Should you use a credit repair service?
If you’ve been trying to establish your credit score, you may be considering hiring a credit repair service to help you. These companies aim to strengthen your credit by challenging outdated or incorrect information on your credit reports, tracking results, and monitoring to make sure errors don’t reappear.
Credit repair can cost around $100 per month and take several months, with no guarantee that your credit score will be higher in the end.
Note that Credit Repair can’t do anything you can’t do on your own, and it can’t remove negative marks of your credit reports if they are accurate, timely and verifiable.
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Is credit repair legal?
There are legitimate companies providing credit repair services, but the area is also notorious for scams, so it’s important to check out any company you’re considering hiring.
The Federal Trade Commission warns against using credit repair services that guarantee they can remove accurate negative information or say they can help you establish a new identity using a credit confidentiality number.
The Credit Repair Organizations Act requires companies to provide you with a firm total of costs and an estimate of the time it will take to achieve results. It also gives you three business days to cancel the services free of charge.
A reputable company should tell you how to manage your existing credit accounts to avoid further damage. Also, a reputable company will not guarantee a certain outcome or encourage you to lie.
What can credit repair services do?
Legitimate credit repair services check your credit reports for information that shouldn’t be there and dispute them on your behalf. Many of them also verify that the information does not reappear.
When information on your credit reports is disputed, the credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate. However, they do not have to investigate disputes that they consider “frivolous”.
Among the errors that can be corrected:
Accounts that don’t belong to you.
Bankruptcy or other legal actions that do not belong to you.
Spelling mistakes, which can get mixed up with negative entries belonging to someone with a similar name – or can mean that positive entries don’t show up when they should.
Negative marks too old to include.
How much does credit repair cost?
You pay a monthly fee to the credit repair service, usually $69 to $149, and the process can take several months to a year. You can also pay an installation fee to get started.
Credit repair services are sometimes offered in tiered packages, adding related services, such as credit monitoring or access to credit scores, to higher tiers.
How can I fix my credit myself?
Start by checking your credit reports with the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – by using AnnualCreditReport.com. You have access to free weekly credit reports from all three offices until the end of 2023. Then follow these steps:
Look for information that is accurate but cannot be substantiated. Unverifiable information should be deleted, although it can be reinstated if verified later. An example might be a debt to a retailer that is now bankrupt; unless the retailer has sold the debt to a collection agency that can prove ownership, it could be unverifiable.
Work on your payment history. Your record of paying bills on time is the most important factor affecting your credit score. Missed payments can lower your score.
Use less of your available credit. The portion of your available credit card limit that you use is known as the credit utilization ratio. The lower it is, the better your score. If you can afford it, consider making several small payments during the billing cycle, as well as other Strategies to Reduce Credit Use.