Think of credit repair as therapy for your financial well-being. It’s one way to mitigate your financial circumstances, improve your credit score, and even combat identity theft. The fact is, it can be overwhelming when it comes to understanding and fixing your credit score. For this reason, a credit repair service is worth considering.
Did you know that your credit score impacts more than just your loan applications? It also impacts your interest rates, rental applications, and even candidacy for certain jobs. Credit repair services handle the groundwork of fixing your credit, which could be as simple as assessing your situation or as involved as serious debt negotiation with creditors. The service also alerts you to new discrepancies, coaches you through the paperwork of disputes, and in some cases, provides ongoing financial education.
You can take control of your credit score and improve your financial well-being with the help of a credit repair service. We assembled this comprehensive service guide with key information and tips to make your choice a little easier.
Credit repair isn’t just for individuals who need to improve their credit. It’s also worth considering if you believe your credit is in good standing.
Job seekers: If you’re applying for certain state and federal jobs, or ones that require a security clearance, a minimum credit score may be considered as part of your candidacy.
Divorcees or widow(er)s: If your marital status has changed, make sure shared debts are seamlessly managed. If your spouse has passed away, credit monitoring is worthwhile to ensure their Social Security number is not being actively used.
Prospective home buyers: Once you plan to apply for a mortgage, you need to be aware of any shortcomings in your credit score that could affect your borrower eligibility.
Identity theft victims: If someone has stolen your information, a credit repair service can do damage control for debts you didn’t personally accrue.
Young adults: Young adults still getting their bearings with financial independence can benefit from a credit repair service. It’s an ideal option to handle any debt issues before they get out of control and affect other parts of their lives.
Credit report disputes
If your credit history is inaccurate, you’ll need to dispute it with the creditor. In some cases, it’s as simple as drafting a letter and sending it with supporting documentation. In other cases, it’s difficult to prove the inaccuracy, which means research is required to pinpoint information that satisfies the creditor enough to correct the error.
Credit monitoring is a good way to get in front of potential issues, such as inaccuracies or identity theft. You’re alerted to changes or unusual activity in your credit score so your credit repair service can handle it. This ongoing service, usually in the form of a subscription, may be offered in conjunction with other services or as a standalone service.
In complicated cases, a credit repair service negotiates debt with the creditor on your behalf. Credit repair services employ legal teams to handle negotiation. The legal team may compose cease and desist letters to eliminate the constant calls from collections. They may negotiate new repayment plans with your creditors or reduce the amount of money you owe so it becomes a serviceable debt.
Credit repair services offer educational resources to coach you toward healthy financial behaviors. They help you understand your credit better and provide current information regarding your consumer rights. If you’ve declared bankruptcy, they will help you begin a new credit history and stay on track with your finances.
Perform a soft credit check before considering a credit repair service. Instead of paying for the initial inquiry, you might save money by finding out you don’t have any credit issues or discrepancies.
It takes time to fix and improve credit, and there are many variables, so you must have realistic expectations. If you’re proactive and have good communication with your credit repair service, a solution is in sight.
It can take a couple hours or upwards of a couple weeks to conduct research and draft dispute letters. Responses from creditors could take up to 30 days, and if they believe your documentation is insufficient, you’ll need to resubmit. Disputes are resolved inside of one to six months, but if you have quite a few, buckle down for a lot of research and correspondence.
Each case is different given the number of variables. Negative information lasts as long as 7 to 10 years on a credit report, so repair is an ongoing process. If you have a pattern of high debt, late payments, and unpaid bills, chances are it’ll take longer. After a year of repair, aggressively paying down debts, and sticking to payment schedules, you’ll begin to see an improvement in your score.
To avoid a lapse in your credit monitoring, sign up for automatic debits every month.
Credit repair service is tailored to your needs, and the more assistance you need, the more you’ll spend on it.
DIY repair: If you’re going to do it yourself, you can repair your credit for free. The downside is that the amount of effort and time certainly adds up. At the very least, your only out-of-pocket expense may be postage when mailing dispute documentation.
Credit repair service: A credit repair service costs $15 to $150 to set up, and ongoing services cost between $30 to $100 monthly. Some services are bundled. You may also be able to pay “a la carte” for certain services. While it’s definitely an investment, it’s an aggravation-free way to handle things.
