Bad credit can limit your ability to do a lot of things, including purchasing a car, home, getting a credit card, and in some cases, even a job. Being creditworthy certainly has its advantages.
If you don’t have good credit, there are steps you can take to fix it. The process is called credit repair. You can do it by yourself or have someone help you, for a fee of course.
In this article, you’ll learn what credit repair is and if it is worth paying someone to help repair your credit.
How Does Credit Repair Work?
Credit repair is often a long-term process that gradually raises your credit score. A credit score is a number that reflects your creditworthiness. The higher the number, the better. If you want any type of loan or credit card, you’ll need a decent credit score.
There are a number of ways to approach credit repair and each is unique to a specific situation. Generally though, credit repair starts with catching up on any late payments. From there, payments are consistently made on time. Being late on a payment is one of the worst things you can do to your credit.
Once debts are made current and you’ve been making on-time payments, you should start noticing an increase in your credit score. As more debt is paid down, your score will continue to rise.
Can You Do It Yourself?
Repairing credit by yourself can be done. How successful you’ll be depends on the complexity of your situation. Credit repair does take time and lots of research — if you are starting from the beginning. But if you are ambitious, repairing your credit by yourself can certainly be done.
The first step is to get a copy of your credit report, which you can do at AnnualCreditReport.com. Then go through your report and identify all overdue accounts and anything that might be incorrect. You can contact each credit bureau to fix any mistakes.
Following the steps mentioned in the previous section are a good starting point:
- Bring any debts current by paying overdue amounts and late fees.
- Continue to make on-time payments.
From there, access to new credit can also help improve your credit score. If you have a low credit score, it’s unlikely any credit card company will issue you an unsecured credit card. However, you can apply and likely get approved for a secured credit card.
Secured credit cards require a deposit. You can spend up to the deposit amount. It works just like an unsecured credit card except with a lower credit limit. Your secured credit card activities will be reported to credit bureaus, which is what you want.
As an aside, try to put away $1,000 in cash for an emergency fund. This will help to pay for emergencies with cash rather than putting them on a credit card. Unexpected expenses may include car repairs, a broken hot water heater, or a medical bill.
The FTC website also has some DIY (do-it-yourself) tips on its website here.
If you don’t want to take on rebuilding your credit by yourself, there are plenty of companies out there who can help. But are they worth it?
Paying a Company to Help Build Your Credit
Having someone guide you through the credit repair process can be a great idea for those who want more assistance. It seems there’s no end to the number of companies willing to take your hard-earned cash in exchange for a higher credit score. You can expect to spend at least $60/month up to over $100/month for credit repair services across 4 to 12 or more months. The length of time will depend on the complexity of your repair.
According to a recent study, 48% of consumers who used a company for credit repair saw their score rise by over 100 points within 6 months.
A credit repair service will look at your credit report, put together a game plan, and have you execute on it, while checking progress with you each month. You’ll have someone available to answer all of your questions as well.
If your credit repair is complex and you’re more comfortable speaking with someone instead of researching on your own, investing a few months of payments into education and assistance with a credit repair company might be worth it. If after a few months you feel comfortable executing on the remaining tasks for your credit repair, you can discontinue the service and save a few hundred dollars.
Before you use a company, check out this excellent deep dive into the Secret World Of Debt Settlement and understand what you're potentially getting into.
Below are companies that provide credit repair services:
- CreditRepair.com: $14.99 one-time fee plus $99.95/month. They claim to increase your credit score by 40 points in 4 months.
- KeyCreditRepair.com: $139.95/month to $189.95/month, depending on the plan. They claim an increase of 90 points on average in 90 days.
- SkyBlueCredit.com: $59/month. Claim: "Clean up your credit report. Improve your scores."
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.
Editor: Clint Proctor