stick with me and I'll show you what to look for in a credit repair company.
What is Credit Repair?
Credit repair is the process of removing potentially inaccurate negative items from your credit report. Think things like:
- Late payments
These nasties drag down your credit score. And if you're living with a low credit score, you know what a barrier it can be.
How Does Credit Repair Work?
In a nutshell, the credit repair company pulls your credit reports and reviews them in meticulous detail. They look for any signs of inaccuracies. If they find something that might be an error, they dispute it with the credit bureau that reported it. The goal is to get the item deleted or the error corrected.
This works for a couple of reasons.
The first is that errors in credit reports are alarmingly common. A Federal Trade Commission study found the error rate to be as high as 1 in 5. Think about that.
The second is that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit reporting agencies must verify disputed items within 30 days. If they can't, they must delete the item.
But what if your bad credit score is not due to “inaccuracies?”
What if the negative items in your credit report really do belong to you? What many credit repair companies do is ask their clients detailed questions about the items in their report.
“Are you sure that was the date you missed a payment?”
“Are you sure that was the exact amount?”
Since most people aren't typically sure of anything in their credit report, this gives the repair company legal grounds to send a letter of verification request to the credit bureaus ensuring the item does belong to their client. Again, if it cannot be verified within 30 days, it must be removed.
This is how credit repair companies can legally get items removed from your report that may actually belong to you.
What Kind of Results Can I Expect?
Not everybody needs professional credit repair. You can, and should, review your reports regularly; and if you notice a mistake or two, you can file your own dispute letters.
However, if your reports are a mess and you don't know where to start, there's a good chance a credit repair company can help.
And what kind of help are we talking about?
In October 2019, Credit Knocks surveyed 500 Americans who paid for professional credit repair services. They found that 43% of all respondents saw a credit score increase of at least 75 points. Among respondents who used credit repair services for 6 months or more, 48% saw an increase of at least 100 points.
The key takeaway? Credit repair works.
Related: How to Increase Your Credit Score
How to Spot the GOOD Credit Repair Companies
Not all credit repair companies are created equal. There are some out there that are downright sketchy, but that shouldn't scare you from pursuing a reputable, professional service provider.
When shopping for a credit repair company, you want to consider these factors:
- Customer service
Most credit repair companies charge a start-up fee that covers the time they spend analyzing your reports to see if they can help you. If they determine you're a good candidate for credit repair, you pay every month while they work to clean up your report. You want to choose a company you can afford that is priced fairly.
Most companies charge between $79 to $119 per month.
Don't assume that all credit repair services offer the same thing. If that were true, you'd likely just go straight to the one with the best price!
One big feature to consider is how many disputes the repair company will file for you (and how often). Some companies offer unlimited disputes. Some offer a max of, say, 15 per month. If you have a long, complicated credit history, you may want to pay a bit more for unlimited disputes.
Some other features to look for are free credit monitoring, identity theft protection, couples discounts, and a money-back guarantee.
You also want to choose a company you're comfortable working with. What's their customer service like? How responsive are they? You can usually find this out with a quick Google search, but I like to test the company out.
Give them a call and ask questions before you sign up. Ask them to follow up with you by sending you information about their company by email. You'll quickly find out which companies just want to make a quick sale over the phone, and which ones will take the extra step to work with you.
It can be hard to gauge whether a credit repair company is legit. That's why it's important to check out their reviews.
I'm not just talking about the testimonials on their website — of course, they only post the glowing ones. The Better Business Bureau (BBB), BestCompany.com, and ConsumerAffairs.com are good sources of external reviews, as are friends and family who have experience with credit repair.
My 3 Favorite Credit Repair Companies
As a credit repair expert who has done a ton of research on the subject, I'm happy to recommend these three high-quality, professional credit repair companies:
- Sky Blue
- Credit Saint
- The Credit Pros
Sky Blue is my #1 credit repair recommendation. They offer one straightforward plan for one price. They only charge their initial $79 fee after reviewing your situation to see if they can help. After that, their monthly fee is $79 — the lowest in the industry.
Their current 5-star customer rating on the BBB and their 90-day guarantee speak to Sky Blue's superior service.
Credit Saint addresses simple to complex credit repair needs with three plans: Credit Polish, Credit Remodel, and Clean Slate. Pricing starts with an initial fee of $99 and $79.99 per month thereafter for the Credit Polish plan.
Credit Saint offers unlimited disputes every 45 days and a 90-day guarantee. Their professional reputation is backed by an A+ BBB rating.
The Credit Pros
The Credit Pros offer four different plans and price points to meet the needs of any customer. Pricing starts at just $19 per month for credit monitoring and ranges up to $149 per month (plus the start-up fee) for their most comprehensive credit repair plan, the Success Package.
Unlimited disputes, an A+ BBB rating, and credit education tools are three more reasons to consider The Credit Pros.
Bad credit can weigh you down. It stops you from getting approved for car and home loans (or makes you pay higher interest rates), but not everyone has time to dive into repairing their own credit. If that sounds like you, I recommend you call a couple of the companies above to see if they can help your situation. And as always, do your homework first. Pairing up with a credit repair company may be a several-month endeavor, so it makes sense to spend a bit of time comparing their price, service, features, and reviews.