Mistake #1: Waiting too long if you’re a victim of identity theft
The sooner you act, the less damage you’ll suffer from identity theft. If you suspect your personal information has been compromised, even if it’s not credit-related, it can be used fraudulently to obtain credit cards and even fake IDs. Thieves can use your primary information to obtain more of your personal information, and in extreme cases, they can use your Social Security number to cash in on your tax returns. This can takes years and hefty legal fees to mitigate.
In fact, you may need to spend one to two years of monitoring with a credit repair service to be safe. Identify thieves often let information go dormant to fly under the radar. As soon as you think you’re safe, that’s when they begin using your information.
Mistake #2: Shelling out money before the service begins
If a purported credit repair service demands payment in this fashion, that’s an immediate red flag. You shouldn’t work with them, as it’s probably a scam.
Like any service, you should be provided with a detailed contract regarding the repair plan. The contract must have a clear and reasonable cancellation policy. The Credit Repair Organizations Act outlines these provisions and stipulates that you have certain rights as an individual seeking credit repair from a service. While monthly fees and one-time service charges are normal, you can’t be compelled to pay an upfront lump sum.
Mistake #3: Not being skeptical enough before sharing personal information
This applies not only to considering different credit repair services but also to daily life. As far as credit repair services go, if anything sounds fishy, trust your gut. Research a different service. If a company representative seems pushy or requests unexpected information — or if it sounds like the call center is too loud — it may not be a legitimate service.
When it comes to daily life, limit where and with whom you share your information. You’re only lawfully obligated to share your Social Security number with certain entities, and no individual or organization outside of those can compel you to give it. Keep your banking information secure at all times, and avoid leaving your credit card number exposed, such as on restaurant tables and retail locations. Use an RFID-blocking wallet or purse to prevent skimmers from stealing your credit card information.
Mistake #4: Choosing the first credit repair service you find
Given the sensitive nature of your personal information and the lasting impact of a damaged credit score, you should invest a considerable amount of time comparing credit repair services. Read reviews, seek recommendations, and educate yourself on credit basics before choosing a service. Make a pros and cons list based on service offerings, and keep a clear list of prices so you know what to expect with your budget.
Some credit repair companies offer 24/7 service. It’s worth considering if you work off-peak hours and want to communicate about issues that could prolong credit repair.
Be honest at all times. Credit repair services aren’t effective unless you provide accurate information. Be precise when it comes to your income, suspected late payments, and other financial information.
Inform them when you hear from debt collectors. When a collections agency calls, inform the credit repair service right away so they can take immediate action.
Use a secure browser. Many credit repair services have online portals for you to track your progress. Since the portal contains sensitive information, always access it from a secure web browser.
Ask for copies of cease and desist letters. When your credit repair service sends a cease and desist letter to a creditor, request a copy for your records.
Q. I’d like to work with a credit repair company, but I prefer personal service. Will I be working with a single representative or the organization as a whole?
A. It depends. Some companies will assign a representative to your case. That person essentially runs point for the duration of your credit repair. These services can cost more, depending on how they’re structured.
With other companies, you’ll deal with the organization as a whole or with a specific department, depending on which phase of credit repair you’re in. It’s similar to the customer service you receive when you contact your credit card company. Every time you contact them, you’ll deal with a different representative.
Q. I’m 18 and don’t have a credit history. Should I work with a credit repair service while I build it?
A. It’s worth considering as you start building credit. When you first sign up for a cell phone in your name, obtain your first credit card, or apply for student loans, a credit repair service will keep you informed on your financial standing. They’ll also fix discrepancies, help manage delinquencies, or provide identity theft safeguard programs.
Q. What’s the difference between a soft credit check and a hard credit check?
A. In short, a soft credit check won’t affect your credit score, but a hard credit check will. Both are reported to credit bureaus and appear on your credit report. Soft credit checks occur when you’re obtaining information regarding your credit score that isn’t attached to a credit or loan application.
A hard credit check occurs when you apply for credit or loans. Approvals or denials, as well as the interest rates, are contingent on your credit score. Each hard credit check will negatively impact your score for 12 months, after which time it usually won’t impact it. Assuming you’ve maintained good credit in the meantime, your score will improve again.